Newton’s Lost Copy of Mede, Revealed

The Huntington’s library collection comprises nearly 9 million manuscripts, books, photographs and other works in such fields as American and British history, literature, art, and the history of science. Because of the sheer volume of materials—with each item having to be analyzed by hand and carefully studied—it’s possible for things to remain hidden for decades before a staff member or researcher comes along and has a thrilling moment of discovery.

Such a moment recently transpired for researcher Stephen Snobelen. What follows is his account of a new finding in the Library that is generating excitement as it signals opportunities for further scholarship.

Detail showing the future Millennium from the apocalyptic time chart found in Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works (1672). Mede’s chart likely helped inspire Newton’s own apocalyptic beliefs. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Detail showing the future Millennium from the apocalyptic time chart found in Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works (1672). Mede’s chart likely helped inspire Newton’s own apocalyptic beliefs. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

An Unexpected Revelation
Less than an hour before books were recalled from the Ahmanson Reading Room in the Munger Research Center, I brought to my desk one of The Huntington’s two copies of Joseph Mede’s Works (1672), a 1,000-page book of exceptional erudition on biblical exegesis written in English, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.

It was the Friday afternoon before the long Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, but I intended to spend a few minutes with this grand volume. Mede, who died in 1638, was a prophetic interpreter and a major inspiration for the famous physicist Sir Isaac Newton, who wrote extensively about biblical prophecy and adopted Mede’s historicist interpretation of the Apocalypse.

The Huntington has several copies of the four editions of Mede’s Works, going back to the first of 1648. But I was after the 1672 edition, as I needed a picture of its fascinating apocalyptic time chart for a paper I was preparing for publication. I wanted the caption to say that this was the same edition of Mede’s Works that Newton owned (and, presumably, used). The time chart forms part of my paper’s argument that, despite the common myth, Newton did not believe in a clockwork universe, but held to a dynamic cosmology similar to, and perhaps informed by, the arrow of time Newton encountered in biblical prophecy and Mede’s writings on the Apocalypse.

Close-up of the Musgrave bookplate in Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works (1672), showing the motto Philosophemur (“let us philosophize”) and the Barnsley Park shelf mark, “Case R. E.4. Barnsley.” The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Close-up of the Musgrave bookplate in Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works (1672), showing the motto Philosophemur (“let us philosophize”) and the Barnsley Park shelf mark, “Case R. E.4. Barnsley.” The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

As soon as I opened the book, however, I immediately realized that I held in my hands not merely the same edition we know Newton owned, but the very copy he owned. I felt momentarily disoriented as I beheld a Musgrave bookplate, usually a sure sign that a book came from Newton’s library, which resided in the Musgrave family’s home from 1788 to 1920. A quick check of John Harrison’s ever-helpful Library of Isaac Newton (1978) confirmed the precise details of the Musgrave shelf mark written above and to the left of the bookplate.

How did Newton’s ownership of this book escape detection at The Huntington?

The process that obscured Newton’s ownership of this book takes us back a century or more. When half of Newton’s library was sold for auction in 1920, the Musgrave family had either lost track of its Newtonian provenance or hadn’t thought it a matter of significance. Thus the books were sold for a song and entered the rare book trade without Newtonian associations. Newton’s copy of Mede passed from a collector named Isabelle Brown to the former Bacon Library at Claremont Colleges before arriving, in 1995, at The Huntington—all without the great man’s name associated with it.

Barnsley Park in Gloucestershire, England. The stately country home of the Musgrave family when Newton’s library resided there from 1788 to 1920. Photograph by Stephen Snobelen, July 2008.

Barnsley Park in Gloucestershire, England. The stately country home of the Musgrave family when Newton’s library resided there from 1788 to 1920. Photograph by Stephen Snobelen, July 2008.

Another reason the book’s ownership became obscure: the bookplate does not bear the Musgrave family name, only the motto Philosophemur. Coupled to this is the fact that the person who long ago wrote the shelf mark, “E.4. Barnsley,” wrote the “n” like a “u,” and thus it entered the catalogue as “Barusley.” As a result, the connection with Barnsley Park in Gloucestershire, England, where Newton’s library resided from 1788 to 1920, was masked. When you look at the shelf mark, I think you’ll agree that it looks more like Barusley than Barnsley.

Newton’s Naughty Dog-Ears
But what really cemented the Newtonian provenance of The Huntington’s book is the many signs of dog-earing. This was Newton’s preferred method of page marking, and scores of extant books from Newton’s 2,100-volume library bear these distinctive dog-ears. With just a few minutes before books were recalled in the Ahmanson, I did a quick survey of the volume and found meaningful dog-ears marking themes in Mede’s writings that we know Newton was passionate about from his own theological manuscripts.

The outside fold of a dog-ear marking Justin Martyr’s testimonies about the Millennium in Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works (1672). The accumulated dirt on the fold is evidence that Newton kept the dog-ear down for many years. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The outside fold of a dog-ear marking Justin Martyr’s testimonies about the Millennium in Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works (1672). The accumulated dirt on the fold is evidence that Newton kept the dog-ear down for many years. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

After reluctantly returning the book, I sent e-mails to several Newton colleagues around the world. Did anyone know that The Huntington possessed Newton’s lost copy of Mede? No, this was news to everyone. The following week, I sent pictures of the bookplate and dog-ears to this same group of historians. All agreed, this was the real McCoy: a bona fide Newton-owned book. When I told members of the Library staff, they were surprised and delighted.

The process of identifying and learning more about Newton-owned books and their history continues to involve a fruitful collaboration between researchers and librarians, such as the professionals here at The Huntington. Now that Newton’s personal copy of Mede has been identified, it can be studied along with The Huntington’s other 15 Newton-owned books. The main goal will be to cross-reference the dog-ears with Newton’s theological papers. This project has already begun.

At the end of his first chapter in Library of Newton, Harrison recalls how the book dealer Heinrich Zeitlinger deplored Newton’s practice of dog-earing, disdainfully labeling it “naughty.” But what to a book dealer is unsightly is to a historian a source of insight. I have now done a full survey of dog-ears in Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works: there are 60. Newton was a very naughty boy. And for the sake of scholarship, we’re glad he was.

Inside front cover of Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works (1672), showing the Musgrave shelf mark “D7—14,” the Musgrave bookplate and the bookplate of subsequent owner Isabelle Kittson Brown. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Inside front cover of Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works (1672), showing the Musgrave shelf mark “D7—14,” the Musgrave bookplate and the bookplate of subsequent owner Isabelle Kittson Brown. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Stephen D. Snobelen is associate professor of History of Science at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is currently on sabbatical and a Dibner Research Fellow in the History of Science and Technology at the Huntington Library.

Buying a Turner

J.M.W. Turner, Neapolitan Fisher-girls Surprised Bathing by Moonlight, ca. 1840, oil on canvas. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

J.M.W. Turner, Neapolitan Fisher-girls Surprised Bathing by Moonlight, ca. 1840, oil on canvas. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Interest in the 19th-century British landscape painter Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) is stronger than ever. Director Mike Leigh’s biopic Mr. Turner was nominated for four Oscars, and we’ll know on Sunday whether it grabs a statue for cinematography, costume design, original score, or production design.

Meanwhile, across town, The Getty is about to open “J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free,” a show originally organized by Tate Britain. It features more than 60 of the master’s oil paintings and watercolors, including a work on loan from The Huntington, Neapolitan Fisher-girls, Surprised, Bathing by Moonlight (ca. 1840). With its contrast of cool moonlight, warm fire, and the burning heat of Mount Vesuvius exploding in the background, the painting testifies to Turner’s love of spectacular light and atmospheric effects.

The Huntington owns another major Turner work, The Grand Canal: Scene—a Street in Venice (ca. 1837). In this painting, Turner uses a scene from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice to explore his fascination with color and luminosity—capturing dazzling ripples of sunlight that sparkle on the Venetian canal. Henry Huntington purchased The Grand Canal in 1922 from art dealer and entrepreneur Joseph Duveen.

Over the years, Duveen had earned the trust of both Arabella and Henry Huntington. The story of how Duveen convinced Huntington to purchase The Grand Canal provides a window into the art dealer’s considerable talents as a negotiator. It also tells a larger tale of how American mega-collectors such as Huntington snatched up so many Old Master paintings around the turn of the 20th century. As Duveen was famously quoted as saying, “Europe has a great deal of art, and America has a great deal of money.”

Duveen (center) and Huntington (right) in an undated photo, along with two unidentified men. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Duveen (center) and Huntington (right) in an undated photo, along with two unidentified men. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The complex negotiations between client and dealer is meticulously recorded in The Art of Wealth: The Huntingtons in the Gilded Age, by Shelley M. Bennett, former curator of European art and senior research associate at The Huntington. Here’s a condensed version of their correspondence via telegram from that book. It starts in May of 1922 with Duveen informing Huntington that he has acquired the painting and ends eight months later when Huntington agrees to purchase it.

(The two men refer to the painting as Marriage of the Adriatic, an alternate name for The Grand Canal.)

(May 24) Duveen to Huntington: “I regard our acquisition of it as a great victory, as it was until then the finest Turner in private hands in England. As I am sailing for Europe on the 13th of June, I would so much appreciate your obliging me with an expression of your interest in this important painting.”

(June 1) Huntington to Duveen: “Your letter of May 24th with the photograph of the beautiful picture, Marriage of the Adriatic, has been received. My feeling now is that, with so much before me, I am at present too poor to buy anything. It goes without saying, however, that I should like very much to have the picture.”

Huntington’s plea of poverty, while exaggerated, was not completely unfounded. Over the previous six months, he had paid Duveen well over $1.2 million—roughly $15.5 million in today’s dollars—for Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy and The Cottage Door, and Joshua Reynolds’ Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse.

(June 9) Duveen to Huntington: “I am much obliged to you for your favor of June first with regard to the Turner picture, The Marriage of the Adriatic, but I notice that although you say ‘the beautiful picture,’ your letter is not very Turner-esque, and somewhat lacks the warm colour of the picture itself!! There is only one question which I would like to ask you, if I may, and that is, does Mrs. Huntington like the picture? Because, if Madame does, then I shall not dispose of it until you have both seen it.”

At the time, Henry and Arabella were living in their mansion on 57th Street in New York City and were planning a return to San Marino on Oct. 18th or 20th. Duveen begged them to delay their departure until he arrived in New York on October 23rd—presumably with the Turner landscape. The next cable suggests that they indeed delayed their departure and saw the Turner painting. The cable also takes up the price negotiations in midstream.

J.M.W. Turner, The Grand Canal: Scene—A Street in Venice, ca. 1837, oil on canvas. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

J.M.W. Turner, The Grand Canal: Scene—A Street in Venice, ca. 1837, oil on canvas. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

(Nov. 20) Duveen to Huntington: “Thanks for telegram. Two most important considerations are firstly that you like picture secondly that it is very finest of its type with nothing approaching it in America or any collection Europe. Compared with above considerations suggest matter of price of less importance and it would be tremendous pity if your collection already so rich in master pieces should miss this gem. Hitherto we have always come to terms. I have never allowed considerations of price to jeopardize our negotiations and think you feel the same . . . However to meet you will reduce price asked by thirty five making net total three hundred twenty five.”

(Nov. 20) Huntington to Duveen: “Like your picture but will not pay that price.”

The negotiations continue.

(Nov. 21) Huntington to Duveen: “We like the picture very much and appreciate the concession but cannot offer more than two seventy five.”

Then, a compromise.

(Nov. 22) Duveen to Huntington: “Many thanks for telegram which much appreciated.  Have today received a pair of beautiful dark blue Chelsea vases with Watteau subjects and graceful flowing handles. I bought these for your collection and was indeed on point of sending them to you. I will accept three hundred thousand for the Turner including these vases and do trust this is satisfactory to Madam and yourself.”

Deal complete.

November 23 (Huntington to Duveen): “Telegram received. As usual you have your own way. Send the vases.”

The same day, Duveen sent Huntington a bill for $275,000 ($3.5 million in today’s dollars) for The Grand Canal and $25,000 ($325,000 today) for the pair of Chelsea gold anchor porcelain vases.

The Grand Canal is on view on the second floor of the Huntington Art Gallery. The Art of Wealth is available from the Huntington Store. The exhibition “J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free” runs at the Getty Center from Feb. 24 to May 24, 2015. It will then travel to the de Young Museum in San Francisco, June 20–Sept. 20, 2015.

Diana W. Thompson is senior writer for the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.

A Chinese Cart Worth Discovering

Paper lanterns, some made of red lucky envelopes (laisee or hong bao), enliven the latticework of the new Chinese Garden Discovery Cart.

Paper lanterns, some made of red lucky envelopes (laisee or hong bao), enliven the latticework of the new Chinese Garden Discovery Cart.

You’re walking in the Chinese Garden. First you hear wheels crunching over gravel, and then you see a curious red-and-cream box approach. The intricate lattice design of the cart invites you to peek inside, but the bright fiery red sides shield its contents. What is this contraption? A food cart with Asian-inspired treats? Guess again. When you open this peculiar box, you get a glimpse into the complex culture of China.

The Chinese Garden Discovery Cart is the newest incarnation of a long-standing Huntington tradition—mobile interactive exhibits that focus on the theme of a particular garden. The activities on the cart include making Beijing opera masks, playing Chinese musical instruments, and exploring a Chinese apothecary box. What, you may ask, inspired these activities? To answer that question, let’s go back in time.

A Beijing opera mask adds drama to the cart.

A Beijing opera mask adds drama to the cart.

In the summer of 2011, I helped revitalize the Discovery Carts program by creating a new Chinese Garden cart. Having been a high-school volunteer at The Huntington, I had heard of Discovery Carts but never seen one because they were out of commission at the time. My task was to come up with possible activities for a brand-new Chinese cart.

For inspiration, I looked to my upbringing as the daughter of a Chinese herb specialist. My childhood visits to fascinating herbal emporiums gave me the idea of creating an apothecary box. What better way to showcase the garden’s plants than with an apothecary box focused on Chinese botany? Dried and gnarly, the medicinal plant samples in the box pique your curiosity and fill your mind with wonder.

An apothecary box containing: (3) dried Chinese dates, also known as jujube; (8) dried longan; and (9) snow fungus.

An apothecary box containing: (3) dried Chinese dates, also known as jujube; (8) dried longan; and (9) snow fungus.

Other activities came about more pragmatically. The lantern activity resulted from trying to find a way to repurpose years of accumulated red lucky envelopes from past Lunar New Years. The outcome was brilliant but, unfortunately, too time-consuming for the average visitor to recreate. In its place, a simplified version of the activity was used, complete with some intriguing legends about lanterns.

The new Chinese Garden cart heralds the renaissance of the Discovery Cart program; new carts for other gardens will be created during the coming year. Be sure to visit the Chinese Garden cart during The Huntington’s Chinese New Year Festival, Feb. 21–22. The cart will be stationed in the garden’s north courtyard from 12:30–4 p.m. A table at the garden’s eastern entrance will provide additional activities.

For more information regarding Discovery Carts, click here.

Christine Quach is a web editor at The Huntington.

Valentine’s Day in the Gardens

Set the mood for romance with a stroll on the North Vista, with its 18th-century statuary and Italian Renaissance fountain. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Set the mood for romance with a stroll on the North Vista, with its 18th-century statuary and Italian Renaissance fountain. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Time and time again, on Top Ten lists and “best of” compilations, The Huntington is named one of the best places for a first date, a first kiss, or a marriage proposal on bended knee. True enough, it’s a pretty romantic spot. Do you want to win the heart of someone special on Valentine’s Day? Here’s an idea for a garden walking tour that you’ll both love.

First, head west from the entrance walkway to the North Vista, where 18th-century statuary and an Italian Renaissance fountain set the mood for romance. Gravel pathways lead off into the Camellia Garden, an enchanting area for strolling hand-in-hand with your sweetheart under lovely winter blooms that tower overhead. (Lovers of camellias might want to take a brief detour at this point to pop into the nearby Botanical Center, where the annual Camellia Show and Sale is on view Feb. 14–15.)

Shaded paths among the camellias provide an inviting spot to sit and enjoy the blooms. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Shaded paths among the camellias provide an inviting spot to sit and enjoy the blooms. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Next, wander over to the Shakespeare Garden and see if you can find references to Romeo and Juliet and other works by the Bard on small plaques set among the flora. The garden is inspired, in part, by the Library’s collections of early editions of Shakespeare’s works, and the plantings include several flowers, herbs, and shrubs mentioned in his plays and poems.

You won’t find roses in bloom in the garden yet, but make a note to come back in April or May. When spring is at its peak, the Rose Garden is the floral embodiment of romance, with nearly 4,000 individual rose plants (in 1,200 different varieties) providing an irresistible atmosphere that stimulates the senses. And who can resist flowers with names like ‘Secret Love’, ‘First Kiss’, ‘Passionate Kisses’, and ‘Sweet Surrender’?

The Rose Garden leads you to the Japanese Garden—a breathtaking spot that has witnessed countless “will you marry me?” moments in its 103-year history. On the far side of the canyon, the walled Zen Court invites lovers to pause for a moment and contemplate life’s journey.

Step through the gate into the Chinese Garden, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another place and time. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Step through the gate into the Chinese Garden, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another place and time. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Enter the Chinese Garden (poetically named the Garden of Flowing Fragrance), and experience the romance of the East. You’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to China during the Ming dynasty as you stroll among the tile-roofed pavilions, walk under a waterfall, and sip hot cups of jasmine tea in a teahouse overlooking the lake. (If you and your beloved prefer cold craft beer, you can sip a couple of those here, too.)

For some, a romantic afternoon at The Huntington is not complete without afternoon tea in the Rose Garden Tea Room. (Reservations recommended. Call 626-683-8131.) Freshly baked scones, finger sandwiches, miniature fruit tarts, and strawberries with cream are among the sumptuous offerings served in an intimate setting overlooking the garden. It’s the perfect finale to a day spent enjoying the romantic pleasures of The Huntington.

Lisa Blackburn is communications coordinator for the office of communications and marketing at the Huntington.

What’s in Store?

The view as you enter the new Huntington Store. Photo by Tim Street-Porter.

The view as you enter the new Huntington Store. Photo by Tim Street-Porter.

Anchoring the north section of the new Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center complex that opened in January is the new Huntington Store, with more than double the space of the previous store. The larger size has made it easier to showcase the range and quality of the items for sale, all of which have been carefully selected.

“I wasn’t interested in simply providing a lot of merchandise just to fill the larger space,” said Janet Crockett, The Huntington’s director of retail operations. “The key was finding the right things.” Crockett seeks objects that meet three criteria: they are high quality, have a beautiful aesthetic, and provide something unique that a visitor is unlikely to find elsewhere. “It’s about enhancing the Huntington experience—relating it to something a visitor has done, seen, or learned while here.”

A selection of books and other items in the garden section of the store.

A selection of books and other items in the garden section of the store.

Crockett spends a good portion of her time on the road and in meetings, at gift shows and with artisans, selecting items in a painstaking process. Most items for purchase are related to The Huntington’s collections—from botanically inspired diamond-and-silver bracelets to filament light bulbs reminiscent of The Huntington’s collection of historical light bulbs, some of which you can see in the permanent exhibition “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World.”

For instance, in response to the current photography exhibition “Bruce Davidson/Paul Caponigro: Two American Photographers in Britain and Ireland,” which is on view through March 9, Crockett has presented a range of items related to photography. But not just any objects. Along with books on photography criticism, for example, the store is selling tiny silver cufflinks in the shape of a single-lens reflex camera.

A welcoming nook for young readers.

A welcoming nook for young readers.

The store consists of eight interconnected rooms based on Huntington themes—botanical, Asian gardens, high tea, and so on—surrounding a central space with a vaulted, sky-lit ceiling. Said one visitor in a recent news article about the new shopping experience, “It’s airy and conducive to exploring.” A special section geared toward young readers boasts a comfortable seating area for children to peruse books and other fun stuff.

The central area of the store is dedicated to seasonal displays. Currently on offer are special items linked to Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) and the Lunar New Year (Feb. 19).

Books and other items for Valentine’s Day.

Books and other items for Valentine’s Day.

A book of Shakespeare’s sonnets, illustrated by Caitlin Keegan, sits on a table devoted to love and friendship. Not far away is a sterling silver necklace inscribed with a loving quote from naturalist and painter John James Audubon of Birds of America fame. (“I have wished for thee, every day, every moment,” wrote Audubon to his wife, during an extended bird-watching expedition.)

For children, The Huntington has been carrying Oliver Chin’s popular series, “Tales of the Chinese Zodiac,” since he first published The Year of the Dog in 2006. Each year, Chin produces another adventure featuring that year’s Chinese zodiac animal, interwoven with elements of Asian culture and tradition. Meanwhile, adult admirers of the Chinese Garden might be more smitten by a custom-made, four-piece, indoor or outdoor garden sculpture of a roaring dragon.

Oliver Chin’s popular series of tales from the Chinese zodiac.

Oliver Chin’s popular series of tales from the Chinese zodiac.

And what about the couple who is both struck by cupid’s arrow and simultaneously wants to celebrate the Lunar New Year? A pair of red coffee mugs whose handles feature the Chinese character for “joy” might fit the bill. Put them together, and the two characters create the symbol for double happiness, a popular symbol of marriage.

Future posts will feature other items from the store and how they relate to The Huntington’s collections. The Huntington Store is open from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Wednesday through Monday, and Tuesday by appointment (call 626-405-2142). A selection of items is available online.

Diana W. Thompson is senior writer for the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.

Lincoln’s Signature Accomplishments

Scene in the House of Representatives on Jan. 31, 1865. From Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Feb. 8, 1865. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Scene in the House of Representatives on Jan. 31, 1865. From Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Feb. 8, 1865. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

One hundred and fifty years ago, on Jan. 31, 1865, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, a resolution ending slavery.

The framers of the Constitution had forged a nation built on the rights of its citizens, but one that accommodated the peculiar institution of slavery. The tension between the ideals of liberty and the reality of human bondage was unsustainable. As Abraham Lincoln prepared to take office in 1861, seven states seceded from the Union. Just weeks after Lincoln became president, the nation succumbed to a long and bloody Civil War.

The following four documents are drawn from The Huntington’s renowned collection of rare Abraham Lincoln and Civil War manuscripts and appear in “The U.S. Constitution and the End of American Slavery,” an exhibition on view in the Library’s West Hall. Each document presents a key element leading to the passage of the 13th Amendment to end slavery—Lincoln’s most significant and lasting accomplishment. And each features a signature by the nation’s 16th president.

Lincoln’s position on slavery: Letter to Alexander H. Stephens

Even as president-elect in December of 1860, Lincoln revealed his formidable leadership skills, striking a conciliatory yet firm tone in a letter to the future vice-president of the Confederacy.

Lincoln offers assurances that his administration will not interfere with slavery in the Southern states, telling Stephens: “The South would be in no more danger in this respect, than it was in the days of Washington.”

Yet Lincoln makes clears his position: “You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub.”

The back of Lincoln’s 1860 letter to the future vice-president of the Confederacy, Alexander H. Stephens. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The back of Lincoln’s 1860 letter to the future vice-president of the Confederacy, Alexander H. Stephens. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

A partial victory: the Emancipation Proclamation

In his constitutional power as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. It declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

The proclamation could not be enforced in areas still under rebellion, but it provided the legal framework to free more than three million slaves in Confederate areas that came under Union control.

The Emancipation Proclamation issued by Lincoln in his power as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Lincoln signed this print in June 1864; it was intended to be auctioned off at a charity event. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The Emancipation Proclamation issued by Lincoln in his power as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Lincoln signed this print in June 1864; it was intended to be auctioned off at a charity event. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

A second term? Lincoln’s Blind Memorandum

In the summer of 1864, with the Civil War raging into its fourth year, Lincoln knew that his chances for re-election depended on military success. Yet the Union effort had stalled, and he worried about the future of the nation under a new president. He wrote a letter indicating the urgency he felt to save the Union before the next president took office, then folded the paper and pasted it closed. At a cabinet meeting, he instructed his cabinet members to sign it without viewing the contents, a directive they followed. The letter, known as the “Blind Memorandum,” stated:

This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.  — A. Lincoln

Though scholars debate what Lincoln meant by saving the Union, many interpret it as pushing for passage of the 13th Amendment.

Lincoln’s “Blind Memorandum,” a letter he asked his cabinet members to sign, sight unseen. The Huntington’s copy was made by one of the memorandum’s signatories, Gideon Welles, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Lincoln’s “Blind Memorandum,” a letter he asked his cabinet members to sign, sight unseen. The Huntington’s copy was made by one of the memorandum’s signatories, Gideon Welles, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Victory: Passage of the 13th Amendment

Lincoln did win re-election. With that political hurdle behind him, he redoubled his efforts to secure passage of the 13th Amendment. The Senate had passed the amendment on April 8, 1864, but the House had failed to do so.

Lincoln and his cabinet stepped up their political maneuvering, reaching out to particular members of Congress to obtain the consensus needed to gain the two-thirds vote. On Jan. 31, 1865, the House of Representatives called another vote. A clerk read the tally: 119 ayes to 56 nays, with 8 abstaining. After a moment of stunned silence, the House erupted into celebration. The resolution had passed.

The president’s signature was not required for a constitutional amendment, though Lincoln signed several copies. The Huntington owns a souvenir copy made by chief engrossing clerk Isaac Strohm, who asked for Lincoln’s signature.

Lincoln would not live to see it become law. It took until Dec. 6, 1865, for three-quarters of the state legislatures to ratify it. Well before that, on April 15, 1865, just days after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, Lincoln was assassinated by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth.

The amendment Lincoln worked so hard to attain would become law under the new president, Lincoln’s vice-president, Andrew Johnson.

Copies of the 13th Amendment signed by Lincoln, like this one known as the Strohm souvenir copy, were popular with collectors. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Copies of the 13th Amendment signed by Lincoln, like this one known as the Strohm souvenir copy, were popular with collectors. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

“The U.S. Constitution and the End of American Slavery” runs through April 20, 2015 in the Library’s West Hall.

In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, The Huntington has held a number of commemorative events.

In 2012, The Huntington held a Library exhibition, “A Just Cause: Voices of the American Civil War” and a concurrent photography exhibition, “A Strange and Fearful Interest: Death, Mourning, and Memory in the American Civil War.” You can still visit the web component of “A Strange and Fearful Interest,” which includes commentary by historians such as Gary Gallagher, Joan Waugh, and David Blight.

Talks from “Civil War Lives,” a 2011 conference that brought together some of the nation’s most renowned Civil War scholars for a two-day event, can be found on iTunes U. In addition, many lectures exploring themes relating to the Civil War are available in a special page on iTunes U, “Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.”

Related content on Verso:
“Remembering Gettysburg” (Feb. 19, 2014)
“Where Solomon Northup Was a Slave” (March 3, 2014)
“VIDEO | Voices on the Civil War” (Oct. 12, 2012)
“Capture the Flag” (April 12, 2011)
“Mystic Chords of Memory” (March 4, 2011)
“Many Happy Returns” (Feb. 16, 2011)

Diana W. Thompson is senior writer for the office of communications at The Huntington.

A Satirical Look at Georgian Society

Thomas Rowlandson’s satirical views of Georgian society are among his strongest work, and The Huntington’s collection focuses primarily on this aspect of his oeuvre. Eleven of his works are on view in “Working Women: Images of Female Labor in the Art of Thomas Rowlandson.”

Thomas Rowlandson’s satirical views of Georgian society are among his strongest work, and The Huntington’s collection focuses primarily on this aspect of his oeuvre. Eleven of his works are on view in “Working Women: Images of Female Labor in the Art of Thomas Rowlandson.”

Today’s pop culture often goes overboard by invading personal privacy in the search for entertainment. Britain’s Georgian era (roughly 1714 to 1830) was a similarly nosy time—gossiping and people watching were especially popular pastimes, as were reading biography and looking at portraiture. Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827), one of Britain’s premier draftsmen, was also an astute social critic who commented on the goings-on of the day through his comic drawings and caricatures.

To get a sense of his style, stop by the Works on Paper room on the second floor of the Huntington Art Gallery. “Working Women: Images of Female Labor in the Art of Thomas Rowlandson” draws from The Huntington’s collection of more than 600 original drawings by the artist. On view are 11 rarely exhibited watercolors, depicting women who were most visible in the public sphere—street vendors, servants, actresses, and prostitutes—with an occasional glance at the foibles of the upper class.

In The Life Class, Rowlandson pokes fun at old men leering at a young, naked model. The one serious artist is also the young and handsome one—could it be Rowlandson? (No date, pen and gray wash, rendered here in black and white.) The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Gilbert Davis Collection. On view in “Working Women.”

In The Life Class, Rowlandson pokes fun at old men leering at a young, naked model. The one serious artist is also the young and handsome one—could it be Rowlandson? (No date, pen and gray wash, rendered here in black and white.) The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Gilbert Davis Collection. On view in “Working Women.”

Rowlandson was incredibly observant in the way he showed people’s everyday pitfalls, especially in his frequent depiction of voyeurs. One of the most common objects of his gaze (and that of his subjects) is a pretty young woman. The artist arranges all action around this central figure. Take The Life Class, in which men gather around a nude woman, ostensibly to use her as a model for their painting. Instead of diligently working, however, Rowlandson shows the men leering at the model, clearly more interested in her nakedness than in getting on with their canvases. Rowlandson dramatizes their overtly lascivious gazes with exaggerated expressions. His jest suggests that these would-be artists will be unsuccessful in bringing their lusty plans to fruition.

Thomas Rowlandson, Rowlandson and his Fair Sitters, no date, pen and watercolor, rendered here in black and white. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Gift of Homer Crotty. On view in “Working Women.”

Thomas Rowlandson, Rowlandson and his Fair Sitters, no date, pen and watercolor, rendered here in black and white. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Gift of Homer Crotty. On view in “Working Women.”

In contrast, the only man not depicted in caricature is a young and handsome one, likely Rowlandson himself, as he stares wistfully at the model. If anyone has a chance to interact with the pretty young woman, Rowlandson seems to be saying, it is he—the equally handsome young man. Yet at this moment, all he can do is create art out of her image. Rowlandson intimates that such looking is a diluted experience of the world, one that he and the men he caricatures engage in as a poor substitute for the real thing.

Is Rowlandson saying that art takes the place of a more profound engagement with the world? Maybe not. Regardless of how much Rowlandson makes fun of the old men, we appreciate his artwork for giving us the opportunity to interact with his cast of characters. By recording what he has observed, Rowlandson gives us a unique (if acerbic) view into Georgian life.

In Curiosity Cured, Rowlandson shows little patience for an old woman’s prurience. His suggested cure: a judicious thwack. (No date, pen and watercolor, rendered here in black and white.) The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In Curiosity Cured, Rowlandson shows little patience for an old woman’s prurience. His suggested cure: a judicious thwack. (No date, pen and watercolor, rendered here in black and white.) The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

“Working Women: Images of Female Labor in the Art of Thomas Rowlandson” will run through April 13, 2015 in the Works on Paper room, on the second floor of the Huntington Art Gallery.

Mairead Horton served as an intern in the art division at The Huntington. She is currently studying art history at Princeton University.

Morse the Painter?

Gallery of the Louvre (1831–33), oil on canvas, 73 1/2 x 108 in. Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago.

Gallery of the Louvre (1831–33), oil on canvas, 73 1/2 x 108 in. Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago.

If asked to recall the accomplishments of Samuel F. B. Morse (1791–1872), most people would cite his role in developing Morse code. Many would be surprised to learn he started his career as a painter.

This weekend, Morse’s extraordinary six-by-nine-foot masterwork, Gallery of the Louvre, goes on view in the Susan and Stephen Chandler Wing of the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. Created between 1831 and 1833, the painting reproduces famous works by Van Dyck, Leonardo, Murillo, Poussin, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Titian, arranged in an imagined installation in the Salon Carré at the Musée du Louvre in Paris. All told, the canvas depicts 38 paintings, two sculptures, and numerous figures in a single composition. (For a key to the people and art in the painting, click here.)

In addition to art, Morse depicts artists. The man painting in the lower-left hand corner is artist Richard W. Habersham, Morse’s roommate in Paris. Another artist and roommate, Horatio Greenough, can be seen in the background, holding his top hat as he enters the hall. Detail of Gallery of the Louvre, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago.

In addition to art, Morse depicts artists. The man painting in the lower-left hand corner is artist Richard W. Habersham, Morse’s roommate in Paris. Another artist and roommate, Horatio Greenough, can be seen in the background, holding his top hat as he enters the hall. Detail of Gallery of the Louvre, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago.

Jessica Todd Smith, The Huntington’s Virginia Steele Scott chief curator of American Art, says that Gallery of the Louvre uniquely captures the work of a great painter who also possessed the talents of a great inventor—a true American Renaissance man.

Morse was born in Charlestown, Mass., in 1791 and attended Yale University (then Yale College), studying science, art, and other subjects. He went on to support himself with portrait painting, first in the U.S. and then in London, where he joined a circle of American artists that included John Singleton Copley, Benjamin West, and John Trumbull.

Morse returned to the U.S. in 1815 and painted a precursor to Gallery of the Louvre, the seven-by-ten foot House of Representatives, for which he had to compile nearly 100 portraits of congressmen, delegates, and other figures.

The young woman seated before her sketch is Morse’s daughter, Susan Walker Morse, with her father, Samuel F. B. Morse, peering over her shoulder. Detail of Gallery of the Louvre, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago.

The young woman seated before her sketch is Morse’s daughter, Susan Walker Morse, with her father, Samuel F. B. Morse, peering over her shoulder. Detail of Gallery of the Louvre, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago.

It was during a trip to Paris in September 1831 that Morse decided to craft another large-scale painting, this time from the Louvre’s collection.

At the time, Morse was the founding president and professor of painting at the National Academy of Design in New York. His interest in painting Gallery of the Louvre was clearly pedagogical. He hoped to bring back to Americans a teaching canvas depicting what he considered the major works of Europe.

The project required numerous calculations to scale and arrange the works, aided by the use of a camera obscura or similar pre-photographic optical device. Working furiously, Morse raced to finish the painting before the Louvre’s annual closure in August. He then rolled the canvas for travel and did not unroll it again until early 1833, back home on American soil, where he added finishing touches to the painting.

This image of a copyist (a respectable artistic practice at the time) is possibly Morse’s recently deceased wife, Lucretia Pickering Walker. On either side of her, left to right, are Portrait of Suzanne Fourment by Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640, Flemish) and Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Simone Cantarini (1612–1648, Italian). Detail of Gallery of the Louvre, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago.

This image of a copyist (a respectable artistic practice at the time) is possibly Morse’s recently deceased wife, Lucretia Pickering Walker. On either side of her, left to right, are Portrait of Suzanne Fourment by Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640, Flemish) and Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Simone Cantarini (1612–1648, Italian). Detail of Gallery of the Louvre, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago.

Gallery of the Louvre debuted publicly in Manhattan in the fall of 1833. The painting drew praise from critics and connoisseurs but failed to attract a popular audience.

During this same period, Morse’s work on a single-wire telegraph system and what came to be known as Morse code was gaining increased attention, and he never again returned to painting.

In 2010, the Terra Foundation oversaw a six-month conservation treatment of Gallery of the Louvre—a process documented and described in a video produced by Sandpail Productions. An excerpt will be shown in the exhibition at The Huntington.

The exhibition, “Samuel F. B. Morse’s Gallery of the Louvre and the Art of Invention,” runs Jan. 24–May 4, 2015. It will be augmented by Morse-related historical materials from The Huntington’s library collections, including rare printed materials and unique manuscripts. The installation will include an opportunity for visitors to curate their own virtual gallery with miniature versions of works from The Huntington’s art collections.

The exhibition catalog is available at the Huntington Store.

Thea M. Page is the director of marketing communications at The Huntington.

Al Martinez, Bard of L.A.

Al Martinez at his desk in 2012. (Photo by John Sullivan.)

Al Martinez at his desk in 2012. (Photo by John Sullivan.)

I was born July 21, 1929, the year of the market crash and the start of the Depression. But they weren’t my fault.
—Al Martinez, quoted in “Out of the Shadows,” Tu Ciudad, Dec./Jan. 2006.

It was Martinez’s fault, happily, that for five decades his columns and writings inspired readers to think more deeply about the world around them and see more clearly the common humanity that binds people together. Sadly for all of us who have read his words or been blessed with his friendship, his voice has been stilled, for he passed away last week at the age of 85.

It’s my job, too. Not to investigate, but to weave woes and wonders into the tapestry that will one day be viewed as representative of our time.
—Al Martinez, “The Smell of Murder,” October 4, 1996, in Reflections

As a journalist and columnist, Martinez wrote for the Richmond Independent, the Oakland Tribune, and—for more than 35 years—the Los Angeles Times, where he was one of the paper’s most popular writers. In 2007, the Times let him go as part of its downsizing, only to reinstate him after thousands of his fans vehemently protested. However, 18 months later, the paper let him go again and did not relent. Far from retiring, Martinez began writing regular columns for the Los Angeles Daily News and the Topanga Messenger. He also produced a regular blog for AARP and taught writing seminars.

Al Martinez and his wife, Joanne Martinez, whom he called by her original surname, Cinelli. (Photo by John Sullivan.)

Al Martinez and his wife, Joanne Martinez, whom he called by her original surname, Cinelli. (Photo by John Sullivan.)

[About his wife, Joanne Martinez, pictured with him above] I see a face caressed by time, the way spring deepens into summer. I see a smile that, like a river, changes with the light. I see eyes whose gaze exceeds the horizon.  I see roses I see sunlight.
“How did we manage 50 years of marriage?” I asked.
“By dividing the chores. You write and I do everything else.”
—Al Martinez, “Fifty Years in Orbit,” August 4, 1999, in Reflections

Martinez explored every facet of the human experience, celebrating individuals who shine in the face of overwhelming burdens, condemning bigotry and intolerance, and chuckling at our capacity for folly. Echoing the poet Walt Whitman, Martinez noted: “I sing the people.” His popular columns earned many awards, including three Pulitzer Prizes and the prestigious Headliner Award for the best feature column in the United States. Martinez also published several books, ranging from compilations of columns to a novel, and he earned an Emmy nomination for his television writing.

Sometimes I’m not sure where reality ends and hallucinations begin. That’s why they made me a columnist.
—Al Martinez, “Sweet Bypass Blues,” November 7, 1991, in Reflections

Recognizing Martinez’s timeless, graceful prose and his extraordinary contributions to the fabric of Los Angeles, The Huntington acquired his papers in 2006, and I was fortunate to be able to curate an exhibition in 2012 devoted to him and his career. In planning the show and reading Martinez’s writings, I was struck by their poetic qualities, so the title that seemed to capture him best was “Al Martinez: Bard of L.A.” He truly sang the people as he captured their accomplishments, trials, and foibles. He also wrote of the natural world and the way its beauties and power shape us. He specifically wrote of life in L.A. (or “El Lay, La-La-Land, the Land of Fruits and Nuts, the City of Fallen Angels,” as he referred to it), discovering universal truths in the stories he told of his fellow Angelenos.

It is at once a world of wonder and danger, of thunder and full moons. Humanity remains as unsettled as the air that vibrates in a storm, and as dominating as a moon that rules the night.
—Al Martinez, “A Storm Filled with Promise,” February 11, 2001, in Reflections

Portrait of Al Martinez by John Robertson. (2001)

Portrait of Al Martinez by John Robertson. (2001)

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about another writer, Kent Haruf, whose papers I collected for the library, who had become a dear friend, and who was taken from us much too soon. Now, far sooner than I would wish, I am writing another tribute to a person I knew first as a writer and then as a beloved friend. A friend of mine e-mailed me recently that she could imagine Al and Kent somewhere in the ether, sharing martinis (Al’s drink of choice) and comparing stories of their favorite curator. This image makes me smile and makes my two writers seem comfortingly close at hand.

There is a knoll in Topanga State Park, up an oak-shaded back trail, where you can see all the way to the ocean… I know a place now where, when I become too conscious of my own heartbeat, I can consider the rhythms of the ocean instead, and the seasons of the mountains.
That’s more of a confirmation of life than I ever realized before.
—Al Martinez, “High on a Hill,” in Ashes in the Rain

About his craft as a columnist, Al wrote in I’ll Be Damned If I’ll Die in Oakland: “Editors and publishers come and go, typefaces change, formats shift, columns move from here to there. I endure, writing the words and singing the songs, prowling like an old alley cat through the lives of those I father into my paragraphs.” He will no longer prowl through the lives and neighborhoods of Los Angeles, but for me and many others, his friendship will continue to warm our hearts. And, for all of us, his writings will endure to remind us of our humanity.

The dog was a pathetic and possibly psychotic no-breed animal named Barney, with beady, close-set eyes and an arrogant attitude.  He could have been the love child of an unholy union between Richard Nixon and Bebe Rebozo.
—Al Martinez, “Heaven, Hell, and L.A.,” in I’ll Be Damned If I’ll Die in Oakland

Sara S. “Sue” Hodson is curator of literary manuscripts at The Huntington.

George Romney’s Other Side

George Romney (British, 1734-1802), page from Sketchbook, 1796 [?], graphite, ink and wash. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. On view in "Eccentric Visions: Drawings by Henry Fuseli, William Blake, and Their Contemporaries" through March 16, 2015.

George Romney (British, 1734-1802), page from Sketchbook, 1796 [?], graphite, ink and wash. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. On view in “Eccentric Visions: Drawings by Henry Fuseli, William Blake, and Their Contemporaries” through March 16, 2015.

A monstrous frog-like creature nibbling at the breast of a corpse; a claustrophobic encounter between two women who embrace under the eyes of a shadowy watcher; a raving sorceress surging forward, bent on destruction—believe it or not, these disturbing images come from the mind of George Romney, the British painter best known at The Huntington for his dazzling portraits of glamorous ladies and gentlemen that hang throughout the Huntington Art Gallery. Along with Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds, Romney vied for the title of Britain’s most fashionable portrait painter in the 1770s and 80s. As they built their own great collection of British art, Henry and Arabella Huntington bought a dozen of Romney’s portraits—from life-size images of stylish brides like Penelope Lee Acton to intimate peeks at the alluring charms of the notorious Emma, Lady Hamilton. Romney’s paintings helped codify what it meant to be beautiful, rich, and aristocratic in late 18th-century Britain.

George Romney, Cimon and Iphigenia, early 1780s, pen and ink and brown wash over graphite [rendered here in black and white]. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, Sir Bruce Ingram Collection. On view in "Eccentric Visions."

George Romney, Cimon and Iphigenia, early 1780s, pen and ink and brown wash over graphite [rendered here in black and white]. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, Sir Bruce Ingram Collection. On view in “Eccentric Visions.”

Another, darker side of Romney’s imagination is currently on display in “Eccentric Visions: Drawings by Henry Fuseli, William Blake, and Their Contemporaries” (Huntington Art Gallery, through March 16, 2015). The late 18th-century is usually characterized as the Neoclassical era, a time when artists took inspiration from the composed sculpture and ordered architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. However, as the drawings in this exhibition reveal, a fascination with the extreme, the fantastic, and the supernatural existed right alongside the regularity and rationality of Neoclassicism. It’s not so surprising, considering this is the age that saw the rise of the Gothic novel, in whose thrilling pages the ghostly harbingers of evil and dastardly monks terrorized countless helpless maidens. Like their literary counterparts, many artists catered to this taste for things eerie, intense, or unexplained.

George Romney, Study of a Striding Female Figure, perhaps Emma Hart as Circe, early 1780s, pen and ink and brown and blue wash over graphite [rendered here in black and white]. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. On view in "Eccentric Visions."

George Romney, Study of a Striding Female Figure, perhaps Emma Hart as Circe, early 1780s, pen and ink and brown and blue wash over graphite [rendered here in black and white]. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. On view in “Eccentric Visions.”

This side of Romney’s art is most visible in his drawings. Romney was a great draftsman who thought of drawing as a vehicle for expression rather than simply as a preparation for his paintings. His pen and wash drawing of Cimon and Iphigenia, inspired by a tale in Boccacio’s Decameron, shows a male figure, barely visible in profile, gazing at the object of his affections. The artist heightens the emotional force of the encounter, a scene of blossoming love that is also an unsettling act of voyeurism, by compressing the image into a small space and pushing the figures up close to the viewer. His drawing of a woman raising a wand high above her head is possibly a study for a painting of Emma Hamilton as Circe, the sorceress from Homer’s Odyssey who turned Odysseus’ crew into swine. With her wide staring eyes and powerful gestures, she is a vision of dangerous femininity.

George Romney, Penelope Lee Acton, 1791, oil on canvas. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. On view in the Huntington Art Gallery.

George Romney, Penelope Lee Acton, 1791, oil on canvas. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. On view in the Huntington Art Gallery.

Like these individual drawings, Romney’s sketchbook of around 1796 is filled with expressive imagery. However, these are not pictures made to appeal to the readers of the latest Gothic novel. Many of the drawings in this book go beyond the psychological intensity of his literary subjects, like Cimon and Iphigenia and Circe, to reveal the private thoughts, fears, and desires of a mind in turmoil. Despite his popularity, Romney was by nature a shy and secretive person. By the mid-1790s, he increasingly suffered from bouts of depression and paranoia, while a series of small strokes made working difficult. Art historians have read this extraordinary sketchbook as evidence of the deteriorating physical and emotional state of the artist. In 1799, Romney left London for good and retired to the village of Kendal in Cumbria, England, bringing to an end one of the most brilliant careers in British art.

George Romney, Emma Hart, later Lady Hamilton, in a Straw Hat, c. 1782-94, oil on canvas. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. On view in the Huntington Art Gallery.

George Romney, Emma Hart, later Lady Hamilton, in a Straw Hat, c. 1782-94, oil on canvas. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. On view in the Huntington Art Gallery.

Related content on Verso:
“Which Witch?” (Oct. 10, 2014)
“A Magic Brew?” (Oct. 31, 2014)
“More Than Meets the Eye” (Dec. 16, 2014)

Melinda McCurdy is associate curator for British art at The Huntington.