CFP: [Victorian] Victorian Illustration

full name / name of organization: 
Prof Janice Hart
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We Thought We Knew You: the Refashioning of ‘Mr Verdant Green’ in Britain
and America, 1853-1910

Proposal for the NEMLA panel, Buffalo NY, April 2008

Professor Janice Hart, Director of Research, London College of
Communication, University of the Arts London

Cuthbert Bede was the pseudonym of Edward Bradley, an English clergyman
who, as a writer and illustrator, explored the comic possibilities of
photography and, in the process of so doing, created a number of
distinctive and memorable fictional characters. Within the history of
photography, Photographic Pleasures: Popularly Portrayed with Pen and
Pencil, dating from January 1854, is his most widely recognised work.
However within the study of English literature, The Adventures of Mr
Verdant Green, An Oxford Freshman is much better known. Published in 1853
it spawned two sequels and, in America, it was reworked into an altered
and re-titled version, The Dude. Perhaps most significantly, it remained
in continuous print throughout the remainder of the long 19th century.

The work was initially published with Cuthbert Bede’s own illustrations
and a number of late reprints were made. As it changed hands through
different publishers, The Adventures of Mr Verdant Green was recast and
repackaged many times both in terms of its internal and external
appearance. It is this way that a mid 19th century accident and incident
prone young undergraduate, conspicuously be-spectacled, rather gangly in
build and not entirely at home in academic dress, was transformed in to an
aesthete who appears on a book cover decorated with the floriated ornament
characteristic of late Art Nouveau. In short, ‘Mr Verdant Green’ was
refashioned and, as a consequence, the tone and effect of the volume was
dramatically transformed.

This paper begins by providing examples of redrawn characters from
contemporary and near contemporary literary works. This will help to
establish if the motivations for this practice can be explained by the
combined factors of publisher’s seeking new audiences and graphic and
decorative styles having the capacity to eventually appear dated, or if
other factor such as a publisher’s house-style might be involved. An
enquiry is also made into audience expectations of the literary genre
known as ‘town and gown’. Emphasis is then placed on the initial
development of ‘Mr Verdant Green’ including Cuthbert Bede’s initial
understanding that it would be published in The Illustrated News, a
venture which subsequently came to nothing. The paper finally traces a
historical timeline from the original 1853 volume through to various
manifestations of ‘Mr Verdant Green’ in Britain and America with a view to
documenting and analysing the various graphic and decorative
manifestations that, through almost half a century, substantially
refashioned this popular comic character offering him up in varying guises
to different readers.

Word Count: 408.

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Received on Fri Sep 14 2007 - 10:45:27 EDT