Samuel Rogers (1763–1855)
The poet is now best remembered for his topographical poem, Italy, which in its illustrated edition of 1830 influenced Ruskinʼs writing and ideas, from the 1833–34 Account of a Tour on the Continent, to the 1843 volume of Modern Painters. In the nineteenth century, Rogers was admired for other poetry, as well, especially his 1792 poem, The Pleasures of Memory. He was also famous as a conversationalist and as a patron of artists and other writers. A wealthy and successful businessman—he made his fortune in banking—he could afford to craft his polite, formal verse slowly and methodically, and to promote the classical aesthetic and collecting to which he was fervently devoted. He was a Regency “man of taste” who survived into an increasingly earnest generation.
Rogers as a Collector and Man of Taste
Rogersʼs townhouse in St. James Place, London, where he hosted gatherings of artists and writers at his famous breakfasts and dinners, was a palace of art. The rooms were neoclassical in design; and like Thomas Hope (1769–1831), with whom he shared ideas, Rogers used his house to promote the aesthetic of neoclassicism. He commissioned furniture using Hopeʼs Greek‐ and Roman‐revival designs, and some interior features of St. James Place were copied directly from Hopeʼs Duchess Street house, a showcase that Hope intended as a model for reforming British taste along neoclassical lines (Holcomb, “Neglected Classical Phase of Turnerʼs Art”, 406; Watkin and Hewat‐Jaboor, eds., Thomas Hope, 64, 13‐14).
The collection inside Rogersʼs museum‐like residence ranged from Greek and Roman antiquities, to Old Masters, to eighteenth‐ and nineteenth‐century British art, to curious objects of virtu. The library was significant for manuscripts, prints, and drawings, including the complete drawings by John Flaxman (1755‐1826) after Aeschylus, and the largest collection in the kingdom of drawings by Thomas Stothard (1755–1834), for whom Rogers was a major patron. In his acquisition of paintings and sculpture, Rogers oversaw a small but representative collection that, as Anna Jameson (1794–1860) commented, would serve better to educate a neophyte in the “true comprehension of the characteristic excellences of various painters” than would a larger and more imposing collection. Old Master paintings included works by Italian primitive and Renaissance (especially Venetian) artists; Baroque Flemish and Dutch artists; and landscapists, both classical Arcadian (e.g., Claude and Poussin) and Dutch. In British art, Rogersʼs taste in figure and genre painting inclined to the modern with pieces by Bonington, Fuseli, Haydon, Leslie, Reynolds, Stothard, Sully, and Wilkie; and in landscape, his preference leaned to the classical and Dutch‐inspired with examples by Gainsborough, Reynolds, Turner, and Wilson. In 1835, closer to the time when the young Ruskin was first introduced to St. James Place, Gustav Friedrich Waagen surveyed the highlights of the collection in his Works of Art and Artists in England (2:132–46); and see Jameson, Companion to the Most Celebrated Private Galleries of Art in London (pp. 387, 391–410); Weeks, “Samuel Rogers: Man of Taste”; and Bennett, Thomas Stothard (p. 24).
Thomas Stothard was particularly important to Rogersʼs collecting and decorating, supplying not only works for the drawing and painting collections, but also illustrations for Rogersʼs own books, and even objects of interior design. A cabinet painted by him depicted characters from Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Boccaccio, likely designed in the rococo, Watteauesque style that Stothard had favored from his earliest book illustration commissions, and that he termed his sans souci manner of his fĂȘte galante illustrations for the Decameron (Bennett, Thomas Stothard, 9–10, 24–25, 53–55; Bray, Life of Thomas Stothard, R.A., 103–4). As an illustrator, Stothardʼs working relationship with Rogers was established as early as 1794, when the artist supplied a few cuts for an edition of The Pleasures of Memory, followed by much more profusely illustrated editions of this and other poems, many of these editions published by the firm of Thomas Cadell (Coxhead, Thomas Stothard, R.A., 120–29). The artist and patron shared political sympathies, Stothard having been apprenticed in his youth to Spitalsfield radicals and, as a young artist, formed close friendships with John Flaxman and William Blake (1757‐1827) and admired James Barry (1741‐1806) and John Hamilton Mortimer (1740‐79); Rogersʼs associations included some of these artists, as well as influential Whig politicians (Bennett, Thomas Stothard, 2–6, 11–12, 23–24).
Ruskinʼs Introduction to Rogers
The house and collections were open to view by anyone with a respectable introduction, including the young John Ruskin, who was ushered to St. James Place by the editor and poet, Thomas Pringle (1789–1834). Ruskin had been given a copy of Rogersʼs Italy, in the 1830 illustrated edition, for his 8 February 1832 birthday, if Praeterita is accurate about the story of the boyʼs first encounter with Turner. So the well‐known story goes, although Ruskin himself expresses uncertainty in Praeterita whether he received the book for his 1832 or 1833 birthday. Even more surprisingly, as John James Ruskinʼs accounts show, a copy of Italy was purchased only following the the familyʼs return from the Tour of 1833, rather than prior to their departure (Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 1:286 n. 1; and see Account of a Tour on the Continent: Date of Composition). This may have been an additional copy, however. Ruskinʼs birthday copy is said to have been a present from John James Ruskinʼs business partner, Henry Telford (1790–1859), although the copy is not signed by him.
Nothing is known about Ruskinʼs first encounter with this arbiter of taste and host of London literary and artistic life, apart from what Ruskin himself later related about the incident in the autobiographical writing, My First Editor: An Autobiographical Reminiscence (Ruskin, Works, 34:96), and Praeterita (Ruskin, Works, 35:93). Perhaps Pringle gained Ruskinʼs entrée on the strength of the youthʼs remarkable imitation of the 1830 edition of Rogersʼs Italy, the Account of a Tour on the Continent. Pringle knew about Ruskinʼs project, since he debuted the young poet in the annual, Friendshipʼs Offering, by publishing a version of poems drawn from the “Account”. In that debut poem, “Fragments from a Metrical Journal”, the combination of variety of color with symmetrical constraint might be credited to the influence of Rogersʼs taste; and in the larger “Account” project, Ruskin was certainly indebted to Rogers for ideas about structure and for specific imagery and language—particularly in Ruskinʼs poems about crossing the Alps into Italy. (See Thomas Pringle (1789–1834); and Account of a Tour on the Continent: Discussion—Mentors, and Discussion—The Influence of Rogersʼs Poetry on Ruskinʼs Planned Extension of the Composite‐Genre Travelogue to Italy and Switzerland.)
Pringleʼs introduction of Ruskin to Rogers should be viewed in tandem with John James Ruskinʼs recommendation of his son as a future poet to the Scottish poet and fiction writer, James Hogg (ca. 1770–1835). It is possible that John James approached Hogg with the intention of offsetting and correcting Pringleʼs introduction of the boy to Rogers, as much as complementing that introduction, since Hogg was a homelier and more approachable figure. Both introductions probably belong to 1833–34.
The Publication History of Rogersʼs Italy
In these earlier years, the significance of the Rogers connection revolved around the poem, Italy, particularly the 1830 illustrated edition. Rogers developed his poem over the course of several years. Basing its substance on his Continental tour of 1814–15, he started composition in 1818. In 1821–22, he published Italy, a Poem: Part the First with the publisher, Longman, keeping the authorship anonymous (although the secret was exposed, to anyone who cared to investigate, by previous piecemeal appearance of portions of the work under Rogersʼs name, such as the lines on Paestum, released in 1819 and 1822). In 1823, Rogers released the poem under his name in a new edition published by John Murray, which expanded and revised the contents of the Longman Part the First. Additionally, the first part went into a third edition, 1823; and a fourth edition, with revisions, additions, and two woodcuts by Stothard, 1824. These constant revisions and reissues can be explained in terms of Rogersʼs perfectionism, which he was able to satisfy by means of his enormous wealth, and not necessarily in terms of the indifferent reception of the poem, as has sometimes been alleged. While Rogers was unlucky to begin composing a long verse work about Italy just at the same time when Lord Byron wrote and published the fourth canto of Childe Haroldʼs Pilgrimage (1818), in which the more famous poet laid claim to Venice as a popular topic for verse, Rogersʼs poem did sell respectably. Cecilia Powell has found a figure of 1,250 copies sold by April 1823, according to a ledger of that date in the John Murray archive; and while this figure seems earthbound compared to the stratospheric sales of Walter Scottʼs Lady of the Lake (20,000 copies in the first six months alone of 1810) or Byronʼs Corsair (10,000 copies on the first day of publication alone in 1814), Rogersʼs figure does not suggest a failure (Powell, “Turnerʼs Vignettes”, 2–3, 11, 12 n. 6; on Scottʼs and Byronʼs figures, see Erickson, Economy of Literary Form, 23).
In 1828, Rogers at last released Italy, a Poem: Part the Second, this part also published by Murray, and illustrated by four woodcuts by Stothard. Within that same year, the poet bought up and destroyed the roughly two thousand unsold copies of both parts (Rogers, Italian Journal, 109–10; Gilmour, “Early Editions of Rogersʼs Italy; Powell, “Turnerʼs Vignettes”, 2–3, 11 n. 9, 12 n. 14). The Ruskin family numbered among the exceptional, albeit not exclusive, owners of these earlier editions of the poem, having puchased a copy in 1828—presumably of the second part of the poem, issued in that year (Burd, ed., Ruskin Family Letters, 1:188 n. 4). What happened were rapid changes in the literary market, which are instructive about the context in which Ruskin began to publish his poetry.
Italy and Print Culture of the 1830s
Whether Rogers made a bonfire of the earlier editions of Italy because he was dismayed by the workʼs tepid reception, reviewers having largely treated it coolly or ignored it altogether, or because he was eager to publish a new, combined and revised version of parts 1 and 2—an extravagant approach to revision that was within his means—his decision cannot have been unaffected by the precipitous change in conditions that had favored publication of poetry prior to the later 1820s. As Lee Erickson has argued, in the first two decades of the century, the prestige of British poetry as a genre was supported by an economy of papermaking that kept the price of books high, thus encouraging consumers to favor a genre that repaid repeated reading of shorter works. Correspondingly, poets advanced a poetics that singled out an audience of the fit though few. This economy changed abruptly with industrial improvements that cheapened paper as well as making mass print runs possible through stereotyping. Now publishers encouraged a variety of genres, especially prose genres, in order to appeal to an audience expanding in both numbers and breadth of social class (Erickson, Economy of Literary Form, 19–48). Rogers, for all his refinement, elitism, and perfectionism—indeed, in a certain respect by virtue of those traits—was able to maintain the viability of his poem, Italy, by responding to the growing popular market as an entrepreneur. He did so by capitalizing on another technological innovation of the period, steel engraving, which made possible the mass production of the engraved image, and which in Ericksonʼs view deflected what remained of the popular poetry market into the minor subgenre of light lyric, pictorial verse favored by the Annuals and Other Illustrated Books (Erickson, Economy of Literary Form, 29–31). The medium made possible two of the most widely distributed and steadily demanded illustrated books of the first half of the century, both by Rogers, the 1830 illustrated edition of Italy, and the 1834 collected Poems.
While this achievement was owing to Rogersʼs unusual ability to manage the fortunes of his poetry in revolutionary market conditions, and to sustain at least the appearance of elite consumer status attached to his poetry, the possibility that conditions of print and visual culture equally governed the reception of his poetry is suggested by the most ephemeral of the illustrated versions of Italy. In late 1824, there appeared a version of part 1 of the poem, with twelve copper engravings by Stothard, published as the Royal Engagement Pocket Atlas for 1825 (see Powell, “Turnerʼs Vignettes”, 2; and Holcomb, “Neglected Classical Phase of Turnerʼs Art”, 406 n. 2). This was not an edition of Rogersʼs complete poem, but an adaptation accommodated to the printed artifact called a pocket book, which was an ephemeral publication combining features of an annual almanac with a diary or engagement calendar. The Royal Engagement Pocket Atlas was an up‐market example of this kind of publication, with the almanac material refined to focus on fashionable information such as tables of the members of the British royalty and other dignitaries. The role played by Rogersʼs poem was to embellish the blank diary pages with brief verse extracts, illustrated by copper‐engraved vignettes by Thomas Stothard.
Stothard had been employed to illustrate the Royal Engagement Pocket Atlas since 1783, prior to his first cuts for Rogersʼs Pleasures of Memory. The artist drew on that poem to illustrate the pocket book for 1808, and on Rogersʼs Human Life for the 1820 issue (Coxhead, Thomas Stothard, R.A., 50–54). The publisher, Thomas Baker of Southampton, appears to have relied on Stothard to impart the qualities that made this pocket book stand out in the market and maintain unusual longevity—the thematizing of each annual issue around a work of popular British literature, sometimes classic, but most often modern. The literary illustrations were limited to twelve vignettes, each less than one by two inches, and each one heading the first of a two‐page spread of diary pages for a given month. Quotations from the literary work were limited to brief captions, effectively forming part of the vignette itself. Working within these limitations, Stothard pictorially serialized such hefty works as novels and long narrative poems by Goldsmith, Cowper, Byron, Crabbe, Campbell, and Scott. (Jung, “Print Culture, Marketing, and Thomas Stothardʼs Illustrations for The Royal Engagement Pocket Atlas, 1779–1826). Evidence is unclear about what part, if any, Rogers himself played in the adaptation of Italy and his other poems to this ephemeral form of print culture (Adele Holcomb asserts that he commissioned the pocket‐book vignettes [“Neglected Classical Phase of Turnerʼs Art”, 406]). Later, in 1834, Rogers admitted that his publisher, Moxon, had not asked his permission to issue the 1830 illustrated Italy and the 1834 Poems in four‐shilling monthly parts, so that consumers of modest means could afford to acquire these elegant books (Merriam, Edward Moxon, 45).
The convergence in period and style of the pocket books and the annuals suggests how elements of print culture in itself helped to staged the success of Rogersʼs illustrated poems in the 1830s. Fashionable pocket books flourished from the final three decades of the eighteenth century through the first half of the nineteenth century, with such features as small engraved illustrations and almanac tables likewise offered by the early illustrated literary annuals, which emerged in the 1820s. Turner probably commenced designing vignettes for the book‐length illustrated Italy as early as 1826, only one year after the appearance of the pocket‐book version of the poem with its small vignettes by Stothard (Powell, “Turnerʼs Vignettes”, 3). Yet the 1825 Royal Engagement Pocket Atlas, which proved to be the last‐produced of this long‐running pocket book, presents two significant differences compared to earlier issues, which suggest a greater authorial presence: Stothard substituted architectural scenes for his usual figure illustrations, a subject more like Turnerʼs; and Rogersʼs text was placed more on a par with the illustrations, rather than serving merely as a prompt for the pictures. Whereas earlier layouts reduced the literary source to a series of brief captions to the pictures, the 1825 issue presented a facing‐page spread, with the verso embellished by an architectural vignette, and the facing recto (formerly blank, in earlier issues) presenting a text box containing a substantial verse extract, as compared with the mere captions incorporated into the illustrations for earlier issues (Jung, “The Illustrated Pocket Diary”, 31).
In the full integrity of its text, Italy became a best‐seller when Rogersʼs commissioned J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851), Thomas Stothard (1755–1834), Samuel Prout (1783–1852), and other artists to supply designs for intaglio engraving in steel, for an edition published in 1830 by the firms of Cadell and Davies and Edward Moxon. The partnership was a boon for the young Moxon (1801–58), whom Rogers had recently set up in business, while Thomas Cadell (1773–1836) was a well established publisher. In Moxon, Rogers found an idealistic champion of poetry publication, at a time when the genre seemed all but universally pronounced unmarketable (Merriam, Edward Moxon, 17–18, 23–24, 29). In Cadell, Rogers could rely on the experience of a publisher who for decades had successfully produced illustrated books for both modest and upper‐class consumers, and who was a longtime employer of Stothard as an illustrator (Bennett, Thomas Stothard, 15). While no poet other than Rogers could have borne the prohibitive publication expenses, the edition had recouped his investment by the spring of 1832, when one of the nearly 7,000 copies thus far sold would have been inscribed for John Ruskinʼs 8 February 1832 birthday gift, if Praeterita is accurate about the story of this first encounter with Turner (Rogers, Italian Journal, 111; Ruskin, Works, 35:79).
The Design of the 1830 Illustrated Italy
While capitalizing on recent print technologies—and perhaps governed by changing economy for poetry—the innovations marking Rogersʼs 1830 Italy lay in its techniques for preserving rather old‐fashioned elements of neoclassical design that suited the authorʼs taste and over which he exerted complete control, whatever may have been his involvement in the 1825 Royal Engagement Pocket Atlas that anticipated the bookʼs vignette‐style illustration. In the bookʼs design, as Jan Piggott suggests, Rogersʼs model was the page layout of vignette and text as found in Poems by Goldsmith and Parnell, published by William Bulmer (ca. 1757–1830) at his Shakspeare Printing Office in 1795 (Piggott, Turnerʼs Vignettes, 20). In that edition, poems were decorated with headpiece and tailpiece engravings by Thomas Bewick (1753–1828) and John Bewick (ca. 1760–95). In the illustrated Italy, the headpieces typically feature Turnerʼs landscapes, and the tailpieces illustrate narrative episodes with Stothardʼs figures. The effect could not be achieved using the older technologies employed by the Bewicks, however, since they engraved in wood, producing relief blocks that could be set along with the type, whereas steel engraving was an intaglio process. To achieve the neoclassical design using updated technology, Rogersʼs printers devised a method for passing sheets through the press twice, once for caputuring the intaglio engraving, and once again for taking impressions from the relief type. The intaglio impression was taken first, and in such a way that the plate registration mark would be cut away with the trimmed pages (Holcomb, “Neglected Classical Phase of Turnerʼs Art”, 406, 409; Harris, “History: A ‘Small’ Genre Succeeds,”; Piggott, Turnerʼs Vignettes, 19; and Powell, “On the Wing through Space and Time”, 201 n. 8).
Rogers exercised authoritarian control over the design and execution of every illustration, just as he obsessively revised almost every poem for the new edition (and persisted in developing Italy and other works for future editions of his poetry). Rogers decided on the subjects of the illustrations and their treatment, and he demanded subtle alterations in their execution, even if the laborious steel engraving was already underway. The artists and engravers were compliant, with Turner relinquishing his dramatic instincts for the sake of Rogersʼs neoclassicism, and allowing Stothardʼs figures to be placed in his landscapes, and with the untempermental Stothard ready to agree to almost anything (Bennett, Thomas Stothard, 26–29; Holcomb, “Neglected Classical Phase of Turnerʼs Art”; Holcomb, “Turner and Rogersʼ Italy Revisited”, 66–73). Even the printer may not have escaped Rogersʼs supervision, since was known at times to descend on printshops, where he “stirred up everybody with a long stick” (Merriam, Edward Moxon, 28 n. 15). As critics have also remarked, however, if Rogers was exacting in his demands, he and his collaborators were sympathetically well matched in their approach to the subject. Stothardʼs cheery representation of childhood and his idealized view of feminine grace clearly appealed to Rogersʼs taste as a collector and a writer (Bennett, Thomas Stothard, 31–35); and Turner, while sharing Rogersʼs reverence for the antiquity of Italy, shrewdly offset his patronʼs tendency to mire his poetry in historical pedantry, and instead complemented the poems with topographical interest that the poet neglected (Powell, Turner in the South, 132–34; Holcomb, “Turner and Rogersʼ Italy Revisited”, 74–76).
The result is a happy collaboration of writer and artists that both embodies the technological advances and the changing literary markets of the 1820s–30s, while also defying the odds presented by those markets with an outstanding success. The 1830 Italy seems to pass judgment on the technologies that it exploits, as compared with the gaudy shallowness of the bookʼs cousins, the steel‐engraved annuals. Its typography referenced the beautiful typeface used for the Shakspeare Press edition of Goldsmithʼs and Parnellʼs poems, a face designed for Bulmer by William Martin (d. 1815). Its engraving, worthy of the Bewicksʼ skill, was undertaken by Edward Goodall (1795–1870), who managed to reproduce Turnerʼs exquisitely delicate atmospheric effects in spite of the hard, stubborn, and unforgiving medium of steel. In 1834, the success was repeated with a collected edition of Rogersʼs Poems, likewise jointly issued by the firms of Cadell and Moxon, and illustrated by additional engraved vignettes after Turner and Stothard. Sadly, Stothard died in the year of publication, after lingering for several months incapacitated by the effects of an accident.
By 1847, shortly before revolutions on the Continent must have made Rogersʼs Grand Tour poem seem quaintly dated, the combined sales of the two illustrated volumes, the 1830 Italy and the 1834 Poems, is estimated to have reached 50,000 copies (Powell, Turner in the South, 136). According to J. R. Hale, Rogers considered the 1834 edition of Italy to be the “first complete” version of the work (Rogers, Italian Journal, 128); however, Rogers appears to have continued to oversee editions of his poems, adding notes and possibly making further small refinements to the poems. Hale identifies editions of Italy published in 1839, 1842, and 1852 (Hale, “Samuel Rogers the Perfectionist”, 65).
The bibliography of these later editions remains to be exhaustively described, and versions of all of Rogersʼs poems require collating. (The identity of the “complete” 1834 edition” of Italy is elusive. The illustrated poem continued to be bound separately from the 1834 Poems. In a two‐volume edition of the paired works held by the library of the University of California, Los Angeles, the volume of Italy carries a title page with the date 1835. Its contents appears identical to that of the 1830 edition, whatever variants might be discoverable in the individual poems and prose pieces.) In 1839, a new illustrated edition of Italy appeared —whether on the initiative of the author, or the publisher Moxon, or both—which used woodcuts based on earlier designs by Stothard, as well as new designs by A. W. Callcott (1779–1844), Thomas Uwins (1782–1857), Charles Eastlake (1793–1865), and Edwin Landseer (1802–73). The newly illustrated edition looked both forward and backward, for the late Stothardʼs designs were engraved in part by Luke Clennell (1781–1840), who had apprenticed under Thomas Bewick, and who had engraved Stothardʼs drawings for an 1810 edition of Rogersʼs Pleasures of Memory, but the remaining designs were cut by John Thompson (1785–1866), who would later contribute to Moxonʼs 1857 “Pre‐Raphaelite” illustrated edition of Alfred Tennysonʼs Poems.