This essay explores the associations made by William Hazlitt between the work of the Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser and paintings by Rubens, Titian and Poussin, revealing how the nineteenth-century critic drew upon Spenser’s writing to conjure the notion of ‘a gallery in the mind’: a virtual collection of pictures encountered through words that served the new public for temporary exhibitions of Old Master paintings.

How can an encounter with paintings be remembered and shared with the public through words? This challenge was taken up by the nineteenth-century critic William Hazlitt, whose writing encouraged new ways of seeing opened up by the invention of the temporary exhibition, a phenomenon captured by art historian Francis Haskell in his 2000 book The Ephemeral Museum.1 In Hazlitt’s art criticism literature and painting complement each other in the art of memory: one can learn to ‘read poetry with the eyes of a connoisseur’ and to treasure pictures ‘in the chambers of the brain’. This essay tests Hazlitt’s critical practice by comparing his lecture ‘On Chaucer and Spenser’ (1818) with his later essay ‘Pictures at Oxford and Blenheim’ (1823). Imagining the Old Masters translating Edmund Spenser’s visionary art on canvas involves an exercise in hypothetical history: going against the record of early modern painting Hazlitt opened up an alternative visual tradition fuelled by the power of literary invention.

‘When artists or connoisseurs talk on stilts about the poetry of painting, they shew [sic] that they know little about poetry, and have little love for the art’.2This denunciation of the cant of criticism appears in ‘On Poetry in General’, the first of William Hazlitt’s ‘Lectures on the English Poets’, delivered at the Surrey Institution in January 1818. Hazlitt’s claim about the specificity of poetry harks back to Edmund Burke’s influential argument about the differences between the arts, and challenges the critical tradition that drew on Aristotle’s concept of enargeia to interpret poetry in terms of its visual power to produce images in the eye of the reader.3 In his 1758 edition of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene (1596), John Upton declared the Elizabethan poet ‘unrivalled in the visionary art of bringing objects before your eyes, and making you a spectator of his imaginary representations’.4 How this visionary art could be captured on canvas was a challenge modern painters took up in works exhibited year after year at the Royal Academy from 1772 and at the British Institution from 1809. In the first arts column published in the Analytical Review in June 1788 the painter Henry Fuseli argued that ‘the excellence of pictures or of language consists in raising clear, complete, and circumstantial images, and turning readers into spectators’.5 Fuseli’s claim gave prominence to Thomas Macklin’s Poets’ Gallery, where Spenser’s poem was illustrated by Fuseli’s Prince Arthur’s Vision, John Opie’s The Freeing of Amoret, by Britomartis, Richard Cosway’s Sans Loy Killing the Lyon, and Amoret rapt by Greedie Lust by Martin.6 Hazlitt’s point against poetical paintings thus went against an established tradition in modern art.

However, Hazlitt’s pattern of thinking as an essayist involved trying out reverse positions. In the second of his ‘Lectures on the English Poets’, dedicated to Chaucer and Spenser, he went on to imagine a gallery of portraits coming out of Spenser’s Faerie Queene: ‘The description of Hope, in this series of historical portraits, is one of the most beautiful in Spenser: and the triumph of Cupid at the mischief he has made, is worthy of the malicious urchin deity’.7Hazlitt’s art historical language turns Spenser’s stanzas into a series of pictures. His gallery of words can be matched to the literary inventions of modern painters, a recurrent feature of the contemporary exhibition scene. A generation of sitters had been posing as allegorical characters from the Faerie Queene; the first was a portrait of Mary Hall by Benjamin West, which was exhibited at the third Royal Academy exhibition in 1772.8 A review indicated that the subject of the painting, which was titled Una and the Lion, ‘is founded upon a passage in Spencer [sic], which as the author is but little read at present, I shall take the liberty of giving you at length’, and went on to quote two stanzas from the Faerie Queene.9 Spenser’s poem reached the new exhibition-going public in catalogue entries, print captions and articles in newspapers and periodicals. In anchoring portraits to quotations, paintings circulated the poem as a gallery of excerpts. Conversely, literature offered a store of subjects for modern painters keen to establish a British School of painting. The visual power of literary invention to elevate portraiture to the higher genre of poetical painting was crystallised in Sir Thomas Lawrence’s Portrait of Lady Leicester as ‘Hope’ (1814), which was exhibited at Sir John Fleming Leicester’s Gallery of British Paintings when it opened to the public in spring 1818.10

Hazlitt, however, chose to ignore the work of modern painters in his lecture ‘On Chaucer and Spenser’. As private collections opened to the public and temporary exhibitions brought Old Master paintings to the British Institution, Spenser’s ‘visionary art’ took on new aesthetic possibilities:

In reading these descriptions, one can hardly avoid being reminded of Rubens’s allegorical pictures; but the account of Satyrane taming the Lion’s whelps and lugging the bear’s cubs along in his arms while yet an infant, whom his mother so naturally advises to ‘go seek some other play-fellows’, has even more of this high picturesque character. Nobody but Rubens could have painted the fancy of Spenser.11

The choice to celebrate Spenser for his fancy in 1818 marks Hazlitt’s rejection of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s critical appraisal of the respective powers of fancy and imagination in his Biographia Literaria, published just a year earlier. For Coleridge, Aristotle’s psychology spells out ‘the universal law of the passive fancy and the mechanical memory’: in Aristotle’s system ‘ideas by long having been together acquire a power of recalling each other; or every partial representation awakes the total representation of which it had been a part’.12 In his review of Coleridge’s Biographia Hazlitt ridiculed Coleridge’s attempt to ‘desynonymise’ the imagination from the fancy and to assign them to different faculties: ‘the author deludes us with a view of the Promised Land that divides the region of Fancy from those of the Imagination’.13 While Coleridge’s poetic genealogy supports the autonomy of the literary imagination, Hazlitt embraced Spenser’s pictorialism to articulate a ‘Romantic counter-poetics of the fancy’.14 In bringing Rubens to the eyes of the reader, Hazlitt proposed that Spenser’s ‘picturesque’ mythological compositions activate an intermedial power of invention shaped by complementary, overlapping, and merging practices of reading and viewing.

What was involved in comparing Spenser to Rubens? What did Rubens mean for the public of Hazlitt’s lectures? For Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Hazlitt’s lecturing exemplified ‘the egotism of the Cockneys’, who are first identified as ‘lecturers of the Surrey Institution, and editors of Sunday papers’, then by name and classical alter ego: ‘[Leigh] Hunt, the Cockney Homer, Hazlitt, the Cockney Aristotle, and [Benjamin] Haydon, the Cockney Raphael’.15 Hazlitt’s lecturing at the Surrey Institution set the scene: ‘Mr Hazlitt cannot look round him at the Surrey, without resting his smart eye on the idiot admiring grin of several dozens of aspiring apprentices and critical clerks’.16 Blackwood’s social satire captured the cultural breadth and ambition of Hunt and Hazlitt, and then debunked them by referring to them as ‘Cockney’, which localised their cultural referents and thus challenged the credibility of culture for the urban middle classes. By contrast, Hazlitt’s association of Spenser with Rubens opened up a cosmopolitan field of comparison, situating English literature and the metropolitan exhibition scene within a European visual tradition.17 In bringing Old Masters to public view the invention of the temporary exhibition generated new ways of seeing, new forms of comparison, and a new critical practice. Hazlitt’s writing addressed its new public and shaped art as a subject for ‘Table Talks’ around a new ‘Round Table’, which reimagined the communal culture of Arthurian romance for a periodical reading nation.18 But how did his readers see Old Master paintings? How did the ‘substantial entertainment’ of painting make them ‘read poetry with the eye of a connoisseur’?19

The British Institution

Hazlitt’s pictorial Spenser is best understood in the context of Old Master exhibitions at the British Institution. In comparing Spenser to Rubens Hazlitt could count on his readers’ memory of the Rubens works included in the loan exhibition of Flemish and Dutch paintings at the British Institution in 1815.20 Rubens’s allegories were on view when he discussed Spenser as ‘the painter of abstractions’.21 Another loan exhibition of the Italian and Spanish Schools brought paintings by Titian, Poussin, Raphael, Correggio and Claude to the British Institution the following year.22 The comparative canon of these temporary exhibitions helped Hazlitt articulate the concept of ‘gusto’ as ‘power or passion defining any object’, made apparent in the ‘flesh-colour’ of Titian, which ‘seems sensitive and alive all over; not merely to have the look and texture of flesh, but the feeling in itself’.23 Its ‘truth of passion’ is conveyed by ‘that sort of tingling sensation to the eye, which the body feels within itself’.24 For Hazlitt the experience of the senses is not subsumed under more disembodied frames of artistic appreciation; instead, the encounter with the Old Masters produces a physical awakening in which ‘the impression made on one sense excites by affinity those of another’.25

After Peter Paul Rubens Silenus engraved by Charles Howard Hodges, published 1789
After Peter Paul Rubens
Silenus engraved by Charles Howard Hodges, published 1789
Mezzotint on paper
British Museum, London

The pulse of nature defined Hazlitt’s preference for the Old Masters over modern painters in his polemical response to the satirical Catalogue Raisonnée of the Pictures now Exhibiting at the British Institution (1815). Attributed to Robert Smirke and penned within Royal Academy circles, the ‘catalogue’ expressed the position of modern painters against the aristocrats and connoisseurs associated with the British Institution. For Hazlitt ‘the works of the moderns are not, like those of the Old Masters, a second nature’, which provided ‘the stay, the guide and anchor of our purest thoughts; whom having once seen we always remember, and who teach us to see all things through them’.26 Hazlitt defined ‘second nature’ with reference to William Wordsworth’s ‘Tintern Abbey’ (1798). Wordsworth’s poem celebrates the power of nature as an underlying presence, which acts differently from ‘a landscape to a blind man’s eye’: its memory is ‘felt in the blood, and felt along the heart’.27 Hazlitt inflected Wordsworth’s lines to articulate a different kind of ‘restoration’ effected by the enhanced experience of nature captured in Old Master paintings, which provide a source of energy that can counteract absence and the intervals of time. At the heart of Hazlitt’s argument was ‘Rubens, around whose pencil gorgeous shapes thronged numberless, startling us by the novel accidents of form and colour, putting the spirit of motion into the universe, and weaving a gay fantastic round and Bacchanalian dance with nature’.28 Central to Hazlitt’s entry on ‘Fine Arts’, written for the Encyclopaedia Britannica that same year, is a painting by Rubens loaned from the collection of the Duke of Marlborough at Blenheim to the British Institution exhibition in 1815, and listed under the title Bacchanalians.29 In the encyclopaedia entry Hazlitt declared Rubens to be unrivalled ‘in the grotesque style of history’, for the ‘striking contrasts of form are combined with every kind of rapid and irregular movement … Witness his Silenus at Blenheim, where the lines seem drunk and staggering’.30 Hazlitt’s evocation of the painting in words betrays the mediation of print, for ‘Silenus’ was the title adopted for the mezzotint by Charles Howard Hodges, published by John and Josiah Boydell in 1789 (fig.1).31 Hazlitt’s appreciation of Rubens is in stark contrast to the Catalogue Raisonnée of the Pictures now Exhibiting at the British Institution, which denounces Rubens’s ‘bestial production’ for ‘the brutal and disgusting exhibition it offers to the eyes of the spectator’, judged particularly inappropriate ‘in an Exhibition which is made the medium of collecting together the female branches of the higher classes’.32 Rubens’s eroticism marked the boundary between the martial virility of the first Duke of Marlborough and the gendered economy of early nineteenth-century public exhibitions. For the Catalogue Raisonnée, Rubens’s painting presented ‘monsters that must put every degree of feminine decency and delicacy to the blush’; for Hazlitt it captured the energy of the elemental powers of nature.33

In focusing on the physiological pleasures of painting, Hazlitt’s appreciation of Rubens forms part of the embodied aesthetic stigmatised by John Gibson Lockhart in a series of eight articles published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine under the title ‘The Cockney School of Poetry’ between October 1817 and July 1825.34 Lockhart’s attack denounced the effeminacy, libertinism and heterodox sexuality of the poetry published by the urban group of writers and artists revolving around the radical writer and editor Leigh Hunt and his publication network. The ‘extreme moral depravity of the Cockney School’ is exemplified, for Lockhart, by Hunt’s Story of Rimini (1816).35 Hazlitt collaborated with Hunt on the ‘Round Table’ series published in Hunt’s Examiner between 1814 and 1817 and collected in volume form under Hazlitt’s name in 1817. According to the literary historian Jeffrey Cox, when set against Blackwood’s denunciation of the Cockney School in 1817, Hunt’s preface to Foliage (1818) reads like a ‘cockney manifesto’, for it promotes a middle-class sensibility that delights in the physical response to art criticised by Lockhart.36 Hunt advocated ‘Grecian mythology not as a set of school-boy commonplaces which it was thought manly to give up, but as something which it requires more than mere scholarship to understand’.37 Reclaiming mythology from the restricted circulation of the classically educated and offering it to a broader public involved formulating an ‘aesthetics of pleasure’ for a new aesthetic subject.38 Against the ‘frigid imagination’ of Boileau, Quinault and modern criticism, against the commodification of gods and goddesses as ‘a set of toys for the ladies’, shepherds and shepherdesses on mantle-pieces, Hunt turned to the Elizabethans and Jacobeans: ‘Spenser, Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher evidently sparkled up, and had their most graceful perceptions upon them, whenever they turned to the fair forms and leafy luxuries of ancient imagination’.39 In Hunt’s account Elizabethan and Jacobean literature activated the palpable pleasures of nature. Rubens had a similar potential for nineteenth-century viewers: his paintings opened up a classical world ready to break loose from the restraint of a culture of ‘commonplaces’. While the Catalogue Raisonnée saw in the ‘abominable and gross sensualities’ of Rubens’s painting the bad judgement and morality of the directors of the British Institution, suggesting that its exhibition subverted codes of public display, for Hazlitt it offered an alternative form of aesthetic appreciation based on passion and embodiment rather than control and detachment.

This aesthetics of pleasure is crucial to reading Spenser in 1818. To argue that Spenser’s Faerie Queene brings to mind ‘Rubens’s allegorical pictures’ is to activate their erotic charge, to reclaim the text from its circulation as a store of aristocratic inflections of female virtue, and therefore to discard modern painters’ fancy portraits. If ‘Nobody but Rubens could have painted the fancy of Spenser’, his corpus is likely to generate images incompatible with modern re-enactments such as Miss Elizabeth Beauclerk posing as Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Una, or Lady Leicester as Sir Thomas Lawrence’s Hope.40 Opting for Rubens instead means rejecting portraiture and freeing up Spenser’s text from its appropriations as a series of moral portraits illustrating commonplace conduct book virtues. Abstracted from aristocratic ownership, patronage networks, and the strictures of modern painters and their codes of public display, Rubens and Spenser can flesh out an alternative ‘reawakening of the poetical faculty’.41 Their allegories open up new ‘realities of the imagination’.42

Hazlitt’s engagement with the world of exhibitions may seem contradictory: on the one hand he lectured and wrote for radical periodicals, presenting the pleasures of the Old Masters to a wider urban constituency of viewers who could peruse Old Master paintings on loan to the British Institution, or experience them vicariously through the pages of periodicals. On the other hand, in defending the Old Masters rather than modern painters, Hazlitt took sides with the connoisseurs rather than the Royal Academicians. However, his denunciation of the short-sighted position of modern painters was part of his critique of corporate interests and restrictions on the practice, codification, and judgment of art; it was not a retrograde identification with the directors of the British Institution.43 Hazlitt’s politics of art is best understood in relation to the republican field of art embodied in the Louvre, which had opened to the public as the museum of French citizens in 1793.44 Hazlitt expressed his support for a republican field of art in discussions about the restitution of Napoleonic spoils in 1814 and 1815.45 Memories of his personal encounter with the republican sublimity of the Louvre during the Peace of Amiens in 1802 kept coming back in later years. Remembering being hailed as a citizen by the republican porters meant thinking of the republican promise of art as a temporary possibility.46 The restitution of the Napoleonic spoils emphasised the dynamic of presence, absence, and the memory of alternative orders of painting in the ephemeral museum. Ways of seeing in the ephemeral museum are central to Hazlitt’s writing of the early 1820s. The experience of painting involved a new art of memory.

‘A gallery in the mind’

The relationship between memory, place, and painting is rooted in classical ekphrasis, which preserves paintings that have not survived in the form of a collection of words. This technique of memory can be extended to pictures seen on the Grand Tour or at temporary exhibitions. In turn, the experience of paintings can shape reading practices that bring pictures before the eyes of the reader. Hazlitt drew on the ideas of the painter, collector and art critic Jonathan Richardson when remarking on the complementary relationship between poetry and painting. In his Essay on the Theory of Painting (1715) Richardson argued: ‘By Painting we are taught to form Ideas of what we read’.47 In his attempt to establish the ‘science of a connoisseur’ Richardson expanded his analysis of the cognitive connections between seeing and reading. Central to this science is the peculiar practice of collecting, ‘the getting a fine Collection of Mental Pictures’.48 This virtual collection harks back to the traditional art of memory, in which texts are turned into a series of images mentally arranged in consecutive places within an architectural space, usually a series of rooms in a palace, or doors along a road. The composition would thus consist of a mental walk through the topology of memory.49 Drawing on this early modern tradition, Richardson emphasised the interdependence of poetry and painting. His intermedial art of memory consisted in ‘furnishing the Mind with Pleasing Images; whether of things Real, or Imaginary; whether of our own forming, or borrow’d from Others. This is a Collection which every one may have, and which will finely employ every vacant moment of ones time’.50 What Richardson meant by ‘every one’ is quite different from Hazlitt’s early nineteenth-century periodical reader. Richardson addressed ‘people of condition’ coming back from the Grand Tour when he gave ‘a Specimen or two of these in the Delicate, and in the Great kind, or to speak more like a Connoisseur, in the Parmegiano, and in the Rafaelle Taste; and both out of Milton’.51 However, radical changes in the culture of art brought these gestures of critical appreciation home to Hazlitt’s early nineteenth-century periodical reader.

Hazlitt first mentioned Richardson as a bad influence on Sir Joshua Reynolds, the first President of the Royal Academy, whose ‘logical acuteness’, Hazlitt argued, ‘was not such as to enable him to detect the verbal fallacies and speculative absurdities which he had learned from Richardson’.52 Hazlitt’s own debt to Richardson comes across in ‘On the Pleasure of Painting’, the fifth essay published in the ‘Table Talk’ series, which appeared as the opening feature in the London Magazine in December 1820.53 Hazlitt’s essay ends with pages of quotations from Richardson’s ‘Essay on the Whole Art of Criticism as it Relates to Painting and an Argument on Behalf of the Science of a Connoisseur’ (1719), and thus transfers the extended powers of vision that Richardson had promised connoisseurs to the periodical reader of his ‘Table Talks’: ‘their Eyes being once open’d ‘tis like a New Sense, and New Pleasures flow in as often as the Objects of that Superinduc’d Sight present themselves’.54 A memory of Richardson’s enhanced sensorium marks the language of visual enthusiasm adopted by Hazlitt to describe his encounter with paintings exhibited at the sale of the Orléans Gallery: ‘a mist passed away from my sight: the scales fell off. A new sense came upon me, a new heaven and a new earth stood before me’.55 Hazlitt’s visual transfiguration endows Richardson’s promise of a new sight with medical and religious iconography. Alluding to the eye condition of Saul in the Acts of the Apostles and Adam in Book 11 of Milton’s Paradise Lost, Hazlitt drew on the symptoms and remedies of eye medicine to present the transition from print to painting as an enhanced power of vision comparable to the effects of a cataract operation.56 The new field of the visible is equated to the new heaven and earth of Revelation.57 Yet this is where the transfiguration takes on a secular turn, for instead of the vision of the holy city, Hazlitt conjured up a new world of Old Master paintings.

In ‘On the Pleasure of Painting’ Hazlitt followed Richardson’s curatorial injunction to assemble in a mental gallery paintings dispersed in different collections, which he later discussed in a series of essays published in the London Magazine in 1822–3, and collected in volume form under the title Sketches of the Principal Picture-Galleries in England in 1824. His selection included the Claudes in Lord Radnor’s Park, Van Dyck at Wilton House, and Blenheim, ‘where there is … the most magnificent collection of Rubenses in the world’:

The young artist makes a pilgrimage to each of these places, eyes them wistfully at a distance … at last, is ushered into the room where his treasure is, the idol of his vows – some speaking face or bright landscape! It is stamped on his brain, and lives there thenceforward, a tally for nature, and a test of art. He furnishes out the chambers of the mind from the spoils of time, picks and chooses which shall have the best places – nearest his heart.58

Like Napoleon’s spoils, abstracted from their physical locations, Hazlitt’s ‘spoils’ articulate an alternative order.59 The curatorial hang in ‘the chambers of the mind’ expresses the painter’s ‘interest in them of which the owner is scarce conscious’.60

The anatomy of Hazlitt’s mental gallery harks back to ‘Remarks on the Systems of Hartley and Helvetius’, published in 1805, in which Hazlitt drew on the philosopher John Locke’s metaphor of the closet and the camera obscura to explain perception as the production of images in the tabula rasa of the mind:

If the mind is but a sort of inner room where the images of external things like pictures in a gallery are lodged safe, and dry out of the reach of the turbulence of the senses, but remaining as distinct from, and if I may so say as perfectly unknown to one another as the pictures on a wall, there being no general faculty to overlook and give notice of their several impressions, this medium is without any use.61

In Hazlitt’s associationist analysis, the picture gallery stands for the possibility of a well-ordered perception as well as for its dystopian alternative, a series of disconnected and random images ‘unknown to one another as the pictures on a wall’. The turn from Locke’s camera obscura to Hazlitt’s picture gallery is symptomatic of competing orders of viewing in early nineteenth-century visual culture. Unreasonable hanging criteria constitute a key criticism of the British Institution in the Catalogue Raisonné of the Pictures now Exhibiting in Pall Mall, which faulted the directors for relegating Poussin’s historical compositions out of the way, in corners, and requested:

the proprietors of the better works, to look and see whose and what those are, which occupy the best lights and the most prominent places. Let Mr Hope turn his eyes to his Temptation of Christ by Titian; Mr West, to his Guido; Lord Egremont, to his Claude; Lady Lucas, to her Titians; the owners of all the Nichola Poussins [sic], to their Pictures – and say, if these works, which are truly admirable, are not sacrificed by their situations?62

The conclusion suggests that the hang reflects the interests of the directors, ‘gentlemen and other dealers’.63

By contrast, choice, rather than chance or blind mechanism, governs the painter’s mental collection. A meritocratic art of memory revives Richardson’s eighteenth-century art of reading and selects pictures from aristocratic collections for the chambers of the brain of the middle-class reader. Which paintings should be hung in the mental gallery becomes the critical question. This is the new dialogic ground for the argument between modern painters and Old Masters. While the Examiner enjoined the public of taste who could not afford to buy Benjamin Robert Haydon’s Christ’s Agony in The Garden to hang it ‘in the gallery of their mind’,64 Hazlitt drew on Hamlet and an Old Master painting at the British Institution to reassert his choice in ‘On a Landscape of Nicolas Poussin’: ‘It is a luxury to have the walls of our rooms hung round with them, and no less so to have such a gallery in the mind, to con over the relics of ancient art bound up “within the book and volume of the brain, unmixed (if it were possible) with baser matter!”’65 Hazlitt applied the Examiner’s formula of ‘the gallery in the mind’ to produce an alternative canon. ‘From the table of my memory / I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records, / all books, all forms, all pressures past’, says Hamlet, to preserve the commandment of the father.66 Hazlitt shared Hamlet’s desire to devote undivided attention to his relics, wipe out all trivia, and make space for the Old Masters. Instead of Haydon, Hazlitt opted for Poussin.

Through Hamlet Hazlitt’s recollection of the Old Masters takes on an intermedial form. In the incongruous space of the brain, the dimensions of the gallery can find a place within a book. Hazlitt’s virtual play points to the materiality of the medium and hybrid practices of inscription. His reference to binding suggests a shift from the gallery to the codex as a support of memory; an archival form in which extraneous objects can be interleaved, treasured, preserved. From the walls of the British Institution, as ‘a set of chosen images, a stream of pleasant thoughts passing through the mind’, pictures take temporary virtual form on ‘the walls of our rooms’ and in ‘a gallery in the mind’. Finally, they are ‘bound up “within the book and volume of the brain”’.67 While alliteration attempts to seal the analogy between ‘book’ and ‘brain’, the rhetorical figure of the hendiadys rewords the ‘book’ in the ‘volume of the brain’, and indicates the metamorphic dynamism of its unfolding.68 The expanding capacity of this medium suited Hazlitt’s image of a repository that can welcome the endless store of Old Masters on view at the British Institution year after year. As a material inscription that requires the binding of loose sheets within a pre-existing volume, Hazlitt’s mental gallery evokes the dynamic and hybrid form of the extra-illustrated book.

Literary historian Mary Favret has argued that ‘the move from gallery to book replicates Hazlitt’s biographical (and vexed) turn away from a career in painting to a career in writing’, while Deidre Lynch has suggested that Hazlitt’s quotation from Hamlet mediates the metamorphosis of art into literature.69 Yet the hybrid form in which Old Masters are entered within the volume of the brain indicates that art and literature cannot be kept distinct. In an earlier essay Hazlitt had argued that ‘the arts of painting and poetry are conversant with the world of thought within us, and with the world of sense without us, with what we know, and see, and feel intimately’.70In ‘On the Pleasure of Painting’ the conversation between the arts depends on a specific material form. Its intermedial art of memory exemplifies the work of art in the age of technical reproducibility. Painting and poetry become mutually reinforcing, complementary practices when temporary exhibitions can be recollected and reimagined through the medium of the book as a support for the convergence of reading and viewing.

How painting can teach the viewer ‘to read poetry with the eye of a connoisseur’ is articulated in Hazlitt’s essay on the poetry of George Crabbe, published in the London Magazine in May 1821. Sir Joshua Reynolds’s recommendation of Crabbe’s ‘The Village’ (1783) to Samuel Johnson is part of a story that attributes to the study of the fine arts the ability to restore ‘our eye for nature’, doing away with ‘book-learning, the accumulation of wordy commonplaces, the gaudy pretensions of poetical diction’. As an imitative art that ‘cannot subsist for a moment on empty generalities’, painting acts as a corrective to the abstractions of writing: ‘little captivated with smooth, polished, unmeaning periods’, the connoisseur ‘would turn with double eagerness and relish to the force and precision of individual details, transferred as it were to the page from the canvas. Thus an admirer of Teniers and Hobbima [sic] might think little of the pastoral sketches of Pope or Goldsmith’.71 Nor would he appreciate the nature poetry of James Thomson’s The Seasons (1726–30); uninterested in what Thomson ‘sees in his mind’s eye’, ‘the adept in Dutch interiors, hovels, and pig-styes must find in such a writer as Crabbe a man after his own heart’.72 If Dutch painting shaped a taste for Crabbe, his poetry was subjected to the test of the exhibition and found less effective than the paintings of David Wilkie.73 Complementary practices of reading and viewing generated an intermedial art of criticism.

In the early 1820s reading Spenser’s Faerie Queene as an ekphrastic work that could preserve, recall, or invent a world of pictures was supported by one of Alexander Pope’s anecdotes from the previous century: ‘after my reading a canto of Spenser two or three days ago to an old lady between 70 and 80, she said that I had been showing her a collection of pictures’.74 Published in Joseph Spence’s Observations, Anecdotes, and Characters of Books and Men (1820) and reviewed in the London Magazine in February and by Hazlitt in the Edinburgh Magazine in May, this scene of reading reached a new public. Through Pope’s, Spenser’s and Richardson’s intermedial art of memory Romantic periodicals could appropriate and reinvent earlier ways of seeing and measure up changes that had taken place in emerging art practices. What paintings did Pope’s old lady see in Spenser’s Faerie Queene? What could readers of Romantic periodicals see in Spenser’s poem in the 1820s?

Mythological and ekphrastic writing was singled out as a characteristic of cockney poetry by Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, with Leigh Hunt’s pictorial allusions to Polyphemus debunked as ‘nothing more than a copy in words of a picture in oil’.75 The Cockney School’s use of public spaces as sites of composition was deplored for the ostentatious ‘fashion of firing off sonnets … in Sir John Leicester’s Gallery’.76 John Keats’s poem Endymion: A Poetic Romance (1818) exercised Blackwood’s for belonging to ‘the Cockney School of Politics, as well as the Cockney School of Poetry’: ‘Endymion is not a Greek shepherd, loved by a Grecian goddess; he is merely a young cockney rhymester, dreaming a phantastic dream at the full of the moon’.77 In turning an apprentice away from the respectable profession of medicine, Keats’s metromania is, for Blackwood’s, emblematic of the disease that was perverting society. The London Magazine was founded as an organ of metropolitan culture with the express aim to challenge ‘The Mohock Magazine’.78 Blackwood’s Cockney School series was an express target of its satire, and ‘Cockney Writers’ were defended among its celebrated contributors. The very different politics of the London Magazine is measured by its review of Keats’s ‘Endymion’, which reads his Spenserian poem through Michelangelo, Raphael and Correggio. In evoking paintings, music, and perspective views, Keats’s poem takes on architectural dimensions in the reader’s mind: if it is not a ‘regular fabric’ that will meet the approval of a surveyor, it is ‘a glittering and fantastic temple … as well adapted to the airy and fanciful beings who dwell in it, as a regular Epic Palace’.79 This imaginary house of poetry illustrates how writing can appropriate and mediate the architecture of the gallery for the urban middle-class reader. As a medium for imagining the gallery, poetry presents ‘the student of art as interloper and interior decorator, furnishing a country estate within his brain and imagining the region of his mind as a country estate’, as Favret has argued.80 It is in this context that Hazlitt’s art criticism for the London Magazine should be read. In the age of the temporary exhibition poetry and painting shared a new order of things.


Spenser’s association with Rubens reappears in Hazlitt’s ‘Pictures at Oxford and Blenheim’ (1823). This last essay on English picture galleries vicariously brings the urban readers of the London Magazine to Blenheim Palace, the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Reference to Spenser mediates the encounter with Rubens, abstracts it from its context at Blenheim, and articulates it in the gallery in the mind to bring it before the eyes of the readers of periodicals. If Spenser helped to bring Rubens to the eyes of the reader in Hazlitt’s 1818 lecture, Rubens brought Spenser to the eye of the viewer in the 1823 essay. While in 1818 Hazlitt saw Rubens in the stanzas of the Faerie Queene and turned Spenser’s poem into an imaginary ekphrasis, a reverse ekphrasis takes place at Blenheim, where Hazlitt’s experiment in ‘superinduc’d sight’ goes from painting to text to imagine a one-man show:

Rubens was the only artist that could have embodied some of our countryman Spenser’s splendid and voluptuous allegories. If a painter among ourselves were to attempt a SPENSER GALLERY, (perhaps the finest subject for the pencil in the world after Heathen mythology and Scripture History,) he ought to go and study the principles of his design at Blenheim! –The Silenus and the Rape of Proserpine contain more of the Bacchanalian and lawless spirit of ancient fable than perhaps any two pictures extant. We shall not dispute that Nicolas Poussin could probably give more of the abstract, metaphysical character of this traditional personages, or that Titian could set them off better, so as to ‘leave stings’ in the eye of the spectator, by a prodigious gusto of coloring, as in his BacchusandAriadne: but neither of them gave the same undulating outline, the same humid, pulpy tone of the flesh, the same graceful involution to the grouping and the forms, the same animal spirits, the same breathing motion.81

Hazlitt’s description activates the erotic charge of painting in a series of comparisons and quotations from his essay on ‘gusto’. ‘Silenus’ was the title under which Rubens’s Bacchanalians was reproduced in print. In 1817 the painting was listed in the East Drawing Room, the same place as The Rape of Proserpine. In 1820 Bacchanalians was in the Dining Room, but The Rape of Proserpine was not listed; it was in the Titian Room in 1825, where it was destroyed by fire in 1861, and now only survives in a seventeenth-century etching by Pieter Soutman (fig.2).82

After Peter Paul Rubens The Rape of Proserpine engraved by Pieter Soutman, published c.1620–5
After Peter Paul Rubens
The Rape of Proserpine engraved by Pieter Soutman, published c.1620–5
Etching on paper
British Museum, London

In William Mavor’s guides to Blenheim, the Rubens works are strongly associated with the martial campaigns of the first Duke of Marlborough. Of the three hanging in the Dining Room in 1820 two are presented as public gifts to the Duke of Marlborough in recognition of his military achievements: Venus and Adonis: A Present from the Emperor of Germany, and Lot and his Daughters; Another Present from the Emperor, hung in the same room as Bacchanalians. Rubens, His Wife, and Child was given to the Duke by the City of Brussels.83 Like the series of Loves of the Gods attributed to Titian, a gift from the King of Sardinia, these paintings mark out the Duke’s martial vigour and virility, and the house and collection as a public memorial.84 In 1766 Titian’s Loves of the Gods were recorded still hanging in the Great Hall, underneath the apotheosis of the Duke of Marlborough painted by Sir James Thornhill.85 Two decades later the Loves of the Gods had been moved out of view: ‘It is said these pictures were discovered in an old lumber-room by Sir Joshua Reynolds’ in 1788.86 No mention was made of the Titian Room, nor of the Titians, in William Mavor’s 1789 New Description of Blenheim. In 1806 Mavor announced that ‘after long lying hid from public view, [they] are now liberally displayed, chiefly for the sake of amateurs in the pictorial art’.87 Yet in 1810 the writer Charles Lamb wrote to Hazlitt expressing his concern that he would never gain admittance.88 The trajectory of the Loves of the Gods illuminates the attempt to shift from military valour to intimacy and retirement associated with the third Duke, as art historians Mark Hallett and Kate Retford have pointed out.89 The Rape of Proserpine ultimately shared the trajectory and fate of the Loves of the Gods. However, when Hazlitt wrote about the Blenheim collection for the urban public of the London Magazine, he abstracted the paintings from the architectural setting and public iconography of Blenheim. Through the pages of the periodical press they became part of a virtual gallery without walls.

Hazlitt’s essay re-gendered the iconography of Rubens’s paintings. Rather than representing the vigorous masculine world of the Duke of Marlborough memorialised at Blenheim, Rubens represented for Hazlitt the taste and discrimination of the Duke’s wife, Sarah Churchill, Duchess Marlborough: ‘she had, during her husband’s wars and negotiations in Flanders, a fine opportunity of culling them, “as one picks pears, saying, this I like, that I like still better.”’90 Hazlitt’s focus may have been influenced by Sir Godfrey Kneller’s portrait of the Duchess in the guise of Minerva, which perhaps functions for him as a relay for the other pictures hanging in the Dining Room. In an earlier essay on the ‘Character of Sir Joshua Reynolds’, Hazlitt wrote that Van Dyck’s portrait of the Duchess of Buckingham with her children hanging in the East Drawing Room ‘produces the same sort of respect and silence as if the spectator had been introduced into a family circle of the highest rank, at a period when rank was a greater distinction than at present’.91 Rubens’s Bacchanalians and Van Dyck’s Duchess of Buckingham were recorded hanging in the same room in early catalogues of Blenheim Palace.92 However, while Van Dyck’s portrait conjures up the intimate sphere of the sitters, Rubens’s Bacchanalians and The Rape of Proserpine articulate an alternative scene for an alternative community.

Hazlitt’s reference to a ‘Spenser Gallery’ shifts the focus of the essay towards a new way of seeing. Going against the aristocratic world of Blenheim, Rubens’s imaginary contribution to a Spenser Gallery participates in the dynamic of the ephemeral museum. Thinking about Rubens through the poetry of Spenser produces a new order of comparison. Hazlitt’s references to Poussin and Titian abstract Rubens from its physical location. While he dwells at length on the Loves of the Gods in the Titian Room at Blenheim, it is not to these Titians that he compares Rubens as a Spenserian painter.93 If access to the Titian Room was still limited, Hazlitt’s metropolitan reader could supplement Hazlitt’s references with the visual memory of exhibition culture. His comparison takes Rubens’s Bacchanalian subjects away from Blenheim, opting for the title ‘Silenus’, as Bacchanalians was known in its print reproduction, he offered a surrogate to those who had no access to the original; he then reintegrated the painting in the ephemeral series of pictures on view at the British Institution. Thus Rubens’s Bacchanalians from the Flemish and Dutch exhibition of 1815 comes together with the Poussin and Titian on loan from Thomas Hamlet’s collection in 1816.94 In the British Institution catalogue paintings were entered with an indication of their provenance and current owners. The juxtaposition encouraged viewers to piece together a heterotopic gallery, which overlaid the space of the exhibition room with the imagination of the paintings’ current collections and of the Renaissance palaces where they had originally hung. Architectural space comes across as a condition of possibility for painting in Hazlitt’s discussion of the Rubens works in the Grosvenor collection: ‘The spectator is … thrown back by the pictures, and surveys them, as if placed at a stupendous height, as well as distance from him … They were painted to be placed in some Jesuit church abroad’.95 Hazlitt’s analysis here captures painting’s power to project an architectural space outside the frame, and the resulting clash between the painting’s ideal and actual viewing positions. However, as Rubens’s Bacchanalian subjects flesh out Spenser’s inventions in an intermedial art of memory, their architectural setting is erased in the gallery of the mind.

Freed from their original abodes, works selected from the temporary exhibitions come to occupy a shared and synchronic comparative space. Poussin’s superiority in the ‘abstract, metaphysical character of his traditional personages’ is pointed out in Hazlitt’s essay ‘On a Landscape of Nicolas Poussin’, where he considers Poussin’s ‘allegorical abstractions’ ‘with minds more inwardly depraved’.96 In discussing the Blenheim pictures, however, he goes back to the Bacchanalian movement that he had celebrated in Rubens’s brushwork in his 1816 essays: ‘in that sort of licentious fancy, in which a certain grossness of expression bordered on caricature, and where grotesque or enticing form was to be combined with free and rapid movements, or different tones and colours were to be flung over the picture as in sport or in a dance, no one ever surpassed the Flemish painter’.97 The pleasure of painting involves the rhythm of physical exercise; it combines body and mind, and blurs distinctions between painting and painter, the world within and outside the frame. Rubens’s painting embodies a physical practice that breaks through the boundaries of form.

Compare the domain of writing in Hazlitt’s lecture ‘On Chaucer and Spenser’: ‘the imagination of a poet brings such objects before us, as when we look at wild beasts in a menagerie; their claws are pared, their eyes glitter like harmless lightning; but we gaze at them with a pleasing awe, clothed in beauty, formidable in the sense of abstract power’.98 Just as Hazlitt is about to convey a sense of Chaucer’s peculiar kind of ‘gusto’, the power of literature takes the form of a spectacular enclosure.99 How can Spenser’s allegorical inventions break through the boundaries of form? Bringing together Hazlitt’s lecture ‘On Chaucer and Spenser’ with ‘Pictures at Oxford and Blenheim’ helps illuminate the dynamic of poetry and painting in Hazlitt’s criticism.

Allegorical inventions and counterfactuals

‘Abstract power’ is central to Hazlitt’s literary appreciation in his lecture ‘On Chaucer and Spenser’. While Chaucer’s descriptions ‘have a sort of tangible character belonging to them, and produce the effect of sculpture on the mind’, Spenser ‘is the painter of abstractions’.100 While Hazlitt celebrates his ‘fantastic delineations’ and ‘inexhaustible imagination’, he acknowledges those who ‘cannot understand it on account of the allegory. They are afraid of the allegory, as if they thought it would bite them: they look at it as a child looks at a painted dragon, and think it will strangle them in its shining folds. This is very idle: if they do not meddle with the allegory, the allegory will not meddle with them’.101 From wild beasts imprisoned in a cage to a painted dragon, the abstract power of poetry is again presented through an image of disempowerment. This is far from the Bacchanalian force of Rubens’s satyrs, but the distinction cannot be simply mapped on the difference between painting and poetry. The next step Hazlitt takes is to expose the implausible position of anybody who lets allegory stand in the way of reading through a pictorial comparison: ‘it might as well be pretended that we cannot see Poussin’s pictures for the allegory, as that the allegory prevents us from understanding Spenser’.102 A gallery of examples follows to prove that Spenser’s poetry can be understood without paying attention to the allegory. Hazlitt’s defence of Spenser, ‘unjustly charged with a want of passion and of strength’, involves incorporating his poetry in a pictorial poetics of gusto, in which painting can supply the sensory stimulation.103 If Spenser’s ‘ideas … seem more distinct than his perceptions’, the erotic power of Rubens, Poussin, and Titian can bring these ideas before the eyes of the reader.104

Hazlitt’s ‘Spenser Gallery’ is shaped in the potential world of conditionals and counterfactuals, a form of imaginary history that literally ‘goes against facts’ to imagine alternative worlds.105 In 1818 reading Spenser and seeing Rubens led to the conclusion that ‘Nobody but Rubens could have painted the fancy of Spenser’. The logic of counterfactuals requires a negative outcome to act as a prompt for a series of alternative scenarios.106 Rubens did not paint pictures from Spenser, but regret for the unrealised possibility is counterbalanced by the potentiality of what might have happened. Hazlitt’s negative claim includes an implicit hypothetical clause: ‘if Rubens had painted Spenser’. Rubens did spend time in England painting grand commissions for Charles I. The patronage and the dispersal of Charles I’s collection were central to eighteenth-century discussions about why Britain lacked a tradition of epic and historical painting and how it might invent a new tradition. What if Rubens had painted Spenser? What visual culture would English literature have produced? Against the history of what failed to happen the alternative histories of what might have happened open up a world of future possibility.

When Hazlitt returned to Rubens and Spenser in 1823 the hypothetical association between the painter and the poet took on a more potential formulation: Rubens ‘could have embodied some of our countryman Spenser’s splendid and voluptuous allegories’. The negative claim of 1818 has gone. Hazlitt’s exercise in counterfactual thinking involved establishing the false antecedent, then reshaping the past that never was with an act of ideal attribution. Hazlitt’s intervention read Spenser’s Faerie Queene for the pictures and brought Rubens’s allegories before the eyes of the readers. This is the critical gesture that Leigh Hunt fleshed out, turning Spenser into a virtual gallery of Old Master paintings for the New Monthly Magazine a decade later.107 Having established Rubens’s Bacchanalians as a potential illustration to the Faerie Queene, this act of reverse ekphrasis generated an invented tradition. The next step was to turn Rubens into a school of painting, a model for a new generation of modern painters: ‘if a painter amongst ourselves were to attempt a SPENSER GALLERY … he ought to go and study the principles of his design at Blenheim!’108 As the philosopher Nelson Goodman has argued, ‘any counterfactual can be transposed into a conditional with a true antecedent and consequent’.109 Turning his critical appreciation to pragmatic ends, Hazlitt addressed the painters among his readers, an inclusive first person plural to whom the unrealised possibility of a Spenser Gallery of Old Masters was presented as a model for future practice.

However, Hazlitt’s address to painters involved an act of strategic amnesia. His hypothetical clause ignored and effectively erased from the record an ever growing catalogue of Spenserian pictures by modern painters exhibited at the Royal Academy and the British Institution year after year. Sir Thomas Lawrence’s Portrait of Lady Leicester as ‘Hope’, which celebrated the wife of Sir John Fleming Leicester, was reviewed in the Examiner with a quotation and discussion of the Spenserian source in spring 1818 when his Gallery of British Painters opened. It was reviewed again in the papers when the picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy exhibition the following year, and featured prominently in the catalogue edited by William Carey in spring 1819.110 That year the Royal Academy chose Una in the Cave of Despair, from the first book of Spenser’s Faerie Queene as a subject for the prize in Historical Painting won by Joseph Severn, a painter Hazlitt knew well. Against the record of modern painters and patrons, Hazlitt’s imaginary ekphrasis invented an alternative tradition.

The modern exhibition scene shaped a new practice of reading and viewing. As a physical space the gallery established the visual paradigms that shaped and institutionalised the orders of painting. The medium of the exhibition showed the role played by poetry as a source of subjects for painters, promoting fancy portraits to the status of poetical or historical painting. The Royal Academy and the British Institution displayed Spenser’s allegories domesticated and neutralised in the form of excerpts anchored to static and pious historical portraits that declared the allegorical virtues of Spenserian aristocrats. However, in presenting paintings on view the gallery also opened up an imaginary space. Writing about paintings in the age of technical reproducibility, art theorist André Malraux invited readers to think about an ‘imaginary museum’ in which what is on display calls upon what is absent.111 In other words, the museum acts as a potential form. This dynamic can take the form of a desire for completion, but it can also produce alternative forms. As art historian Rosalind Krauss has argued, the museum opens up a ‘conceptual space of the human faculties: imagination, cognition, judgment’.112 As a place that activated the play of the human faculties, the Romantic ‘gallery in the mind’ challenged the limitations of art; it became a prompt for thinking about alternative imaginary pasts and alternative ways in which the ‘imaginary museum’ could reinvent the ‘museum without walls’. Going against the record of Spenserian paintings, Hazlitt’s critical invention turned Spenser’s Faerie Queene into a counter-gallery. In this ‘gallery in the mind’ Rubens, Poussin and Titian offered alternative forms that could break through the social and aesthetic limitations of modern painting. Reading poetry through pictorial allegories, Hazlitt revealed Spenser to be ‘the poet of our waking dreams’.113


  • 1. Francis Haskell, The Ephemeral Museum: Old Master Paintings and the Rise of the Art Exhibition, New Haven 2000, pp.64-81.
  • 2. William Hazlitt, ‘Of Poetry in General’ (1818), in The Complete Works of William Hazlitt, ed. by P.P. Howe, 21 vols., London 1930–4, vol.5, p.10. Hazlitt’s lecture was delivered at the Surrey Institution in January 1818, repeated at the Crown and Anchor in March, and collected in a volume later in the year.
  • 3. See Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, 1757, ed. by J.T. Boulton, London 1958, pp.59–62 and 167–73. For a discussion of Aristotelian enargeia in relation to Milton as a case study for the blindness of poetry see Luisa Calè, Fuseli’s Milton Gallery: ‘Turning Readers into Spectators’, Oxford 2006, pp.106–11. Hazlitt mentioned a different aspect of Burke’s Enquiry in ‘On Poetry in General’, where he put forward a Burkean argument about the rhythmical power of poetry (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.5, pp.7, 11–12). For Hazlitt’s relation to Burke see David Bromwich, Hazlitt: The Mind of a Critic, New York 1983, pp.288–300.
  • 4. Edmund Spenser, Spenser’s Faerie Queene. A New Edition with a Glossary and Notes Explanatory and Critical,ed. by John Upton, London 1758, p.xxxii.
  • 5. [Henry Fuseli], ‘The Arts’, Analytical Review, June 1788, p.216, discussed in Calè 2006, chapter 2.
  • 6. A Catalogue of the First Exhibition of Pictures, Painted for Mr. Macklin, by the Artists of Britain, illustrative of the British Poets, London 1788, p.7, no.8; p.13, nos.16–17; p.15, no.20.
  • 7. William Hazlitt, ‘On Chaucer and Spenser’ (1818), in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.5, p.41. For the ‘Mask of Cupid’ see Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene (1590–6), Book III, Canto XII, ed. by A.C. Hamilton, Harlow 1977, pp.412–21.
  • 8. Benjamin West, Una and the Lion (Mary Hall in the Character of Una) 1771, now at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, was engraved by Richard Earlom and published by John Boydell on 10 August 1772. See Helmut von Erffa and Allen Staley, The Paintings of Benjamin West, New Haven 1986, p.277, no.218, and Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser, American Paintings Before 1945 in the Wadsworth Atheneum, 2 vols, Hartford and New Haven 1996, vol.2, pp.782–3, no.484. West had played a key role in establishing the Royal Academy and was appointed Historical Painter to the King in 1771, the same year he painted Una and the Lion. The subject of Spenser’s Una was also depicted by Reynolds (Royal Academy 1780), George Stubbs (Royal Academy 1782), John Graham (Royal Academy 1783), Theophilus Clarke (Royal Academy 1795), Richard Westall (Royal Academy 1804; British Institution 1808), William Hilton (Royal Academy 1818 and 1832; British Institution 1835 and 1840), William Calder Marshall (Royal Academy 1840), and Henry Le Jeune (Royal Academy 1842).
  • 9. Middlesex Journal, no.480, 25–28 April 1772, p.4, quoted in Von Erffa and Staley 1986, p.277, and Kornhauser 1996, vol.2, pp.782–3.
  • 10. ‘Sir J.F. Leicester’s Gallery of British Paintings’, Examiner, no.539, 26 April 1818, pp.269–70; William Carey, A Descriptive Catalogue of Paintings by British Artists, in the Possession of John Fleming Leicester, Bart., London 1819, pp.65–75.
  • 11. William Hazlitt, ‘On Chaucer and Spenser’, in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.5, p.42. For ‘Satyrane taming the Lion’s whelps and lugging the bear’s cubs’, see Spenser 1590–96, Book I, Canto VI, xx-xxviii, pp.90–91. For the eighteenth-century tradition of Spenserian paintings see Laurel Bradley, ‘Eighteenth-Century Paintings and Illustrations of Spenser’s Faerie Queene: A Study in Taste’, Marsyas, no.20, 1979–80, pp.31–51. See also Greg Kucich, Keats, Shelley, and Romantic Spenserianism, University Park, Pennsylvania 1991.
  • 12. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, or Biographical Sketches of my Literary Life and Opinions, ed. by James Engell and Walter Jackson Bate, 2 vols, London 1983, vol.1, pp.82–3 and 102–4.
  • 13. [William Hazlitt], ‘Art. X. Biographia Literaria, or Biographical Sketches of my Literary Life and Opinions’, Edinburgh Review, no.28, August 1817, p.495 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.16, pp.121). For Hazlitt’s appreciation of fancy in poetic diction and his defence of Spenser contra Coleridge see pp.512–13 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.16, p.135).
  • 14. Jeffrey Robinson, ‘Leigh Hunt and the Poetics and Politics of the Fancy’, in Nicholas Roe (ed.), Leigh Hunt: Life, Poetics, Politics, London 2012, p.157. For an account of Hazlitt’s engagement with Coleridge, which takes account of the Unitarian background they shared in their analysis of the unity of the imagination, see Uttara Natarajan, ‘One Undivided Spirit: Hazlitt, Coleridge, and the Unity of the Imagination’, Studies in Romanticism, vol.37, no.2, Summer 1998, pp.235–58.
  • 15. ‘On the Cockney School of Poetry. No.V’, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, no.5, April 1819, pp.97–100.
  • 16. The connection between the Cockney School series and Hazlitt’s lectures at the Surrey Institution was announced in ‘To Correspondents’, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, January 1818, p.362. Blackwood’s published lengthy and positive reports on Hazlitt’s lectures in February, March, and April 1818.
  • 17. On literary aspects of the European frame of reference within Hunt’s circle see Jeffrey Cox, ‘Cockney Cosmopolitanism’, Nineteenth-Century Contexts, vol.32, no.3, September 2010, pp.245–59.
  • 18. On the virtual reading community of periodicals see Jon Klancher, The Making of the English Reading Audiences, 1790–1832, Madison 1987.
  • 19. William Hazlitt, ‘Living Authors. No.V: Crabbe’, London Magazine, May 1821, p.485(Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.19, p.53).
  • 20. There were sixteen paintings by Rubens listed in Catalogue of Pictures by Rubens, Rembrandt, Vandyke, and other Artists of the Flemish and Dutch Schools, with which the Proprietors have favoured the British Institution for the Gratification of the Public, and for the Benefit of the Fine Arts in General, London 1815.
  • 21. William Hazlitt, review of Jean Charles Léonard Simonde de Sismondi’s De la literature du midi de l’Europe, Edinburgh Review, June 1815, p.62 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.16, pp.53–4 and 56). This claim was repeated by Hazlitt almost verbatim in his 1818 lecture. See Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.5, p.35.
  • 22. Catalogue of Pictures of the Italian and Spanish Schools, with which the Proprietors have favoured the British Institution for the Gratification of the Public, and the Benefit of the Fine Arts in General, London 1816. The exhibition included Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne from the Aldobrandini Palace owned by Thomas Hamlet (p.12, no.11), Europa from the Orleans Gallery and Adonis Going to the Chace, both owned by the Earl of Darnley (p.13, no.29 and p.18 no.125).
  • 23. William Hazlitt, ‘On Gusto’ (1816), in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.4, p.77.
  • 24. Ibid.
  • 25. Ibid., p.78.
  • 26. [William Hazlitt], ‘Literary Notices: No.17: The Catalogue Raisonné of the British Institution’, Examiner, 17 November 1816, p.728 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.4, pp.150–1). This is the third of three essays on the satirical Catalogue Raisonné of the British Institution. It was also republished in The Round Table: A Collection of Essays on Literature, Men, and Manners, 2 vols,Edinburgh and London 1817, vol.2, p.231.
  • 27. In ‘Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798’ William Wordsworth declared himself ‘well pleased to recognise / In nature and the language of the sense, / The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, / The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul / Of all my moral being’, Lyrical Ballads, Bristol 1798, p.208. Hazlitt redeploys this quotation from ‘Tintern Abbey’ in other contexts as a shorthand to articulate what provides the continuity of experience and identity in a variety of situations, from the experience of returning to the Louvre recounted in ‘On the Works of Hogarth – On the Grand and Familiar Style of Painting’, Lectures on the English Comic Writers, London 1819, p.300 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.6, p.149), to the functioning of reason in his essay on Godwin in Spirit of the Age, London 1825, p.40(Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.11, p.21).
  • 28. Hazlitt, ‘Literary Notices: No.17: The Catalogue Raisonné of the British Institution’, in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.4, p.151.
  • 29. Rubens’s painting is listed under a variety of titles: ‘Bacchanalians’ in Catalogue of Pictures by Rubens, Rembrandt, Vandyke, and other Artists of the Flemish and Dutch Schools, with which the Proprietors have favoured the British Institution for the Gratification of the Public, and for the Benefit of the Fine Arts in General, London 1815, p.14, no.16; ‘a most capital and strikingly characteristic BACCHANALIAN PIECE, by Reubens’ in William Fordyce Mavor, New Description of Blenheim, the Seat of his Grace the Duke of Marlborough. To which is prefixed Blenheim, A Poem, Oxford 1789, p.57; ‘A Bacchanalian Procession’ in John Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Part the Second, Containing the Life and Works of Peter Paul Rubens,London 1830, no.833 pp.244–5; and again in Gustav Friedrich Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain: Being an Account of the Chief Collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Illuminated Mss., etc., 3 vols, London 1854, vol.3, p.131, no.9.
  • 30. William Hazlitt, ‘Fine Arts’, Encyclopaedia Britannica, supplement to 4th and 5th edns, London 1816–24 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.18, p.121).
  • 31. For a description of Rubens’s painting, which shows the central role of Silenus in the composition, see Smith 1830, no.833 pp.244–5; Waagen 1854, vol.3, p.131, no.9; George Scharf, Catalogue Raisonné; or, A List of the Pictures in Blenheim Palace; with Occasional Remarks and Illustrative Notes, London 1862, p.29.
  • 32. A Catalogue Raisonnée of the Pictures Now Exhibiting at the British Institution, London 1815, pp.58–9.
  • 33. Ibid., p.59.
  • 34. [John Gibson Lockhart], ‘On the Cockney School of Poetry, No.1’, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol.2, no.7, October 1817, pp.38–41. Further attacks on the Cockney School were published in November 1817, July 1818, April 1819, October 1819 and August 1825.
  • 35. Ibid., p.40. For an analysis of the Cockney School attacks see Jeffrey Cox, ‘Leigh Hunt’s Cockney School: The Lakers’ “Other”’, Romanticism on the Net, no.14, 1999,, accessed 26 November 2015. In Poetry and Politics in the Cockney School, Cambridge 1999, Chapter 1, Jeffrey Cox provides a rationale for using the term ‘Cockney School’ to define the school of poetry gathered around Leigh Hunt, who had hailed the new school in an article titled ‘Young Poets’, Examiner, 1 December 1816, pp.761–2, devoted to Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Alastor,John Henry Reynolds’s The Naiad, and John Keats’s On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer. This was followed a year later by a review of Keats’s Poems published in the Examiner, 1 June, 6 July and 13 July 1817, pp.345, 428–9 and 443–4 respectively. On the stylistic aspects of the Cockney School see William Keach, ‘Cockney Couplets: Keats and the Politics of Style’, Studies in Romanticism, no.25, Summer 1986, pp.182–96.
  • 36. Jeffrey Cox, ‘Leigh Hunt’s Foliage: A Cockney Manifesto’, in Roe 2012, chapter 4.
  • 37. Leigh Hunt, ‘Preface, including Cursory Observations on Poetry and Cheerfulness’, Foliage, or Poems Original and Translated, London 1818, p.23.
  • 38. See Ayumi Mizukoshi, Keats, Hunt and the Aesthetics of Pleasure, Basingstoke 2001.
  • 39. Hunt, Foliage, pp.20–1.
  • 40. Reynolds’s The Character of Spencer’s Una was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1780 and engraved by Thomas Watson on 15 April 1782. See David Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, New Haven 2000, p.81, no.143.
  • 41. Hunt, Foliage, p.11.
  • 42. Leigh Hunt, ‘On the Realities of the Imagination’, Indicator, no.2, 22 March 1820, pp.185–90.
  • 43. William Hazlitt, ‘Fine Arts. Whether they are promoted by Academies and Public Institutions’, Champion, 28 August and 11 September 1814 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.18, pp.37–51). The article is discussed in John Barrell’s The Political Theory of Painting from Reynolds to Hazlitt: ‘The Body of the Public’, New Haven 1986, pp.330–8.
  • 44. On the Louvre as a republican museum see Edouard Pommier, ‘Idéologie et musée à l’époque révolutionnaire’ in Michel Vovelle (ed.), Les images de la Révolution française, Paris 1988, pp.57–78;  Edouard Pommier, L’art et la liberté: doctrines et debats de la Révolution française, Paris 1991; Andrew McClellan, ‘The Revolutionary Louvre’, Inventing the Louvre: Art, Politics, and the Origins of the Modern Museum in Eighteenth-Century France, Berkeley 1994, pp.91–123; Dominique Poulot, ‘Le droit au musée: un droit de citoyen’ in Michel Vovelle (ed.), Les droits de l’homme et la conquête des libertés: des Lumières aux revolutions de 1848, Grenoble 1988; Dominique Poulot, Musée, nation, patrimoine, 1789–1815, Paris 1997. Barrell has argued that Hazlitt’s art criticism separated ‘the republic of taste from the political republic’ and opposed civic humanist positions on art articulated by Reynolds, James Barry, and Fuseli: the pleasures of painting ‘are offered to us as we are private individuals, not private citizens’. See Barrell 1986, pp.338, 315. On the divergent political implications of Hazlitt writings about picture galleries, and specifically the divergent meanings that the National Gallery could take on after the purchase of the Angerstein’s Collection depending on its final location and the differences in politics between Hazlitt’s and Patmore’s more conservative picture gallery series, see Quentin Bayley, ‘Hazlitt and the “Old Pictures”: Westmacott, Patmore, and the Role of Art Criticism’, Wordsworth Circle, vol.41, no.2, Spring 2010, pp.114–19.
  • 45. William Hazlitt, ‘The Louvre’, Morning Chronicle, 24 March 1814 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.19, pp.125–8). See also William Hazlitt, ‘Literary Notices. No.2: Report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the Elgin Marbles – Murray’, Examiner, 16 June 1816, pp.379–80 (reprinted as ‘The Elgin Marbles’ in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.18, pp.101–2); and Hazlitt, ‘On the Works of Hogarth – On the Grand and Familiar Style of Painting’, Lectures on the English Comic Writers, London 1819 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.6, pp.148–9).
  • 46. For Hazlitt’s take on the ephemerality of republican art encountered at the Louvre in 1802, recollected in 1820 after the restitution of the Napoleonic spoils, see ‘Table-Talk: No.V: On the Pleasure of Painting’, London Magazine, December 1820, p.604 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.8, p.108). See also Jonah Siegel, Desire and Excess: The Nineteenth-Century Culture of Art, Princeton 2000, p.175; Stephen Cheeke, ‘Hazlitt and the Louvre’, Keats-Shelley Journal, no.56, 2007, p.111; Maureen McCue, ‘“A Gallery in the Mind”: Hazlitt, the Louvre, and the Meritocracy of Taste’, Hazlitt Review, no.1, 2008, pp.51–62.
  • 47. Jonathan Richardson, An Essay on the Theory of Painting, London 1715, p.13.
  • 48. Jonathan Richardson, A Discourse on the Dignity, Certainty, Pleasure and Advantage, of the Science of a Connoisseur, London 1719, p.191.
  • 49. See Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, book 11, no.2, pp.17–22; F.A. Yates, The Art of Memory, London 1966, p.22; Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture, Cambridge 1990; Lina Bolzoni, The Gallery of Memory: Literary and Iconographic Models in the Age of the Printing Press, trans. by Jeremy Parzen, Toronto 2001; Norman Bryson, ‘Philostratus and the Imaginary Museum’ in Stephen Melville and Bill Readings (eds.), Vision and Textuality, London 1995, pp.174–94.
  • 50. Jonathan Richardson, A Discourse on the Dignity, Certainty, Pleasure and Advantage, of the Science of a Connoisseur, p.191.
  • 51. Ibid., pp.191–2.
  • 52. Richardson is associated with Coypel as a bad influence on Reynolds. See William Hazlitt, ‘Character of Sir Joshua Reynolds’, Champion, 30 October and 6 November 1814 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.18, p.52).
  • 53. Founded in 1820 to express the culture of the metropolis, this periodical aimed ‘to convey the very “image, form, and pressure” of that “mighty heart” whose vast pulsations circulate life, strength, and spirits, throughout this great empire’. See ‘Prospectus of the London Magazine’, London Magazine, December 1820, p.iv. On Hazlitt’s collaboration with the London Magazine see Mark Parker, ‘A Conversation between Friends: Hazlitt and the London Magazine’, Literary Magazines and British Romanticism, Cambridge 2004, pp.135–56.
  • 54. Richardson, A Discourse on the Dignity, Certainty, Pleasure and Advantage, of the Science of a Connoisseur, p.199. Richardson’s Discourse is quoted by Hazlitt in ‘Table-Talk: No.V: On the Pleasure of Painting’, London Magazine, December 1820, p.604 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.8, p.10). See also William Hazlitt, ‘On Personal Character’ (1821), in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.12, p.238.
  • 55. Hazlitt, ‘Table-Talk: No.V: On the Pleasure of Painting’, in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.8, pp.5–13.
  • 56. I am grateful to Heather Tilley for helping me think about the metaphoric of cataracts and the medical discussions and practices that this metaphor mobilises by 1820, which deserve a separate investigation.
  • 57. Revelation 21:1; Acts 9:18; John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book XI, pp.411–29, in The Poems of John Milton, ed. by John Carey and Alistair Fowler, London 1968, pp.1003–4. On the metaphoric of vision and blindness in the gallery see Hazlitt’s ‘Notes of a Journey through France and Italy’, 1826, in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.10, pp.106–7.
  • 58. Hazlitt, ‘On the Pleasure of Painting’ in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.8, pp.13–14.
  • 59. For the Republican resonance of Hazlitt’s spoils in relation to Napoleonic spoils see Stephen Cheeke, ‘Hazlitt and the Louvre’, Keats-ShelleyJournal, no.56, 2007, p.123.
  • 60. Hazlitt, ‘On the Pleasure of Painting’, in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.8, p.14.
  • 61. William Hazlitt, ‘Remarks on the Systems of Hartley and Helvetius’, An Essay on the Principles of Human Action, London 1805 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.1, pp.69–70). On Hazlitt’s engagement with associationism see Bromwich 1983, pp.58–103; Uttara Natarajan, Hazlitt and the Reach of Sense: Criticism, Morals, and the Metaphysics of Power, Oxford 1998, pp.52ff.
  • 62. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Pictures Now Exhibiting in Pall Mall, London 1816, p.39.
  • 63. Ibid.
  • 64. ‘Those whose sensibilities are cultivated till they acquire Taste, but who are unable to possess themselves of capital works like this, may still be said to possess them, as the gift of an unerasable recollection. They hang them up in the Gallery of their mind. This work of Mr Haydon occupies that honourable station.’ See ‘Mr Haydon’s Picture of Christ’s Agony in the Garden’, Examiner, no.687, 4 March 1821, p.142. For Hazlitt’s negative review and reference to the trope of the Old Masters see Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.1H8, pp.140–5. For Benjamin Robert Haydon’s Christ’s Agony in The Garden c.1821 see, accessed 27 November 2015.
  • 65. William Hazlitt, ‘Table-Talk: No.XI: On a Landscape of Nicolas Poussin’, London Magazine, August 1821, p.179 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.8, p.173).
  • 66. William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5. See Peter Stallybrass, Roger Chartier, John Franklin Mowery and Heather Wolfe, ‘Hamlet’s Tables and the Technologies of Writing in Renaissance England’, Shakespeare Quarterly, vol.55, no.4, Winter 2004, pp.379–419; Rhodri Lewis, ‘Hamlet, Metaphor, and Memory’, Studies in Philology, vol.109, no.5, Fall 2012, pp.609–41.
  • 67. Hazlitt, ‘On a Landscape of Nicolas Poussin’, in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.8, p.173.
  • 68. G.T. Wright, ‘Hamlet and Hendiadys’, PMLA, vol.96, no.2, 1981, pp.168–93; Alex Newell, The Soliloquies in Hamlet: The Structural Design, Rutherford 1991, p.26.
  • 69. Mary Favret, ‘A Home for Art: Painting, Poetry, and Domestic Interiors’, in Mary Favret and Nicola Watson (eds.), At the Limits of Romanticism, Bloomington 1994, p.67; Deidre Shauna Lynch, Loving Literature: A Cultural History, Chicago 2015, p.125.
  • 70. William Hazlitt, ‘Fragment on Art: Why the Arts are not Progressive’, Morning Chronicle, 15 January 1814 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.18, p.9).
  • 71. William Hazlitt, ‘Living Authors: No.V: Crabbe’, London Magazine, May 1821, p.485 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.19, pp.53–4). This essay was incorporated in ‘Mr Campbell and Mr Crabbe’, The Spirit of the Age: or Contemporary Portraits, London 1825, pp.367–8 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.11, pp.165–6).
  • 72. Ibid. 
  • 73. Wilkie was compared to Crabbe in ‘Notices of the Fine Arts’, London Magazine, January 1820, p.71: ‘in one minute to receive a more lively and distinct impression of joyous and gentle hearts at his penny wedding, than Crabbe’s admirable pen could excite in an hour. So immediate and forcible is the painter’s power when rightly employed!’
  • 74. Joseph Spence, Observations, Anecdotes, and Characters of Books and Men, London 1820, p.86; reviewed in The London Magazine, February 1820, pp.191–4; and by Hazlitt in The Edinburgh Magazine, May 1820, pp.302–30, Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.16, p.165.
  • 75. ‘On the Cockney School of Poetry, VI’, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine,no.6, October 1819, p.74. The allusions to Polyphemus appear in Leigh Hunt, ‘To Charles Lamb’, Examiner, 25 August 1816, pp.536–7.
  • 76. ‘On the Cockney School of Poetry, VI’, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, 1819, p.76. See also Mizukoshi 2001, p.88.
  • 77. ‘On the Cockney School of Poetry’, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, no.3, August 1818, pp.519–24.
  • 78. See London Magazine, January 1820, p.iv, and ‘The Mohock Magazine’, London Magazine, December 1820, pp.666–7. See also ‘The Lion’s Head’, London Magazine, January 1821, p.iv, which quotes Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine’s reaction to the previous article, where it referred to the London Magazine as ‘a paltry publication, which is hardly known beyond the limits of Cockaigne’. The London Magazine’s celebration of professional occupations as breeding grounds for writing was theorised in Charles Lamb’s contributions to the first volume: ‘Recollections of the South Sea House’ was published in the August issue and ‘Oxford in the Vacation’ opened the October issue. The magazine’s argument against Blackwood’s is made explicit in ‘Cockney Writers’, London Magazine, January 1821, pp.69–71.
  • 79. ‘He has at least raised a glittering and fantastic temple, where we may wander about, and delightedly lose ourselves while gazing on the exquisite pictures which every here and there hang on its sun-bright walls – the statues and flower-vases which ornament its painted niches – the delicious prospects opening upon us from its arabesque windows – and the sweet airs and romantic music which come about us when we mount upon its pleasant battlements. And it cannot be denied that the fabric is at least as well adapted to the airy and fanciful beings who dwell in it, as a regular Epic Palace – with its grand geometrical staircases, its long dreary galleries, its lofty state apartments, and it numerous sleeping-rooms – is to its kings and heroes.’ See [Peter George Patmore], ‘Endymion, A Poetic Romance, by John Keats’, London Magazine, April 1820, pp.385–6, quoted in Mizukoshi 2001, p.87.
  • 80. Favret 1994, p.64.
  • 81. William Hazlitt, ‘Pictures at Oxford and Blenheim’, London Magazine, November 1823, pp.510–11, republished in Sketches of the Principal Picture Galleries in England, London 1824 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.10, pp.71–2).
  • 82. On The Rape of Proserpine in the East Drawing Room see W.F. Mavor, A New Description of Blenheim, the Seat of his Grace the Duke of Marlborough, Oxford 1817, p.34; in the Titian Room, W.F. Mavor, A New Guide to Blenheim Palace, the Seat of the Duke of Marlborough; Containing an Accurate List of the Gallery of Paintings, as Newly Arranged; The Titian Room, Tapestry, and Furniture, Oxford 1825, p.26; Waagen 1853, vol.3, p.133; and Scharf 1862, pp.82, 91–2. Scharf indicates that it was etched by Pieter Soutman and destroyed by fire in 1861.
  • 83. William Mavor, Blenheim, Guide; Containing a full and accurate Account of the Paintings, Tapestry, and Furniture; a Picturesque Tour of the Gadens & Park: A General Description of the China Gallery, &c. To which are added, An Itinerary, An Account of the Roman Villa, near Northleigh, &c. &c.: with a Preliminary Essay on Landscape Gardening. Embellished with Several New and Elegant Views of the Palace, and A Plan of the Park. A New and Improved Edition, Oxford 1820, p.34.
  • 84. Ibid., p.44.
  • 85. The English Connoisseur: Containing an Account of Whatever is Curious in Painting, Sculpture, &c. In the Palaces and Seats of the Nobility and Principal Gentry of England, both in Town and Country, 2 vols, London 1766, vol.1, p.15. On the gift of Victor Amadeus, King of Sardinia, to John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, their original hang, and the fire, see Marian Fowler, Blenheim: Biography of a Palace, London 1989, pp.26, 157. Like Rubens’s The Rape of Proserpine, Titian’s Loves of the Gods were destroyed by fire on 5 February 1861. Reproductions of these lost works are pasted in ‘Volume of Plates and Extracts Relating to Woodstock and Blenheim Palace’, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, sig: G.A. Oxon a.110.
  • 86. Hazlitt, ‘Pictures at Oxford and Blenheim’, in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.10, pp.73–4.
  • 87. William Mavor, A New Guide to Blenheim Palace, the Seat of his Grace the Duke of Marlborough, Oxford 1806, pp.50–1.
  • 88. Charles Lamb, letter to William Hazlitt, 9 August 1810, in The Letters of Charles and Mary Ann Lamb, ed. by E.W. Marrs, 3 vols, Ithaca 1976, vol.3, p.54.
  • 89. Mark Hallett, ‘A Monument to Intimacy: Joshua Reynolds’s The Marlborough Family’, Art History, vol.31, no.5, November 2008, pp.691–720; Kate Retford, The Art of Domestic Life: Family Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century England, New Haven and London 2006, pp.215–34.
  • 90. On the Duchess of Marlborough, see Marcia Pointon, ‘Material Manoeuvres: Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough and the Power of Artefacts’, Art History, vol.32, no.3, June 2009, pp.485–515.
  • 91. William Hazlitt, ‘Character of Sir Joshua Reynolds’, Champion, 30 October and 6 November 1814 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.18, pp.56–7). Hazlitt compared Reynolds with Van Dyck, referring to them as hanging in the same room, earlier described as ‘in the Gallery of Blenheim’. The Reynolds portrait is presented in the Dining Room in Mavor, A New Description of Blenheim, the Seat of his Grace The Duke of Marlborough, Oxford 1789, 1793, p.42; 1797, p.52; 1800, pp.39–40, which adds that Reynolds’s portrait was an attempt to outdo Van Dyck’s family piece at Wilton House. See also the tenth edition of Mavor’s catalogue published in 1817, which lists Reynolds’s portrait as hanging in the Great Drawing Room (p.35).
  • 92. In 1789, 1793, 1800 and 1817 William Mavor listed Rubens’s Bacchanalians as hanging in the East Drawing Room, with Titian’s full-length Portrait of Philip II, King of Spain, and Rubens’s Andromeda Chained to the Rock. On another wall hung ‘A Holy Family, supposed by Raphael’, ‘the Marchioness de Havre; the Duchess of Buckingham and Offspring; Mary of Medicis; all by Vandyke. Portraits of King William III by Sir Godfrey Knelley; - Death of the Virgin Mary, by Guido; - A Holy Family, by Vandyke; - the Annunciation, by Corregio; - an oval portrait of Lady Chesterfield, by Vandyke’. On other walls hung Rubens’s The Offering of the Magi and the artist’s self- portrait with his wife and child, ‘a present to the first Duke, by the city of Brussels’, and Reynolds’s portrait of Lady Charlotte Spencer in the Character of a Gipsey: see Mavor 1800, pp.32–3. In the 1817 edition Rubens’s Bacchanalians is listed in the Dining Room, where a Bacchanalian piece by Van Dyck had hung in previous guides, along with the Portrait of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough as Minerva by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Rubens’s pictures of ‘Venus and Adonis, a present from the emperor of Germany’, ‘The three Graces, or Rubens’s three Wives’, ‘Lot and his Daughters, another present from the Emperor, in the finest style, two battle-pieces by Wouvermans, seven portraits of members of the Marlborough family by Reynolds, and Veronese’s The Rape of Europa’ (p.41).
  • 93. Hazlitt, ‘Pictures at Oxford and Blenheim’, in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.10, pp.73–4.  
  • 94. Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne from the Aldobrandini Palace and Poussin’s Bacchanalian Dance were exhibited at the British Institution in 1816. Thomas Hamlet is listed in the accompanying catalogue as the proprietor of both pictures, acquired from him by the National Gallery in 1826. See A Catalogue of Pictures in the National Gallery, London 1842, pp.12–13, no.11 and p.20, no.122. Poussin’s painting is described thus: ‘This classical composition is arranged in so admirable a manner as to require no elucidation. It is one of N. Poussin’s capital performances; and was formerly in the Collection of Compte Vaudrieul, afterwards in those of Monsieur de Calonne and of the late Lord Kinnaird, and was purchased by Parliament from Mr. Hamlet.’
  • 95. William Hazlitt, ‘Lord Grosvenor’s Collection of Pictures’, London Magazine, July 1823 (Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.10, p.52).
  • 96. ‘Rubens’s are noble specimens of a class; Poussin’s are allegorical abstractions of the same class, with bodies less pampered, but with minds more secretly depraved. The Bacchanalian groups of the Flemish painter were, however, his masterpieces in composition. Witness those prodigies of colour, character, and expression, at Blenheim. In the more chaste and refined delineation of classic fable, Poussin was without a rival.’ William Hazlitt, ‘On a Landscape of Nicolas Poussin’ in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.8, p.172.
  • 97. Hazlitt, ‘Pictures at Oxford and Blenheim’, in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.10, p.72.
  • 98. Hazlitt, ‘On Chaucer and Spenser’, in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.5, p.26.
  • 99. Compare ‘The Poet framed, glazed, and hung in a striking light: […] a powdered beau, a sycophant plant, an exotic reared in a glass-case’. William Hazlitt, ‘On the Aristocracy of Letters’ in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.8, p.211.
  • 100. Hazlitt, ‘On Chaucer and Spenser’, in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.5, pp.22, 35.
  • 101. Ibid., p.38.
  • 102. Ibid.  
  • 103. Ibid., p.42.
  • 104. Ibid., p.35.
  • 105. See Nelson Goodman, ‘The Problem of Counterfactual Conditionals’, Journal of Philosophy, vol.44, no.5, February 1947, pp.113–28; Niall Ferguson, ‘Introduction: Virtual History: Towards a “Chaotic” Theory of the Past’, in Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals, London 1997, pp.48, 85–9; Catherine Gallagher, ‘Forum: Counterfactual Realities’, Representations, no.98, 2007, pp.51–2; Neal J. Roese and James M. Olson, ‘Counterfactual Thinking: A Critical Overview’, in What Might Have Been: The Social Psychology of Counterfactual Thinking, New York 2014, pp.1–3.
  • 106. See in particular Goodman 1947, and Roese and Olson 2014, p.1.
  • 107. Leigh Hunt, ‘A New Gallery of Pictures: Spenser, the Poet of the Painters’, New Monthly Magazine, no.38, June 1833, pp.161–77.
  • 108. Hazlitt, ‘Pictures at Oxford and Blenheim’, in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.10, p.72.
  • 109. Goodman 1947, p.114.
  • 110. ‘Sir J.F. Leicester’s Gallery of British Paintings’, Examiner, no.539, 26 April 1818, pp.269–70; William Carey, A Descriptive Catalogue of Paintings by British Artists, in the Possession of John Fleming Leicester, Bart., London 1819, pp.65–75;‘Memoirs of Sir John Fleming Leicester’, New Monthly Magazine, June 1819, p.433; ‘Fine Arts’, Examiner, 4 July 1819, p.429; ‘Sir John Leicester Gallery’, New Monthly Magazine, no.3, 1821, p.222. On Sir John Fleming Leicester as a patron of British painting see Dongho Chun, ‘Public Display, Private Glory: Sir John Fleming Leicester’s Gallery of British Art in Early Nineteenth-Century England’, Journal of the History of Collections, vol.13, no.2, 2001, pp.175–89; and Dongho Chun, ‘Patriotism on Display: Sir John Fleming Leicester’s Patronage of British Art’, British Art Journal, vol.4, no.2, June 2003, pp.23–8.
  • 111. André Malraux, The Museum without Walls, trans. by Stuart Gilbert and Francis Price, London 1967.
  • 112. Rosalind Krauss, ‘Postmodernism’s Museum Without Walls’, in Reesa Greenberg, Bruce W. Ferguson and Sandy Nairne (eds.), Thinking About Exhibitions, London 1996, p.341.
  • 113. Hazlitt, ‘On Chaucer and Spenser’, in Hazlitt 1930–4, vol.5, p.44.


An earlier version of this paper was presented at the conference William Hazlitt’s Art Criticism, organised by and held at Tate Britain and the National Gallery, London on Friday 28 November 2014. I would like to thank Susanna Avery-Quash, Greg Dart, John Forster, Christopher Griffin, Nicholas Halmi, Kate Redford, Greg Sullivan and Heather Tilley for exchanges about paintings and allegories discussed in this essay.

Luisa Calè is Senior Lecturer in Romantic Studies at Birkbeck, University of London.

Tate Papers, Autumn 2015 © Luisa Calè

Tate Papers (ISSN 1753-9854) is a peer-reviewed research journal that publishes articles on British and modern international art, and on museum practice today.

How to cite

Luisa Calè, '‘A gallery in the mind’? William Hazlitt, Edmund Spenser and the Old Masters', Tate Papers, no.24, Autumn 2015,, accessed 23 April 2018.

Tate Papers (ISSN 1753-9854) is a peer-reviewed research journal that publishes articles on British and modern international art, and on museum practice today.