The students in my Elizabethan class had quite a lot to say about Marcus Gheerhaerts’ 1594 portrait of Captain Thomas Lee yesterday: it is indeed a provocative portrait and he was indeed a provocative man. A poor relation of Sir Henry Lee, the Queen’s Champion and Master of the Armouries, Thomas’s career is characterized by his long “service” in Ireland, from the mid 1570s until the late 1590s, after which he was implicated in the Essex Rebellion of 1601 and executed for treason. In his pursuit of the conquest of Ireland and his own personal gain, Captain Lee murdered, blinded, stole, and conspired. When he was not “serving”, he engaged in highway robbery and was imprisoned for debt. He was not a happy outlaw, however, and the Gheerhaerts portrait, along with his two essays, A brief declaration of the government of Ireland (1594) and The discovery and recovery of Ireland with the author’s apology (1599), are attempts to repair his reputation. Too little too late–though his arrest and execution at Tyburn in February of 1601 were consequences of his involvement in the Essex plot rather than any of his actions in Ireland, which were supposedly on behalf of the Queen.
Portrait of Captain Thomas Lee by Marcus Gheeraerts II, 1594, Tate Britain.
Well of course this personal history does not explain why Captain Lee is not wearing pants (or breeches, or hose). Clearly that is the defining feature of this portrait, commonly known as “the man with the bare legs”. There’s something vaguely classical about the painting, with its pastoral background and Latin inscription on the right: Facere et pati Fortia, “To act and suffer bravely”, a quotation from Livy’s history of the Roman commander Caius Mucius Scaevola, who defeated Etruscan rebels by penetrating their camp and living among them, so he could know the enemy. He was recognized for his bravery and rewarded handsomely by the Roman government for his efforts and thus represented a useful example for Lee, who perhaps saw himself as performing a similar service for the Queen among the “wild” Irish. Despite its fanciful fabric, Lee’s outfit is actually a bit more pragmatic: he is fully-armed and wears some semblance of the “uniform” of an Irish foot-soldier, or “wood-kerne”, bare-legged to better accommodate the boggy terrain of the Emerald Isle. So Lee is presenting himself as Irish: he has “gone native” in the (sacrificial) service of the Queen. The true measure of his claimed “sacrifice” can only be grasped through a realization of just how “wilde”, barbaric, and brutal the English perceived and presented the Irish to be: John Derrick’s Image of Irelande (1581) is a good source for this, as is a book by another man who was constantly currying favor with the Queen, Edmund Spenser’s thoroughly racist View of the Present State of Ireland (c. 1596).
Lee’s discoverye and recoverye of Ireland with the authors apologie, ca. 1600. Folger Shakespeare Library: John Derrick, The Image of Irelande, with a Discoverie of Woodkarne, 1581, Edinburgh University Library.
Back to World War I remembrance; I can’t help myself: I’m under the spell of the poppies–not real poppies (which I really don’t care for all that much) or the intoxicating poppies alluded to in the captivating Strobridge Wizard of Oz poster below, but the thousands of ceramic poppies that are now literally spilling out of the Tower of London in remembrance of British lives lost during the Great War. Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the vision of ceramic artist Paul Cummins and stage designer TomPiper, opened yesterday–the day on which Britain entered the war–and will expand over the fall, until there are 888,246 flowers in total, one for each soldier from Britain and its empire killed during the war. The final porcelain poppy will be “planted” on November 11, Remembrance Day, a day which has long been symbolized by the poppies of Flanders fields. The images of this installation are so striking that I can’t wait to see the real thing; I’m planning on heading over to the UK in October, which should be just in time.
Strobridge Wizard of Oz poster, Virtual Library/Public Library of Cincinnatti and Hamilton County; photographs of Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red, Historic Royal Palaces; Christopher Nevinson, AFrontLinenearStQuentin (1918), Manchester City Galleries; The Tower of London Remembers/#TowerPoppies
I am really not that interested in cooking (unusual for a blogger, I know), but for some reason I have always liked to read about food. I also appreciate beautiful books, so Penguin UK’s GreatFood series is just up my alley. It includes 20 culinary classics from several centuries, all encased in beautiful covers crafted by the justly-famous British book designer Coralie Bickford-Smith. The series was released in Britain in late Spring, and in the US last month.
Two Trios of Titles and the Entire Stack.
Let’s look at a few titles in more detail. There is a nice transition here from yesterday’s post on illustrator Frederick Stuart Church, who illustrated an edition of the early nineteenth-century English essayist Charles Lamb’s charmingly-titled A Dissertation upon Roast Pig. So first we have the new Penguin edition, followed by an equally beautiful Wayside Arts & Crafts copy from the turn of the last century, and finally the Church illustration. Great additions to the history of barbecue!
Gervase Markham, author of one of the first manuals for “hus-wives” in the seventeenth century, is offered to twenty-first century audiences in Penguin’s The Well-kept Kitchen. Markham has always offered a window into the early modern domestic world for both myself and my students, as has the eighteenth-century cookery writer, Hannah Glasse, whose Arte of Cookery has been refashioned as Everlasting Syllabub and the Art of Carving. Below the modern variants are the title page to the 1831 edition of Markham’s English House-wife. Containing the inward and outward Virtues which ought to be in a complete Woman and (since we were on the topic), Hannah Glasse’s original recipe for roast pig.