Sunday, 7 December 2014

Albert Midlane's Vecta Garland

Looking for topographical images of the Isle of Wight Undercliff (in the search, so far unsuccessful, of finding an identifiable image of Gore Cliff at the location of Chad's Rock prior to the 1853 blasting) led to me an illustrated poetry anthology The Vecta Garland, and Isle of Wight souvenir, by Albert Midlane.

Midlane (1825-1909) was a poet and hymn writer, a native and lifelong resident of Newport, whose day work was tinsmith and ironmonger. There are good accounts of him in Arnell's Poets of the Wight (pp 99-105) and the Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement (pp 620-621).

Midlane reminds me a great deal of Edward Capern, the Bideford postman poet. Like Capern, he was 'acceptable working class' to the Victorian middle class: humble, devout, socially and politically conservative (unlike, say, Ebenezer Elliot or Gerald Massey), pro-monarchy and obsequious to the upper classes; nor did he do anything so vulgar as to expect payment for his work or assert copyright (ref: Obituary, IWCP, March 6, 1909), and he went bankrupt in consequence.

Nevetheless, I do quite like his 1860 poetry collection The Vecta Garland, and Isle of Wight souvenir (London: Griffin, 1860, Internet Archive vectagarlandisle00midl). The style is typical 19th century overblown pseudo-classical. This ...
Uprising in the sea-girt Isle, bedecked with verdure round,
Sweet Osborne ! is thy palace-pile, with every beauty crowned ;
Erected for Victoria, and for Her pleasure planned,
Her favorite residence who sways, the sceptre of the land.  
... is fairly typical. But it makes an interesting tour of locations largely still iconic, as well as a few that'll now be known only to Isle of Wight history enthusiasts. There are twelve nice steel engravings too.

"Osborne, Isle of Wight" - artist/engraver uncredited

"The Keep of Carisbrook Castle"
Drawn by WL Walton, engraved by JC Varrall
Not much has changed; compare my November 2014 photo.

"Pulpit Rock, Bonchurch - from a sketch by WB Cooke, engraved by Sam Bradshaw"

The Pulpit Rock! The Pulpit Rock!
It is mounted up on high,
Where the winged choir in numbers flock,
And trill sweet harmony:
And the ivy green Is clambering seen,
Up its sides, time worn, and hoary;
As there it stands,
Where the zephyr fans
A rock in its native glory! 

See the previous post Pulpit Rock for more about this.

"Black Gang Chine - drawn by WL Leitch, engraved by J Godfrey"
Bonchurch Pond - "WL Leitch / J Godfrey"
"Shanklin Chine, Isle of Wight - drawn by WL Leitch, engraved by A Willmore"
"Chale Bay, Isle of Wight, during the tremendous storm of 1836 - engraved by A Willmore
St. Lawrence Well - "drawn by WL Walton, engraved by JB Kernot [?]
"Freshwater Cliffs - drawn by WL Leitch, engraved by J Godfrey"
"The Great Landslip at Rockenend, with the bold termination of the Undercliff near Black Gang,
drawn by WL Leitch, engraved by Sam Bradshaw
The above engraving is very interesting topographically, as it shows two long-gone Undercliff villas I've written about previously: Southview (at centre, recognisable by its Italianate tower), and Southlands (at left).

"Isolated rocks in Freshwater Bay - WL Leitch, J Godfrey"
"Tomb of the Rev. W. Adams at Bonchurch, Isle of Wight"
Author of "The Shadow of the Cross, "The Old Man's Home," &c. Died 1848, Aged 33 Years.
drawn by WL Walton, from a Sketch by WB Cooke, engraved by JC Varrell
There are a number of historical byways and loose ends suggested by the poems. I'll return to these in follow-up posts.
- Ray

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