Our lecture programme

Winter 2018–19

Lectures are at 2.30pm

At the Friargate Quaker Meeting House York YO1 9RL. Doors open at 2pm.

Saturday 13 October
Wigs, Swords and Poison: Writing Murder Mysteries set in Queen Anne’s London

David Fairer, Emeritus Professor of English, University of Leeds.

Writing any historical fiction is inevitably a balancing act between those two elements – trying to get the history right while making the fiction inventive and engaging.

How do you avoid writing a modern novel in period dress? How do you meet the ever-present challenge of anachronism? How can you make its world authentic and detailed without turning the book into a history lesson? What degree of historical minutiae should you offer? How do you convey the contemporary context of politics, etc? How do your characters think and speak? Do you reproduce actual speech of the time, or is some compromise involved?

This talk will draw on my own experience as someone who has recently turned from researching and teaching eighteenth-century literature to making that age come alive in fiction. I’ve embarked on a series of mysteries set in the London of 1708, centred on a Covent Garden chocolate house – books that build their fictional plots around the actual events of that year and combine historical and fictional characters.

This genre of the historical ‘whodunit’ brings particular challenges. Here facts and plausibility are vital, and the reader has to trust in the authenticity of the novel’s own detective procedures. How did the men and women of 1708 conceive of such things as evidence, clues, blackmail, bribery, interrogation, teamwork? Or the notion of ‘detection’ itself when there were no policemen and no detectives, no experts, no teams, no concept of a crime scene or forensics . . .

Saturday 10 November
Revealing Repton: Approaches to the Art of Landscape Gardening in his Bicentenary

Stephen Daniels, Professor Emeritus of Cultural Geography, University of Nottingham

Humphry Repton (1752-1818) was the leading landscape gardener of Georgian England, his wide-ranging work including key commissions in Yorkshire. Professor Daniels will survey the field of Repton studies, with a view to opening new approaches to understanding and communicating the art of landscape gardening, as well as ways to celebrate Repton’s work and his legacy in this bicentenary year.

Saturday 8 December
Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte and the Shaping of the Modern World

Dr Joanna Marschner, Senior Curator, Historic Royal Palaces

Dr Marschner will discuss her work on royal women as patrons, concentrating on their promotion of trading and industrial initiatives. This talk will marry a discussion of women and power with the wonderful artefacts that survive as examples of their engagement with the artist and craftsman communities in the country.

Saturday 12 January
Dr Johnson on Shakespeare

David Hopkins, Senior Research Fellow, Professor Emeritus of English Literature, University of Bristol

Johnson’s criticism of Shakespeare enjoys an equivocal reputation. Professor Hopkins will suggest that though we may disagree with Johnson on particular points of Shakespearian interpretation, this will seldom be simply because his larger assumptions are outmoded and merely of their time. Indeed, he will argue that some of Johnson’s most controversial remarks can serve as a welcome challenge to rarely-questioned present-day orthodoxies concerning Shakespeare.

There will be an opportunity for members to discuss ideas for the society and its future before the lecture at 2.15pm.

Saturday 9 February
Fashioning Georgian Society

Aileen Ribeiro, Professor Emerita in the History of Art, University of London

‘Fashion’, Louis XIV is supposed to have said, is ‘the mirror of history’. Professor Ribeiro will discuss in general terms how clothing in eighteenth-century England reveals and reflects Georgian society in a period of social, cultural and technological changes. As well as providing a narrative of the progress of fashion, she will examine the range of fabrics used and how people obtained their clothing. The fashions for town- and country-wear, both on grand occasions and at popular entertainments, will also be considered.

There will be an opportunity for members to discuss ideas for the society and its future before the lecture at 2.15pm.

Saturday 9 March (following the Annual General Meeting and presentation of the Patrick Nuttgens Award for 2019)
William Etty and the Royal Academy: Social Origins and Educational Opportunity in the Early Nineteenth-Century Art World

Martin Myrone, Curator of 18th and 19th Century British Art, Tate Britain

William Etty (1787-1849) rose from relatively humble origins as a baker’s son in York to become one of the most famous artists of his day. His remarkable career as a painter of literary and mythological narratives was singled out as an example of the new opportunities arising with the progress of modern society. This talk will cast fresh light on the question of the social ascent of artists in the late Georgian period. It will consider how typical, or atypical, was Etty’s trajectory through the early nineteenth-century London art world, and how this might have influenced his artistic choices and reputation.

All are welcome.

For members of the Society and students admission is free, but we ask others for a donation toward costs. We normally suggest £5 for each lecture. Membership is very good value, so consider joining instead.

To view the archive of our previous lecture programmes click here.