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    "The Secret of England's Greatness"

    Nead, Lynda (2014) "The Secret of England's Greatness". Journal of Victorian Culture 19 (2), pp. 161-182. ISSN 1355-5502.

    11728(a).pdf - Author's Accepted Manuscript

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    The Secret of England's Greatness is a portrait by Thomas Jones Barker of Queen Victoria meeting an African envoy and presenting him with a copy of the Bible. Painted around 1863, it has become an icon of British imperialism in this period and of the justification of colonial expansion in terms of the transmission of the values of the Bible. As such, the portrait appears confident and unambiguous: the secret of England's greatness is unravelled and the truth is exposed. This article seeks to disturb the apparent absence of mystery in this painted encounter and to examine what remains concealed in the meeting between the white sovereign and the black emissary. Moving from Barker's painting to William Mulready's The Toyseller, which was completed in the same years and depicts a black pedlar trying to sell a wooden toy to a white mother and child, the article uncovers, within the language of painting and its surrounding discourses, a different kind of disturbing and exhilarating secret, concerned with racial identity and mid-Victorian desire. Working from a reading of the surface of the paintings to related representations of blackness in nineteenth-century science and culture, the article considers how The Toyseller negotiates the proximity of the figures of the black pedlar and the white mother and child and the significance of the compositional gap between them and suggests that Mulready's painting visualizes many of the issues that were at the heart of British imperialism in the middle of the nineteenth century, following the abolition of slavery.


    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Victorian Culture on June 23rd 2014 (Online First), available online:
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Mulready, Barker, Victoria, racial desire, empire, art
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Research Centres and Institutes: Nineteenth-Century Studies, Centre for
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 24 Feb 2015 10:44
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:15


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