- 18 March 2022
- 1:00 – 2:00 pm
- This event is part of the Paul Mellon Centre's Spring Research Lunch series.
In 1725, General George Wade, the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty’s Forces in North Britain, was tasked with overseeing a massive military road, fort and bridge-building programme that would transform the face of eighteenth-century Scotland. Designed to open some of the country’s more remote areas to the forces of modern progress as well as contain the Jacobite threat, Wade’s new roads were to replace ‘the old Ways’, as one observer called them, meaning traditional Scottish culture every bit as much as the ancient drove roads, horse tracks, old coal and salt routes that comprised the established transport network. Old Ways New Roads, a book written to accompany an online exhibition of the same name organised by The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow, traces how these dramatic changes in the Scottish landscape were variously documented and evaluated, planned, and imagined, by contemporary travellers through close focus on a rich array of written, material, and pictorial sources.
In this talk, the curators of the exhibition and editors of the accompanying publication will reflect on the making of the project, on its aims and scope as well the practicalities of planning, including applying for funding. By way of an introduction to Old Ways New Roads, and more especially the collaborative, cross-disciplinary nature of the research and writing involved, the curators/editors will discuss a key motif running through much of the art, poetry and travel writing produced in the latter part of the eighteenth century in response to the Scottish landscape; that is, the taste for waterfalls.
To prompt discussion of this richly allusive and complex, but often strangely overlooked, phenomenon the paper will focus firstly on an ambitious and visually striking programme of pictures made for the dining room at Blair Castle, the historic Perthshire seat of the dukes of Atholl, by the now little-known artist Charles Steuart, which feature a series of falls on family lands. It will then move on to consider Robert Burns’ Humble Petition of Bruar Water, a poem of 1787 dedicated to the fourth duke and as likely to have been prompted by Steaurt’s paintings as the Falls of Bruar themselves.
Thumbnail caption: Charles Steuart, Waterfall, 1765, oil on canvas, 69.8 x 89.8 cm. Image courtesy of The Hunterian, University of Glasgow (All rights reserved)
About the speakers
Anne Dulau Beveridge is an art curator at The Hunterian, with emphasis on the French and British pre-1945 art collections. Specific areas of research interest include the eighteenth, late nineteenth, and early twentieth century. Relevant recent publications and research/exhibition projects include, besides Old Ways New Roads, the afterlife of Mary Queen of Scots, supported by a RSE research network grant, which will lead to an exhibition exploring the University of Glasgow Marian collections in 2022; contribution to William Hunter and the Anatomy of the Modern Museum (2018); and to Allan Ramsay: Portraits of the Enlightenment (2013).
Nigel Leask is Regius Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Glasgow. He has published widely on British and especially Scottish romanticism, with a special emphasis on travel writing, empire, and ‘improvement’. He was CI of the AHRC-funded Curious Travellers: Thomas Pennant and the Welsh and Scottish Tour, 1750–1820 (2014–18): his latest book Stepping Westward: Writing the Highland Tour 1720–1830 was published by Oxford in 2020 and shortlisted for the Saltire National Book Awards 2021. He is co-editor of Old Ways and New Roads: Travels in Scotland 1720–1832 (2021). He is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and a Vice-President of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies.
John Bonehill teaches art history at the University of Glasgow. He has published extensively on various aspects of eighteenth-century art and culture, including Old Ways New Roads: Travels in Scotland 1720–1832 (with Anne Dulau Beveridge and Nigel Leask).