Image 25

Figure 5: Henry Vane

Croome’s illustrations often failed to do justice to a figure Frost wished to lionize. Such was the case with his depictions of Sir Henry Vane, a British nobleman who served briefly as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630s. Frost proclaimed Vane a leader of “angelic grandeur,” a man so “animated with such ardent devotion to the cause of pure religion and liberty” that his entire life “was one continued course of great and daring enterprise.” When Vane ran afoul of shortsighted religious factions in New England because his “ideas of civil and religious liberty were at least a century in advance of the people among whom he was settled,” Frost noted that he was shipped back to Old England, where he was eventually executed as a renegade. Willing to die for his principles, Frost’s Vane became a tragic, martyred figure, who met death “with a heroic and smiling intrepidity, and encountered it with tranquil and dignified resignation.” [37]

Such a grand literary portrait of Vane presupposed the need for an equally glorified pictorial treatment by Croome, but evidently the illustrator was not up to the task. Croome’s portrait of the Massachusetts Bay governor was undistinguished, failing as it did to conform to any of the pictorial conventions of the physiognomy of greatness popular in the nineteenth century [Image 25]. His adaptation of Corbould’s Execution of Vane, though more dramatic in conception than the original, still lacked the power and pathos of Frost’s description. This incongruity provided another example of how language almost always outstripped visual images in the communication of historical meaning in pictorial histories of the 1840s.

[37] Ibid., 1:184-185.