Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Conways of Ragley: Courtiers and Collectors, 1564-1655

London Renaissance Seminar

In 1623 the Earl of Kellie noted that a closed cabal had emerged at court over certain confidential matters, consisting of King Charles, the all-powerful George Villiers, and ‘Secreterrye Connowaye, whoe is my Lord of Bukkinghames confident, and I think a verrye honnest man’. Edward, first Viscount Conway (1564-1631), principal secretary of state to James I and Charles I, is a relatively understudied figure given both his contemporary power and his notable interest in the major poets of the seventeenth century. Furthermore, his son, Edward, second Viscount Conway (1594-1655), was perhaps the most significant English book collector of his age, whose London and Irish libraries held between them around 13,000 volumes.

The family’s collection of personal and official documents, the Conway Papers, is riddled with technical difficulties. Nevertheless, it contains uniquely important manuscript witnesses of literary works by Donne, Jonson, and others, as well as a wealth of political information. This event will trace the Conway family’s progress from Warwickshire gentry to the highest levels at court, paying particular attention to their interest in and acquisition of culture, from books and manuscripts to music and dramatic entertainments.

1.30-3pm – The Conways in Context, Chair: Pauline Croft (Royal Holloway)
Ann Hughes (Keele), ‘Edward, first Viscount Conway’s Warwickshire: social and cultural contexts’
Barra Boydell (NUI Maynooth), ‘Music and the Conways in Ireland’

3.30-5pm – Literary circulation, Chair: Henry Woudhuysen (UCL)
Daniel Starza Smith (UCL), ‘John Donne in the Conway Papers’
Gabriel Heaton (Sotheby’s), ‘Entertaining Edward Conway’

5-5.30pm – Closing comments, Pauline Croft

5 December 2009

Room 152 Malet Street,

Birkbeck College, London WC1E 7HX


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