June 10, 2002
When asked about his retirement plans, Jack Hart empathizes with the dilemma recent graduates often face: “What will you do after leaving Lewis & Clark?”
“Sometimes it’s necessary to take time to breathe and reflect before moving forward,” says Hart, who came to the College in 1965.
For certain, Hart will continue to update his Web site, A Catalogue of 18th-Century British Mezzotint Satires in North American Collections, which grew from his passion for 18th-century British literature and its interplay with prints and paintings.
“Jack is a treasure,” remembers Doug Free ’76, who double majored in English and history and now works in california’s high-technology marketing arena. “He introduced me to the subtlety of well-written political and social satire. In a world where political discussion is conducted on right-wing cable talk shows and in the aching prose of George Will, a little dry, intelligent humor is needed.”
Hart’s online catalog lists more than 600 mezzotint print satires, or “drolls,” from London print sellers, a market that flourished between 1760 and 1800. Because of copyright law and expenses, the catalog lives, for the time being, in electronic format on Lewis & Clark’s Web site (www.lclark.edu/~ jhart/home.html), rather than as a book or monograph.
A mezzotint print is a type of engraving whose subtle tonal range enables the reproduction of fine paintings as well as cartoons. Hart began the project in 1992 as a survey of print satires in major collections such as the Library of Congress, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Huntington Library.
Last winter, he completed the online catalog and used it in his senior seminar, Envisioning Jane Austen, which examined Austen’s novels and related prints and films. For example, in Persuasion, the narrator imagines that portraits of ancestors on the wall are aghast at the disorder the younger generation has brought upon a great house: “The portraits themselves seem to be staring in astonishment.”
To capture the resonance of the joke in print satires that Austen and her audience would likely have known, Hart directed students to the 1776 print “The Dutiful Daughter.” It depicts a mother talking to her daughter (while the daughter’s suitor hides under the table, kissing the young girl’s hand), as portraits of three stern ancestors seem to “stare in astonishment.”
Aside from 18th-century British literature, Literature of the Sea is another favorite genre of Hart’s and the name of a popular class he taught for the past 10 years. Anyone who missed the lively classroom discussions of authors such as Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, Jack London, and Charles Johnson will have one more chance in the fall, when Hart will return to Lewis & Clark to teach the class one last time.
—by Pattie Pace