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Joseph Wilkinson

Joseph Wilkinson was born at Carlisle; is listed as a member of Queen’s College, Oxford, in the subscribers’ list to Hearne’s Antiquities; and was ordained in 1790. In 1788 he married Mary Wood, daughter of Charles Wood, a Whitehaven metallurgist, and niece to one of the most distinguished scientists of the day, the chemist and physician Dr William Brownrigg. The young couple made their home with the Brownriggs at Ormathwaite Hall just north of Keswick, looking after them in their old age (Mary’s aunt died in 1794, her uncle in 1800 at the age of 88). During this period Wilkinson held curacies at Irthington near Carlisle and Monkwearmouth near Sunderland as well as a living in Lincolnshire. In 1803 he was appointed to the parish of East and West Wretham, just north of Thetford in Norfolk, moving there in 1804 and remaining for the rest of his life. Wilkinson was an enthusiastic amateur artist and during his time at Ormathwaite he made numerous sketches of the Lake District. After he had left the area he developed many of these into the Select Views published in 1810 to which Wordsworth contributed the unsigned introductory letterpress. The Wilkinsons were close friends of the Southeys and Coleridges but never on intimate terms with the Wordsworths; however, Joseph’s two sisters married the two brothers of Wordsworth’s friend James Losh of Newcastle. (Taken from 'Savage Grandeur & Noblest Thoughts' catalogue, 2010. (AK, 18.12.2011)) Like many eighteenth-century clergymen the Rev. Joseph Wilkinson was a keen amateur artist and he drew many sketches during his residence in the Lakes. In 1788 he married a niece of the distinguished scientist Dr William Brownrigg; the couple lived at Ormathwaite near Keswick until 1804 when they moved to a parish in Norfolk. Wilkinson’s sole claim to fame as an artist lies in the fact that he persuaded Wordsworth to contribute an introduction to a series of forty-eight soft-ground etchings after his drawings. These were published in a handsome volume in 1810: Select Views in Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Lancashire. The etchings themselves, the work of the professional artist W.F. Wells, are invariably stronger. In contrast to Wilkinson’s drawings, Wordsworth’s anonymous introduction is one of his finest and most moving pieces of prose, combining sensitive observation with a deep love of his native region and concern for its future. Much revised and frequently republished without illustrations, it has deservedly become a classic in its own right. (copied from 'Savage Grandeur' exhibition text)

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