The Countess of Blessington and Magic Lanterns

  • Laura EngelEmail author


In this chapter, I explore how the theatrical event or tourist attraction of the auction might help us to theorize the ways in which objects act as souvenirs and as conduits to embodied experience. Just after Sir Thomas Lawrence completed his famous portrait of her, Lady Blessington composed a fictional account of an auction in her book The Magic Lantern; or, Sketches of Scenes in the Metropolis (1822). Juxtaposing Blessington’s narrative with a journal article by an “American Traveller” chronicling his experience at the Gore House auction of her possessions in 1849 suggests a number of important things about the connections among auctions, tourism, souvenirs, archives, and ghosts. The operation of magic lanterns, auctions, and tourism share a preoccupation with fantasy, projection, and types of surveillance. Blessington’s use of the magic lantern as a guiding trope serves to remind readers of the spectral and uncanny nature of urban existence as a continuous barrage of the strange and the familiar.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Duquesne UniversityPittsburghUSA

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