Partially blind since birth, Mark Samuels Lasner proves that having and realizing a vision does not require eyesight; instead, it takes imagination, knowledge, a will of iron, and a brilliant mind. After being orphaned at age eleven, he spent his adolescence in Connecticut with his grandmother. Among her friends was May Bradshaw Hays, daughter of Joseph Jacobs (1854–1916), the Jewish folklorist and compiler of fairy tales who had lived for decades in England. Hays introduced Samuels Lasner to the world of Victorian writers and artists, some of whom she had met as a child, and gave him a tea set that was a wedding present to her parents from William Morris (1834–1896), the poet and Arts-and-Crafts designer. With that, Samuels Lasner began collecting the Pre-Raphaelites. Later, he was drawn to the Aesthetes and Decadents of the 1890s. Eventually, he assembled a collection covering a wide range of intellectual and artistic movements from the second half of the nineteenth century in Britain. This exhibition celebrates his extraordinary collection, which he has donated to the University of Delaware Library, by displaying a few highlights from the more than 9,500 items. Each object tells a story about the passionate emotions of its creator. But the greatest passion on view is that of Mark Samuels Lasner himself, whose love for the Victorians unites everything here.
Curated by Margaret Stetz, Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women's Studies and Professor of Humanities, Department of Women and Gender Studies