An atypical commercial correspondence
This paper investigates how artefacts and identities are textually constructed in an unpublished nineteenth-century epistolary exchange between the Director of the National Gallery, London, Sir Frederic Burton (1816–1900) and the painter, collector and dealer Charles Fairfax Murray (1849–1919). The analysis of this corpus will shed light on how artefacts can be identified in textual space; in addition, it will provide evidence of the negotiation of social identity and status within an atypical commercial context. The analysis is primarily qualitative, and is based on the formal notions of collocation (Stubbs 2001) and semantic sequences (Hunston 2008), with a view to isolating patterns of use which through their repetition and/or topic relevance signal typical descriptive/evaluative functions (Del Lungo Camiciotti 2009). It will thus be possible to investigate the development of practices used to achieve the specific aims of the discursive community of art dealers, and to textually construct identities both in the private and the public sphere; moreover, it will be possible to provide information about contemporary ways of perceiving identities of artefacts and people.