21 SEPTEMBER 1912, Page 13


[TO THE EDITOR Or THE "SPECTATOR-] SIR,—The recent fire at Carden Hall reminds us that every year valuable historic portraits of which we have no duplicates are being destroyed. In addition to such loss by fire other portraits are leaving the country to enrich public or private galleries abroad, where they are inaccessible to those to whom they are often of the utmost interest. May I suggest that a society should be formed for the purpose of obtaining photo- graphs of all family portraits which have never been engraved. Such pictures are of unique value to the genealogist and students of family history—to whom, by the way, the appeal is not by reason of artistic merit alone. It must not be forgotten, too, that many of these private col- lections contain portraits of persona whose life-histories are closely associated. with the history of our country. Their acquisition by the National Portrait Gallery is impos- sible owing to lack of funds ; but it would be possible, and at comparatively little cost, to obtain photographs from which permanent reproductions could be made, and these would form the nucleus of a very valuable collection, for which posterity would surely thank us. I believe that many private owners of pictures would contribute photographs which have been already made, or bear the cost of the making. If the work should be thought too great for any one society, local societies in all the English counties might be formed for the purpose, and an annual exhibition might be held in London. Such an exhibition would probably lead to the identification of many unknown portraits, and inspire other possessors to give the requisite facilities for obtaining photographs.—I am, Sir,