6 MAY 1865, Page 18


Mn. GLADSTONE, in his eloquent speech on the occasion of the commencement of the Wedgwood Memorial Institute, remarked upon the strange fact that no life of Wedgwood had ever appeared. The deficiency has at last been supplied by the simul- taneous publication of two volumes, one being the first instal- ment of a fall life of Josiah Wedgwood by Miss Meteyard, and the ether a history of the entire clan of the WedgwoodE by Mr. Jewitt, both also containing a sketch of the early history of Staffordshire pottery. Both books are beautifully got up in binding and typography, and though on certain points they necessarily clash, there is a wide range in treating the subject for more than one writer. Mr. Jewitt is minute and technical in all the mechanical and chemical details of the potter's work, and has devoted great research to the antiquarian department of his sub- ject. Miss Meteyard, writing with access to Wedgwood's private correspondence and business papers, takes a more comprehensive view of his general character and private life, though far from neg- lecting the facts of his business life. Miss Meteyard, again, gives a large share of her work to artistic criticism on his works ; Mr. -Jewitt more generally confines himself to accurate description. Miss Meteytwd'a work, notwithstanding a slight tendency to discursive- ness, seems likely when finished to prove the better life of Wedg- wood as a leader of industry and an artist, and we hope soon to see the promised second volume ; but Mr. Jewitt's history of the Wedgwoods is a work of considerable merit in its line. As the +atter is now before us in its entirety, we will at present confine ourselves to an outline of its main features, reserving Miss Mete- yard's more elaborate work for a future occasion.

The history of "the truly beautiful art of pot-making" re- mains, as Mr. Jewitt says, to be written, and would certainly form one of the most interesting works imaginable. To trace the progress of the art from the time when it only existed in rude prehistoric cinerary urns down to its present state would involve matters at every stage bearing most directly on the most import- ant questions of artistic history and social civilization. But in a work of which the main object was the biography of an indivi- dual, Mr. Jewitt has done well in confining himself to an outline only of the information which antiquarians have accumulated with regard to the origin and early history of the great Stafford- shire Potteries, for which Josiah Wedgwood did what Arkwright did for the cotton world, or what Stephenson did for locomotion. It is clear that from the very earliest ages the district now known

* The Wedgwood:, being • Life of Josiah Wedgwood, with notices of his works and their produrlims, memoirs of the Wedgwood and other families, and a History of the early Potteries of Staffordshire. By Llewellynn Jewitt, F.S.A. Lmdon: Virtue Brothers and Co. 1805.

The Life and Works of We rgt000d. From his private corresp3ndenee and fami'y papers. With an introductory skeioh of the Art of Pottery in England. By Eliza SiVolard. London: :Hum and Blookett. VOL 1. as the Potteries has been the main seat in England of Ceramic Art. It is much to be regretted that so little has hitherto been done in the way of archreological research with regard to the special manufacture of the district, bat the Wedgwood Institute and Museum already referred to promises a better state of things. In the first or Celtic period of pottery, the specimens found in the Staffordshire district consist chiefly, as usual, of cinerary urns, drinking-vessels, and incense cups, anddiffer considerably f rom those of other districts both in construction and ornamentation—the great characteristic of the cinerary urns being a deep, overlapping rim, and a zigzag or " herring-bone " style of moulding. Next in point of interest to these are the incense cups, found in considerable numbers in Staffordshire and Derbyshire tumuli, and remarkable for variety of form. The evidence at present in existence of Roman in- fluence is singularly slight, and the traces of Anglo-Saxon pottery are naturally few, in consequence of the general dislike of that race to the use of clay for any purpose but that of sepulchral urns, nearly all their vessels for food and drink having apparently been constructed of metal, horn, glass, or wood. Distinctively Norman work is also comparatively scarce, though it is not easy to suppose that Norman potters could have been unaware of the qualities of Staffordshire clay. Throughout what may be termed the media3val period pitchers and jugs of great elegance and variety were produced in Staffordshire, and the frequency throughout the district of the name Telwright or Tilewright shows it to have been the main seat of the manufacture of the ornamental paving tiles so much in demand, now represented by the beautiful encaustic productions of Mr. Minton and others. In the sixteenth and seventeeth centuries the resources of the potteries were far more generally employed. Plates or platters of buff or reddish clay, with figures and ornaments laid in in different colours and thickly glazed are frequent in collections of works of the period. They were evidently regarded as important works of art, from the care which the maker always took to blazon his name in large size on the border. One of the best examples illus- trated by Mr. Jewitt is a plate nearly two feet in diameter bear- ing a half-length crowned portrait of Charles IL, and the name of Thomas Toft—the head apparently of a class of pot-making Tofts which exists to this day. A great branch of the manu- facture in these days was that of tygs, or drinking-cups, with two or more handles. Those with several handles were adapted for loving cups, each of three or four persons holding one handle. In 1670 we hear of the first legislative interference with the rising manufacture. Uttoxeter had for some time been recognized as the emporium of the Staffordshire butter trade, which was very considerable, and the sale was always effected in pots made at Burslem, and supposed to hold a certain quantity. They were roughly and irregularly made and porous. Room was thus given for all kinds of cheating and trickery, and in the year in question an Act was passed to regulate the construction of these pots. The history of the growth of the regular ale-house mug to its present character contains some rather curious passages. In the reign of Elizabeth one Garnet Tynes, a foreigner, had a monopoly for the importation of " pottes," and an English potter named Simpson proposed tope), double the custom duty in force on all he imported, and offered also "to drawe the making of such like pottes into some decayed town within this realm, wherebie many a hundred poore men may be sett a work." Conspicuous amongst the ale jugs of this period are the grey-beards, or Bellarmines, jugs originally made in the Low Countries as caricatures of the obnoxious Cardinal I3ellar- mine. The Cardinal was short, very corpulent, with a long grey beard and harsh features, characteristics easily rendered in a stone- ware ale jug. In 1626 a very curious patent was granted to two Englishmen who had shown that "not only the materialle, but also the arts and manufacture," might "be found out and pformed," whereby many " unproffetable people" might be set to work. They were vested with "the sole making of the atone potte, stone jug, and stone bottle," for fourteen years. In 1688 two brothers named Elers followed the Prince of Orange from Holland and set- tled in the Potteries. They possessed the art of making far finer pottery than had previously been seen in the district, and their whole time seems to have been spent in precautions against others obtaining possession of their secret. At last they over-reached themselves. A potter named Astbury- feigned idiotcy, and managed to get employed in moving the treadle of the wheel, and for two years kept up the appearance of one utterly unable to comprehend the simplest detail of the work. He was at length discharged without suspicion, and the man who had successfully simulated utter imbecility for so long, suddenly resumed his sanity with-such effect that he soon drove the brothers Elora from the field in disgust. There is a wonderful story told of how this

same Astbury hit upon the idea of mixing flint with clay for fine ware. It is said that on one occasion his horse went nearly blind, and that an ostler at the inn where he was staying applied the dust of a flint powdered whilst red hot. Astbury looked on, and

was struck with the whiteness of the powder and the clayey appear- ance it assumed in the horse's eyes, and turned his attention to experiments, which resulted on the general use of flint in many branches of pottery. This is recorded without comment by Mr. Jewitt, but is rather a trial for one's faith. We are inclined to regard it as a myth, constructed on the most approved classical model, reference being clearly made to a great discovery made by Astbury by means of throwing dust in somebody's eyes. Careful exegesis would doubtless explain why the brothers Elers are typi- fied by the horse.

We have briefly followed Mr. Jewitt through the sketch of pre-Wedgwoodite Staffordshire with which he prefaces his life of Josiah Wedgwood, and without which it would be impossible to understand the main facts on which his fame rests. It must always be borne in mind also that the pottery manufacture in Staffordshire had been for generations carried on by separate families or clans of potters, every member of which clung to the traditions of his own tribe. Foremost amongst them was the Wedgwood family. They had a clear pedigree from 1370, and seem to have constantly multiplied and replenished Staffordshire until 1588, when Gilbert Wedgwood married the heiress of the De Burslem family, owners of what now is the town of that name. A century later the Wedgwoods had grown into a caste of potters, keeping up blood relationships like Scotchmen, and apparently all prosperous. They threw out offshoots, too, which took root in other parts of the kingdom. A small colony settled in Yorkshire, and devoted themselves to plain brown ware, in which they carried on a profitable business for seven or eight generations. To come at once to the great man of the family, Josiah Wedgwood was born in 1780, and was the youngest of thirteen children, as, by the way, also was Sir Richard Arkwright, born two years later. Josiah therefore came in for a very small share of his father's property, and was bound apprentice to his eldest brother Thomas, " to learn his art, mistery, occupation, or employment of Throwing and Handleing." At the age of sixteen he suffered from the attack of small-pox which left him a cripple for life, and to which, as Mr. Gladstone put it, he was probably indebted for the brilliancy of his subsequent career. It prevented him from being the active, vigorous, English workman, "it sent his mind inwards, it drove him to meditate upon the laws and secrets of his art ; the result was that he arrived at a perception and a grasp of them that might perhaps have been envied, certainly have been owned, by an Athenian potter." Great credit is due to Mr. Jewitt for the labour he must have bestowed in unravelling the complicated web of Wedgwood's relations with the numerous other members of the tribe, his partnerships and dealings with uncles, brothers, and cousins, and in narrating the separate his- tory of all the more prominent junior branches of the Wedgwoods. He is even able to give every step of the descent from the com- mon stock by virtue of which Josiah Wedgwood's wife also "stood to him in the relation of seventh cousin," as Lord Westbury would say. She ultimately succeeded to a property of 20,0001., of invaluable use to Wedgwood. There is no industry in the world so liable to be starved for want of capital as pottery. There is much even in Wedgwood's earlier struggles, even up to the point -when his successful production of "Queen's ware" placed him out of danger. The saying that fire is a good servant but a bad master is as true as ever in the case of pottery. Wedgwood's first attempts at 'making porcelain for table use were one series of disasters —the labours of months often destroyed in a day. Wedg- wood had no Royal subsidizing patrons like those who encouraged pottery at Sevres and similar artificially forced manufactories.

Mr. Jewitt is evidently thoroughly acquainted with all the details of pottery in all its branches and an enthusiast in his sub- ject, but he does not forget to bring out fully the side of Wedg- wood's character not so immediately connected with his special industry, his advocacy of the Bridgewater Canal, to which, even as much as to his great discoveries, the Staffordshire Pot- teries owe their present vast prosperity, and his general zeal for everything calculated to enhance the prosperity of the district. How far this went is shown by his persistent refusal to take out patents--exceptin one exceptional instance—on the simple ground that lie did not wish to exclusively appropriate benefits which would spread increased prosperity throughout the entire district.

With regard to Wedgwood's exact position as an artist, Mr. Jewitt very wisely restricts himself to quotation from Mr. Glad- stone. He could not possibly have stated.the real force of Wecig-

wood's character more truly, certainly not so eloquently. Mr. Gladstone believed that if the day comes when England shall be as eminent in taste as in economy of manufacturing production, the result will be due to Wedgwood more than to any other man.

"His most signal and characteristic merit lay, as I have said, in the firmness and fulness of his perception of the true law of what we term industrial art, or in other words, of the application of the higher art to industry; the law which teaches us to aim first at giving to every object the greatest possible degree of fitness and convenience for its purpose, and next at making it the vehicle of the highest degree of beauty which compatibly with that fitness and convenience it will bear : which does not substitute the secondary for the primary end, but recog- nizes as part of the business the study to harmonize the two."