is a place to learn about 18th-century Wedgwood pottery
and dream about owning something very special.
All eyes were fixed on the Wedgwood vases
In 1792, King George III sent Lord Macartney on an embassy to the Qianlong Emperor to open up trade between Great Britain and China. The mission was a failure.
The embassy took the finest gifts for the emperor that Britain could muster including a planetarium, scientific instruments, lustres, Argand lamps, firearms, steel from Sheffield, clocks by Vulliamy, the finest textiles –
and a variety of Wedgwood jasper, including an original Portland vase.
According to the official account of the embassy, written by Lord Staunton in 1797, the Chinese were unimpressed with the fabulous gifts, considering “every object as a work of ordinary merit,” with one singular exception :
What pieces of Wedgwood’s jasper had so impressed the Qianlong Emperor’s court? Remarkably, a full listing survives in the records of the East India Company:
Lord Macartney himself also left an account of the presentation of the gifts, here taken from Helen H. Robbins, Our First Ambassador to China an Account of the Life of George, Earl of Macartney (London, 1908), pp. 278-83. Highlighted below in yellow are the words “Derbyshire porcelain vases.” We can excuse Lord Macartney for calling the Wedgwood jasper vases “Derbyshire porcelain vases,” for Wedgwood jasper vases is what he meant; no Derbyshire porcelain vases were taken on the embassy. And how marvelous it is to envision the whole scene, including the exact placement of the Wedgwood vases!
Follow us on Instagram @circa_1775
Learn more about Wedgwood in the eighteenth century through the letters
written by Josiah Wedgwood to his business partner, Thomas Bentley.
Each new letter will be posted 250 years to the day after it was written.
The next letter will be on October 13 when Wedgwood’s letters resume following Bentley’s month-long trip to Staffordshire.
September 11, 2021
On this date two hundred and fifty years ago, Josiah Wedgwood wrote the words below to his business partner Thomas Bentley. Wedgwood, from a long line of potters working in Burslem “the mother town of the Potteries” in Staffordshire and Bentley, a Liverpool warehouseman, had become close friends upon their first meeting in 1762. At the time of this letter, they had only recently begun their partnership for the manufacture and sale of ornamental pottery. Wedgwood writes from Etruria, the newly built factory town he was creating and the site of the manufacturing of ornamental wares, to Bentley who was then resident in London running the firm’s Chelsea decorating studio and, as time went by, was increasingly the face of the firm in fashionable London.
Etruria, 11th Septr. 1771.
I have wrote a line to you to day & sent it by a Good honest Presbyterian Parson, a Mr. Farrar of Edinburg, who married one of our Potters sisters & she has a sister who keeps the first China & Earthenware shop there & Mr. Farrar believes could sell a quty. of our ornaments which it seems are well known amongst the Nobility & Gentry there but there are no Vases at all sold in that City at present.
After telling Mr. Farrar the necessity of keeping the ornaments in a seperate Room &c &c if we shod. supply them I have referr’d him to you & to our Rooms to see the whole manufacture & our method of disposing of them. I believe the house will be safe to deal with at least it is a shop of long standing & may be as proper for us to put them into as any can be of that Class & seems to coincide with our ideas of extending our sale to other places for the rest we must each of us consider of the proposal till you come into Staffordshire which I now hope will be soon & shall not think of another letter finding you in London unless I am advis’d of the Contrary.
Etruria, 9th Septr. 1771.
I am very happy to know the Fawn colour’d articles are agreeable to your wishes. I believe they will sell, for all who have seen them here have fall’n in love with them. I wish you had sent me an acct. of the prices you have fixed them at. I have sold one of the least Teapots at 4/- & the Cream bucket & Ladle @2/- to Mrs. Gifford & we have others ordd. by different Persons & are prepareing more Clay for this kind of Ware.
I am glad to hear that you are receiging for Mr. Shoning’s adventure, & I wod. advise if it may yet be done to send parcels with all the letters he was so good to write us & for this plain reason that they cannot do much harm & may do a great deal of good, -you’l consider of it but in all your deliverations you’l be pleased to bear in mind, that as our proffits are – & we want nothing but sale for our goods – we may & should adventure boldly & this would naturally lead me to Mr. Brock’s proposal, but I must first ask you whilst it is in my head whether you have done anything towds. makeing the most of our excellent letter from Portugal? -“What would I do with it” -Why I wod. take it in one hand & Kent’s Directory in the other & shew it to every Portuguese Mercht. in London & tell them that we were introduceing a new manufacture at every Court in Europe & when we have done this they wod. be wanting to themselves & to the interests of their Country if they did not do the rest. -You know how to talk them over excellently upon the subject but I hear you at this distance crying out – where the D–l must the time come from. Why here now I apprehend is a finer opening for Mr. Brock than he could have in being nail’d down to any one place, & business enough too for any one man to be continually amongst the Merchts. shewing the Patterns, bringing them to the Rooms, taking their orders, & receiging their money. This is a first thought just come into my head as I go on writeing to you. If you think it worth the pains, mature it & give it existence. I do veryly believe that Mr Brock would in this way sell us five times the goods he could do in any other, & it might be either upon a fixed salary or a small commn. & upon this plan we do not increase our Warehouses, Stock, book keeping, cards & vexations after goods in a strange land &c &c but the whoe is still continued under our own eyes & as snugg as may be. -A tryal an immediate tryal of his may be made without either loss or risque. But at all events retain Mr. Brock. For if this hasty thought does not meet your approbation I have no doubt but we can think of something that will be of service to both Partys.
Etruria, 7th Septr. 1771.
I give you joy upon your very gracious reception with their Majesty’s & hope you have sown the seeds of a plentifull & rich harvest which we shall reap in due time
His Majesty does us great honour in recommending the Boy he has brought up to our service & we certainly cannot refuse anything from His Majesty’s hands, otherwise I do not think it very desirable to have a Boy with such connections in our work-shop to know the prices of our work &c &c – you will by this hint know my train of ideas upon the subject but I suppose you cannot avoid takeing him in & if so we must make the best we can of him.
Their Majestys are very good indeed! I hope we shall not lose their favour & may promise ourselves the greatest advantages from such Royal Patronage & the very peculiar attention they are pleased to bestow upon our productions. It was a good hint you gave them respecting their Portraits. I hope it will work & have its proper effect, & am fully perswaded a good deal may be done in that way with many of Their Majesty’s subjects, but we shod. if possible do in this as we have done in other things – begin at the Head first & them proceed to the inferior members. Though we have made a sort of begining that way here for Hackwood has been three times at Crew by Mrs. Crews particular desire to model the head of her son and heir. I told her he was quite a novice in Portrait modeling, but she wod. have him try his hand & I could not refuse her. -What he will make of it I do not know. I mentioned Bracelets rings & seals to her, with which she seemed much delighted, & to these I think we may add Gemms to be set in snuff box tops, such as the Cupid and Psyche &c. or a favourite head & I finished some of these ready for the oven yesterday. For snuff boxes and Bracelets, I mean.
We have company at the works allmost every day. On Wednesday we Sr. George Strickland & his Lady with her Father (a Mr. Freeman of Schute Lodge in Wilts) & her two Brothers. Mr. Freeman has travelled & is a man of Taste as you will be convinced when I tell you that he admires our works exceedingly but says as our materials are so fine & we execute so well we should to be complete spare no expence in having the finest things abroad model’d for us & mention’d a Man at Rome who for a smll commission would get them done for us. He is a great admirer of young Flaxman & has advised his Father to send him to Rome whic he has promised to do. Mr. Freeman says he knows young Flaxman is a Coxcomb, but does not think a bit the worse for it or the less likely to be a great Artist.
On Thursday Lord Mount Stuart with his Brothr. & Sr. Alexander Gilmour did us this honour of a visit. Sr. Alexander was very lavish in his praises. Ld. Mt. Stuart on the contrary in his haughty manner said everything was dear & that he had seen enough, & when his Bror. & Sr. Alexr. said our Vases exceeded the Antient ones in beauty & varienty -yes says his Ld.ship but we know that they are not Antiques, & that spoils them. -What a sentiment! is this the son of the Brittish Maecenas? For he deliver’d this as his real sentimts. & not as a too prevailing idea of other peoples which he feared might operate to the prejudice of modern Artists.
Yesterday a Mr. Gifford & his Lady call’d here & took a thorough view of the works & expressed great pleasure in what they say. Mr. Gifford is a Gentn. of very large fortune & lives near Wolverhampton. He told me he was going to build & shod. be a good customer for Bass reliefs both as furniture & to set in stucco. He said a great deal in praise of Mr. Adams as a man of Genius & invention & an excellent Architect & Mr. Freeman assured me that he knew Mr. Adams kept Modelers at Rome employed in copying Bas reliefs & other things for them & he thought a connection with them would be of great use to us.
Your sentiments respecting the impropriety of troubling Mr. H[amilton] in our affairs expecially pecuniary ones are too just, it was the only doubt I had about it. I wish it was not a money matter as I should rather have had an honourable testimony from such a Person as Mr. H in the conclusion of this business with our Antagonists than anything money can procure us. But it must not be in the way of an Umpire – that is clear as the sun – however you may I think acquaint hin with our Patt. The Reasons for our obtaining it &c. &c. & he may perhaps be led by soe delicate touches thrown out for that purpose to declare his sentiments upon the validity of the P–t & perhaps upon the utility of it too for that is no more than Majesty itself has condescended to do in our favour.
Mr. Sparrows, Newcastle, 2nd Septr. 1771.
I do not know whether you will approve of a step I have just now taken respecting our affair with Mr. Palmer. I am perswaded we shall stand as good a chance to have justice done us in London as in the Country, by any Persons they wod. consent to have as referees & umpire. Mr. Sparrow thinks you shd. get the bonds completed or have their refusal if possible before you leave London but if the whole could be done it wod. be better for as they now have full liberty to sell we have some reason to believe they mean to delay the conclusion as long as they can or to make a hit upon us in the choice of the third Person.
Etruria, 27th Augt. 1771.
I have read the Appendix to the last 6 months Reviews & admire some parts of it very much particularly the Review of Passerius. The writer seems to understand the subject tolerably well & speaks with great precision & very decisively of the difference betwixt Etruscan, Encaustic & modern Enamel painting & speaks very honourably of W. & B. on that subject. This wod. have come very appropos had our Tryal gone forwd. & will do us no harm as it is but perhaps you may have seen the whole if not I wod. wish you to give it the reading. If I knew the Author I should like to smoke a pipe with him though I confess I do not wish to know who the writer is for reasons which I do not need to point out to you.
A late Neighbour of mine has left two Orphans behind him who are now in London in hopes of finding employment, but they have not succeeded & do not know any one creature there. They are two Boys, one about sixteen years of age & the other fourteen. Their Grandfather has been with me this morng. & begs so earnestly that I wod. try to assist them in some way that I could not refuse promising him to write to you upon the subject & have sent them your direction in London to Mr. Ephraim Chatterley who will send them to you that you may see how you like them. Perhaps Mr. Rhodes may want an assistant or Colour-grinder, & as one of them can write & the Grandfather says is Devilish ingenious perhaps he might learn to edge plates, in which case he must come apprentice for 5 or 7 years. But the whole is left to yr. discretion when you see the Lads & if you cannot employ them or recommend the to any place I shod. be willing to bestow a few shillings upon them as you see occasion.
I shod. be glad if you wod. be so good to send my laced waistcoats down by the next waggon desiring Nanny to paper & pack them safe.
Pray how is the weather with you? We have had but one fair day here a long time & to day we have rain again. I should be very sorry to have our good friend Mr. Shonning & you here in dirty weather. -A half finished place in such weather being very uncomfortable.
Saturday Evening, 10th Augt. 1771.
I should have thanked my dear friend & thanked him again for his last good letters, upon which I have had a most excellent feast to-day, but just as I was sitting down to write I saw a carriage at the works which proved to be my worthy neighbours & friends Sr. Nigel Gresleys. They looked at the works & ware, were highly delighted with both, ordd. some vases, drank tea with us, & are just now departed. The visit has pleased me very much (though I could ill have spared the time) as I have not till now seen Sr. Nigel & his Lady since their misfortunes, & they have always shewn themselves very friendly to me & were ever ready to do me all the good offices in their power. I have indeed had many such friends. If I thought I deserved half of them I should be too vain & much prouder than I am.
This Marquis is an angel, & writes like a Cherubim & has made you a most glorious opening into his Country, which I make no doubt you will improve. Nothing could have been better contriv’d than to have such a letter and from such a personage to pass open through the Merchts. hands to us. Wod. you take less than another L1400 Commn. for this?
Mr. & Mrs. Wilbraham Bootle were here a few days since, they seem’d vastly pleased & were very civil & polite, three or four of his Daughters accompanied them & fine Lasses they are. I am to dine with them next week at Rhode & see what ornaments will be suitable for a bookcase there.
Etruria, 8th July 1771.
You know what we said upon the subject of Queens ware at the Instalation, but I think a little push farther might be still made with due decorum, as it is more than possible that though Mrs. Shevelinberg might not think proper to mention the affair to the K or Q herself, yet she might have no objection to our doing it, if it could be brot. in when we were in the Presence on another occasion. -This opportunity you will have with the Tablets, & I wish you would consult Mrs. Sh-g when you see her on Thursday with the Edged pattern about the propriety of its being mention’d to their Majestys, & likewise my desire of having the honour of being Potter to the P- of W. And as my not being P to His M- is given as a reason for my not servg. the Instalation, & there is no such honorary title at present I think it wod. not be amiss just to mention that circumstance to Mrs. Shev-g & hear what she says upon it.
Etruria, 15 June 1771.
Mr. Hales is this moment come to me from Mr. Palmer to acquaint me that he wod. agree to my Proposal for an accommodation. I am now going to Hanley to take a bond of indemnity, or what is necessary on Mr. Neals acct. to insure him to decide to the treaty as agreed by us.
Etruria, 13th June 1771.
Last night Mr. Palmer & I smoked our pipes together at Newcastle & discuss’d the subject of the Patent.
Mr. P said he would have given up makeing the P-t ware at first if he had been applied to before the actn. was commenc’d, nay more he declar’d if I had told him of my P-t for the Vases, & desir’d him not to make them he would never have attempted them but he thought himself Ill used by the commencemt. of the action without any previous notice, & as he had proceeded so far he was determin’d to proceed at all events. He own’d he had much rather compromise the matter for several reasons – he did not like to have a Law suit with one who had done so much service to the trade &c &c nor did he like to spend his money in Law at all if it could be avoided – And if he cast us (which he was very sure of doing) though he won the cause he should lose the trade as he well knew that if the P-t was laid open & the ware made common it would be good for nothing to any body.
His chief argument was, in substance, that the same effect had been produced by different means. I told him I could say nothing to so positive an assertion, but that it was incredible to me, that such a thing shod. be done, & neither myself nor any person we had spoke to upon the subject shod. have seen or heard of it before but if we had committed such a blunder as to take out a Pat-t for an invention which was then in practice, we must abide by the conequences. I then made the following proposals, -That the suit betwixt us shod. be dropp’d, -That each should pay their own costs, -That Mr. P- shod. be admitted a sharer in the P-t & that it shod. be left to reference what he shod. pay for his share of the P-t & I observ’d that he might percieve by these proposals the aversion we had to being in a statue of litigation with a neighbour – & how highly we valued his friendship, & indeed after this I should not wonder much if he did think our cause a weak one.
Newcastle 30th May 1771.
I do not know whether I told you the result of our meeting of Potters at Newcastle. They have all promis’d to be very good, keep up their prices, & we are to have a weekly meeting, & to be very sociable & harmonious together. Our first meeting is today & I have at their request drawn up a sort of preamble & a few articles to bind us together. I wih to send a copy of them for yr. correction if we do not sign today, but your letter & what I had wrote correspond as exactly, as if we had been consulting together upon the subject – nay some parts were literally the same. But this is nothing new, though my wife thought it a little strange.
15th May 1771.
This is chiefly to tell stories of my Wife – Wod. you think my dear friend, she could have serv’d me so slippery a trick, After my waiting here so long to recieve a certain present, that she should bring it forth in my absence, when I had only turn’d my back of home for a few momts. without thinking anything of the matter. I left her at near 8 last night, to go for an hour to our Club, quite well as usual, came home before ten, & just as I came into the house, little Tom, (for so they call him) came into the world, & a very fine lad they tell me he is, a month old at least and all are well as can be expected.
Now my Dear frd. I wait your commands, but as the injunction is not taken off & our cause cannot be brot. on soon do let me stay as long as ever you can for I have a great many & very important affairs in hand. The building of my works, & cannot get hands – The pointg. of my house & cannot get these men of Pickfords to do their business either decently or to stand, & there is a half a doz. of them. A Gang of sunk fence makers & levelers &c &c that nothing scarcely in the world, but this P–t business shod. divert me from Etruria this summer.
Dr. Darwins two sons, & Mr. & Mrs. Willets just come in.
Adieu & believe me ever yrs.
8th May 1771.
I have many good letters & things to thank my Dear Friend for, if I had time, but what with Bricklayers, Masons, Carpenters, Joiners, Road makers, levelers, planters, Farmers, Potters, & Vasiers, I am like a certain Animal betwixt some hundred bundles of hay or so. -To say the truth, I scarcely know which way to turn my head first, & if I sit down to write a line, a hundred of folks are wanting me. I sometimes reach Burslem once a week, but cannot do that every week, & now, indeed, we have no clay for them to work upon.
I meet Mr. Palmer at our Society & other places frequently, & we are, or seem to be very sociable & friendly nobody would imagine we are over head & ears in Law together, & the People star’d abundantly at our walking & talking together so cordially yesterday at the opening of a Bowling Green – A Neighbour joind us & said what a pity it wa that two such Men (I am only repeating anothers words remember) should be at variance & throw our money away amongst people who did not know anything of the cause they were to decide, & that nobody could do it so well as ourselves if we could find in our hearts to talk to one another upon the subject. -We look’d at each other, I believe, very foolishly for some time & I was oblig’d to break silence at last by declareing that our suit at Law had not made any breach in my friendship for Mr. Palmer, & he declar’d to the same purpose with respect to me. I added, that I believ’d our business could not now be decided any otherways than by Law otherwise I did ot believe we were either of us so fond of spending money in Law, as to do it for the sake of spending money. ‘Here we were reliev’d by others coming towards us, so we walked off together talking upon indifferent subjects, & went to dinner, but I rather expect the subject will some time or other be brot. upon the tapis at our Society. -What shall I say if it is?
Etruria, 21 & 22nd Aprl. 1771.
This Russn. trade comes very oppertunely for the usefull ware, & may prevent me lowerg. the prices here, though it may perhaps be expedient to lower the price of the Tableplates to 4/- pr. doz. in London, as our people are lowering them to 2/3 of 2/- here – Mr. Baddeley who makes the best ware perhaps of any of the Potters here, & an Ovenfull of it per Diem has led the way, & the rest must follow, unless he can be prevail’d upon to raise it again, which is not at all probable, though we are to see him tomorrow, about a dozn. of us, for that purpose. They (these Potters), call’d upon me yesterday to consult with me upon this dilemma, & we are to have a meeting at Newcastle tomorrow – Mr. Baddeley has reduc’d the prices of the dishes to the prices of white stone viz. 17 inches for 16d. 16 inches @14d. &c. In short the General trade seems to be going to ruin on the Gallop – large stocks on hand both in London & the Country, & little demand. The Potters seem sensible of their situation, & are quite in a pannick for their trade, & indeed I think with great reason, for low prices must beget a low quality in the manufacture, which will beget contempt, which will beget neglect, & disuse, and there is an end of the trade.
But if any one Warehouse, distinguish’d from the rest will continue to keep up the quality of the Manufacture, or improve it, that House may perhaps keep up its prices, & the general evil will work a particular good to that house, & they may continue to sell Queens ware at the usual prices when the rest of the trade can scarcely give it away. This seems to be all the chance we have & we must double our dilligence here to give it effect. The same Idea may be applied to Ornaments, & the crisis in which a foreign vent for our goods will be of the most singular service to us, is, whilst the General Manufacture is degradeing, & the particular one improving ’till the difference is sufficiently apparent to strike the most common purchacers; & that crisis seems to be now at hand, which I am very sorry for, but it seems to be inevitable; for I am certain the Potters cannot afford to work their goods in a Masterly manner, & sell them at the prices they now do, & they will very probably go lower still – I have been thus tedious, & particular on this subject to you, that you may be insens’d of the particular utility of joining heartily in our good Patroness’s proposal at this time even though we shod. be obliged to run some considerable risque in the adventure.
I think what Mr. Weldon says respecting the taste of the Russians is natural & may be depended upon, but then we have been told that they have money & will be led in matters of taste.
The gilt Desert ware will want some repairs before it is fit to send so long a Voyage. When the gold becomes in a loose state, so as to be easily rubbd. off the ware, we have found bakeing over again to secure it very well, but you have neither oven, or anybody to manage it. I think you shod. get an oven built in the Kitchen, you have old Crates to heat & Jas. Bakewell could shew Nanny, soon, how to manage it for Gilt ware, or suppose I was to send you a Gilder – I have none but Women, & good natur’d ones too – They wod. do very well in your house perhaps, & you may if you find necessary procure a gilder in Town, who may, undr. the directn. of Bakewell repair anything which you find deficient – if an Oven is of a proper heat for bakeing household bread, it is for our gilt ware.
Leicester, Monday noon, Aprl. 18
We want an anatomical figure, wch. I shod. have bot. & I think you shod. send us by the next waggon half the Vols. of Count Caylus & some of yr. other good books for Mr. Denby & us to study after. It will encourage & have a good effect upon him & I hope will not be lost upon any of us. At present these matters are unequally divided, you have all the fine books we are possess’d of, besides your access to the cabinets & Librarys of good friends, and we who are at a distance from all these good things of our frds. have next to nothing of our own to refresh & enliven our ideas of the beautifull antique.
Etruria, 17th Aprl. 1771
Yes, I will come to your assistance as soon as I can, but that time must depend upon an event which we cannot command, it may be a week, or it may be three or four weeks, for I do not hear of any symptoms denoteing the time to be immediately at hand, but I hope you will not want me much before I shall be ready to attend you.
Our frd. Mr. Bent, who is likewise an intimate frd. of Mr. Palmers, took occasion to observe to me that he was very sorry on all our accts. that we were in a way of spending so much money in Law, in which sentimt. I join’d with him, & said we did not wish it even to our Antagonists, if it could have been avoided, but he knew our situation, & I did not know how we could consistently avoid protecting our property in the way we were endeavouring to do it – He said it was very true, he shod. have done the same himself, Mr. P had said the same thing, & therefore did not owe us any illwill for what we were doing – but Mr. Bent said he wish’d it could be compromis’d to both our satisfactions, & observ’d that he thought Mr. Palmer wod. not be averse to it. I shod. wish to hear your general idea of a compromise – whether admisable at all in our situation, & if so upon what terms?
The book you mention must be the School of Arts, a small book abot. 100 years old, probably the first book publish’d upon the subject of Enameling in England. I have seen this book about twenty years since, but have totaly forgot everything relateing to the receipts it contains, & therefore cannot say how near they may approach to our P–t colours – Suppose you try to get one of these books. The Elaboratory, the book you suppose they mean, has not been publish’d a quarter of a Centy. I believe – I have it somewhere & will look at the Conts.
Etruria, 17th Aprl. 1771
What shall I say to this good Lady – Her Goodness to us beggars all thanks – you will see Mr. Jackson, & settle matters with him & then you will have much more matter to write to our Noble Patroness upon, than I have at present, and there is no impropriety in you writing, (say Wedgwood & Bentley) upon this occasion, so I shall trust to you for this time.
I suppose after Lady Cathcarts very strong recommendation of Mr. Porter we must send a quty. of goods at all events whether the Compy. choose to take them here at their own risque, or not, but I know we are both perfectly agreed to sell them here if possible though we were to make a larger allowance on that acct.
Etruria, 8th April 1771
I observe what you say respecting Hutchins, & if there was no other consequence to be apprehended from raising his wages pr. week there would not be much in it, but I apprehend that Wilcox & the other hands will follow his example if he succeeds, but of this probability you are a better judge than I am & perhaps it may be better to risque these consequence than to part with Hutchins. Wod. his working piece work be a better plan? At all events I think you may tell him that you have observ’d he has not got so much work out of his hands as you know him capable of doing, & that if he has more money he must do more work for it, & I imagine that that will be agreeable to him, for provided he may be suffer’d to earn more money I believe he wod. be content to work some over hours for it, & if so that wod. take away the objection I first mention’d. -Suppose, however, you were to propose somthing of this sort to him as a mode of his geting more money ’till I come to Town, & when he is once got into a way of doing it I dare say he will proceed in the same track.
Etruria, 3rd April 1771
I wrote to my Dear Friend on Monday, since then I have had two good nights sleep, am quite rid of my cold & very well in health again.
We drew a Bisket Kiln of very good Vases on Monday, nearly all black ones, with some Teapots &c. We have not fired quite so hard this time, I had order’d them to be a little easier on acct. of the first being crooked, & other accidents attending a hot fire, but I find nevertheless many of the feet warped, though they (the men that placed them in the oven) assure me that the Vases were set as straight as they knew how, with all the care they could take, to set them. There is a way in which I believe they may be made with slender & yet straight feet, & that is to make & fire them separate, & afterwards fix the Vase, foot, & plinth together by a pin, screw & nut, & I believe in this way they may be made to hold water by putting a piece of leather betwixt the screwhead & the bottom of the inside of the Vase. There are objections to this method, but as we must fire our Vases ’till they become allmost glass, & are therefore in a very soft state in the oven, I do not know any other method of preventing our having many crooked footed ones.
Etruria, 1st April 1771
I went a stage farther after parting with you at Barnet, & lay at Brickhill, from thence I got to Stone about ten O’Clock the next evening 99 miles, & breakfasted with my wife at Etruria on Sunday morning. I was most thoroughly starv’d in some of their bad, open Chaise, in the morng.. & Eveng., in consequence of which I have been either agueish, or feverish, I hardly know which since I came home, my head has been very Ill all the last night, but I am much better today & hope a good nights rest will set me to rights again.
Etruria, 13th March 1771
I must now trouble my Dear Friend to procure me some Clay to work upon, or we must give over work or make bad ware, which is worse, for Mr. Hyde of Pool does not send me any & we have scarcely any left. It is Pool Clay I want. The price I believe is from 10 or 12 to 14/- pr. Ton at the Wharfe, but let the price be what it will I must have it. My Clay comes from the Island of Purbeck, but is nevertheless call’d Poole Clay. I wod. rather what you buy came from the same place if possible, but if that cannot be obtained, the Best Poole Clay of any other sort must do.
Etruria, 23 Feb., 1771
I have your favour of the 21st enclosg. a part of the morng. Chronicle, but the same paper of Anti- was in the St. James’s Chronicle, & I suppose most, or all the other papers. They seem to rant, and rave, just as our Burton, & other Antagonists did in the Navigation cause & as nothing distress’d & puzzled them like our long silence in that case, so I suppose it will have the same effect in this & I hope we shall not want Facts & Reasons to sum up the whole at last, agreeable to our wishes, or agreeable to truth & Equity which I think is the same thing
Our Antagonists are moving Heaven & Earth, or rather, if you please, endeavouring to kick up a deal with the Pottsellers in London, & the Pottmakers here perswading them to join one & all in their cause against us with exactly the same arguments as Anti- is possessing in the minds of the Public with, & that if I succeed in this attempt, I shall next get a Patent for some new kind of usefull ware, to the destruction of the whole Manufactory! With the former class (Pottsellers) I could not expect any quarter, & how the latter may stand affected I do not know. It is natural to suppose that the noninventors wod. wish to have every invention laid open for their emolument when it is once made.
Perhaps I might be able to get a declaration sign’d by some of the most sensible & disinterested Potters that the Patt. wod. not injure the Trade &c &c But if this step is not very necessary I wod. rather be excus’d. I have been acquainted today only with their intentions respecting the Potters at large joining them, & as they stick at nothing, true or false, there is no knowing what notions they may fill the heads of the ignorant multitude with here, for ignorant People we have some, even amongst us, both Masters & journeymen.
I have given this second paper of Antipuffs a second readg. which it will scarcely bear. There is a great falling off & a very evident want of matter.
The falsehood of their Vases being better than ours might be contradicted by somebody who had seen both, without our answerg. at all. I should imagine that Antiquaries, Connisseurs & Artists are the only proper persons to prove that no such painting as ours has been done in Europe since the time of the Etruscans & consequently that our Patent is founded upon a real invention. Mr. Stewart, Mr. Dalton, Dr. Chauncey, Mr. Chambers, Mr. Morse, Mr. White in New Gate St. or any such Gentn. of establish’d Character wod. certainly be the best evidences we could have. I will speak to Mr. Stewart, & you may do as opportunity & your own prudence directs.
Etruria, 20th Feb., 1771
Thank my Dear Friend for his final decision respecting Antipuffado. I had no objection to a short answer, something perhaps betwixt what we had each thought of, but as you are of opinion, that it will be best to treat it with silent contempt, I acquiesce, but I cannot help observeing, that the first part of our letter describes the situation of my mind so exactly, as well as your own, that I often think we shall spoil each other for ever acting separately again. I feel the same irresolution steal upon me in other matters, & nothing but the distance betwixt us, & my natural aversion to writing prevents your being troubled with many a thing which only requires a moments thought and resolution to determine; for I can scarcely bring myself to think anything finally determin’d without haveing your opinion to guide my resolution upon it in the case now before us, we must again try our united strength, & if matters are as our Antagonists give out, there is occasion for it all.
I hope we shall not stand in need of a Master Potter for an Evidence, it will be very expensive, & I do not know who to ask that wod. come freely, & do us any good. Do you think our Antagonists, & their Attorney are weak enough to give out their real, & strongest arguments, or do they mean to throw out a Tub. If our case has any weak part & we do not hear of there touching upon it, we must nevertheless imagine they know all, & guard ourselves everyway, & even try all the arguments we can think of to find out any flaw which may at present be hid from ourselves, or out Attorney. But I do not care for saying too much by letter, as I do not think our Country post Offices in general are the most sacred places in the world.
Etruria, 16th Feb., 1771
I am very sorry to hear of the Death of Mr. Percy, & sympathize with you very sincerely on the loss of so worthy & amiable a friend. His poor widow must be in great distress, but I know you will do all in your power to comfort & assist her, -God only knows which of us may next stand in need of the like support from our surviveing friends.-
I wrote to you in my last concerning Busts. I suppose those at the Academy are less hackney’d & better in General than the Plaisters shop can furnish us with; besides it will sound better to say – This is from the Academy, taken from an Original in the Gallery of &c &c than to say, we had it from Flaxman & I suppose you must have these in moulds or not at all; so we must be content to have them as we can, & as Oliver, as a plaister figure maker, in selling the moulds, transfers his business likewise to us he must be pd. handsomely for them. I shod. like to keep one hand constantly at Busts if you could dispose of them. The Marquis of R[ockingham] has some divine Busts, one you may remember is actually speaking. If he wod. lend you some either to mold in Town or send down here. I think Mr. Olivers method is to take a mold, then prepare that mould & cast a plaister one out of it, from which he makes what shod. be a working mould for us, & this long process makes them come so dear. When he takes any casts from Busts for us, let us have the original mould, & that shod. not often be more than from 10/6 to a Guinea, & pay him well too.
How do you think, my dear Friend, it happens that I am so very poor, or at least, so very needy as I am at this present time, when it appears by the accts. that I clear money enough by my business to do allmost anything with. The nett proffits of last year appeard by the accts. in which I cannot find any errors to be upwards of £4000 in the Burslem works only & yet I have not money to pay my debts & unless something extra can be done in collecting, must borrow money for that purpose! Indeed I find a vase increase in stock this last year, there is upwards of £4000 in London & 12 or £1500 here & in Liverpool, which is too much by one half & must be diminished some way or other. I do not know how the sales run for this year, but observe that in Novr. & Decr. last they were not sufficient to pay wages, abot. £500 only in 7 weeks? – This seems to point out advertiseing, & if you think you can by the Purple enamd. & other things, make an adequate shew, so that those who come in consequence of the advertisement may not be disappointed & charge us with puffing I will certainly do it. All trifleing objections vanish before a real necessity. The Ordrs. from Russia this spring may do great things, but we have a very full work, & can spare much, besides supplying the Warehouse, unless the sales increase abundantly. I wish you wod. speak to John Wood, or any of them to let me have by every Saturdays or Mondays post the amot. of the precedeing weeks sales in two lines. I think so much may easily be done as I do not want it so correct as to make any entry from it, & it will give me great satisfaction.
12th Feb., 1771
My Dear Friends kind letter convinceth me more & more that Antipuffadoes letter is the best puff we have had from any of our well-wishers & I hope he will occasionally favour us with his lucubrations. But should not we seem a little nettled & provoked to induce him to take up his pen again, for if he thinks his writing is of service to us he will certainly be silent. You mention his letter as a foundation for my advertising. How wod. you introduce the mention of it into an Advertisement? & wod. not that be giving it too much consequence, & seem something like a bravado or puffing in the very face of our friend Anti–Whether the time & circumstance wod. not seem affectedly joined together I mean. Since I wrote to you yesterday I have thought we might possibly offend the Gentn. who meant to do us a friendly office by celebreateing our productions, in joining him in our reply without any distinction with the Man who meant to do us an injury. This you’l please to consider & act as you think proper.
Etruria, 11th Feb., 1771
I have had Mr. Pickford with me yesterday, & all day today, till this moment, & have not time now to answer your last kind favour including Mr. Antipuffado; but could not let the post go without thanking you for sending me the paper & interesting yourself so cordially in my behalf. I think Antipuffado a clever sort of a fellow, & would not say any thing in reply that should anger or prevent his writing again, for I think he will do us more good than any real puffs we could have contrived. I am well pleased too that I am not cut up & mangled by the hands of a dull rogue. He shews himself too plainly (for his own credit I mean) by being so waspish & angry in the middle of his paper, but that is so much the better for me. The beginning & end are in my opinion by much the best parts but the whole is clearly above the professors abilitys see his own Advertisement of Ornamental Architecture &c as a proof. But he may have given the materials to a better hand & this seems I think to have been the case. I should have no objection to the Public being acquainted in some way or other that I have not directly or indirectly been concerned in the publication of these or any other paragraphs upon the subject except the advertisements with my name affixed. What you have been so good as to send me would be a proper reply, but in my present way of thinking I would not repeat the word puffing. It would give me the idea of a person pelting & fuming in repeating a pointed word so often after another who had been abusing; besides I would not methinks take such direct notice of any words or mode of expression made use of by Antipuffado but I have not time to consider or say much upon this subject at present, & leave the whole to my dear friend, & beg he will do & say just what he thinks proper. Mr. W. or J.W. being at a great distance from town did not hear till within this day or two that he has had the honor of being extravagantly praised & abused in the Public Papers, & as both the praise & abuse may be considered by some as different modes of pursuing the same end, he thinks it his duty publickly to disavow his having had any concern directly or indirectly in publishing either the one or the other. I dont quite like the above J.W. but put my thought into this form as the clearest way of shewing you my ideas on this point.
I think the answer should be grave, too short to be dull & as little pointed to any of Antipuffado’s witticisms on particular expressions as possible.
Farewell my dear frd. all things shall work together for good &c
Etruria, 11th Feb., 1771
I thank my Dear Friend for the good news he so frequently sends me of the visits he recieves from the great, that most People are pleas’d with what they see, & many buy. May the latter increase daily, that our stock may diminish a little, for I fear it is much too large, & nothing but a foreign market as you observe will ever keep it within any tolerable bound.
Do not the East India ships begin to sail, or at least take in their Loading soon. Pray try to ship some of our Vases with them & send Mr. Shonens orders away before the people are all displac’d or dead which they are going to.
Etruria, 23rd Jany., 1771
Your good letter of the 21st requires a word or two respecting the Application from the India Compy. which as the subject strikes me, upon the first thoughts shod. not be complyd with for several reasons.
In the first place I shod. by selling single patterns give away without any adiquate compensation the result of several years study & application, & many hundred pounds expence, & in the next place it wod. not only be merely giving so much away, but it wod. be giving it to the greatest possible disadvantage, both National & Personal, for which reason I wod. much rather sink the Articles in the Thames, than send them to China. These are my ideas at present; but if upon knowing more of the business you think otherwise, you will oblige me by acting just in what manner you think best.
I am much oblig’d to my good friend for the honor he does me, in dubbing me Generalissimo, & though I am sensible how much his kind partiallity over rates my powers in War, yet if he thinks my assistance necessary I am allways ready to fight by his side, & he has only to command his affecte. frd. & hble. servt.
Etruria, 23rd Jany., 1771
We are making some Sphynx Tripods with the Pestals, & some more Greek & Roman heads, & Lamps of various sorts, but new Articles of any kind which must be ornamental as well as usefull move very slowly in their first processes. -John Wood writes for drawings of the Vases, but who must make them? we have nobody that can draw a line. If you wod. make some for yourselves we wod. thank you, though Mr. Cox has put some such things in our book as he can know them by, but such articles will not pass in London; so provide for yourselves at least, if you do not assist us.
The frost is leaving us, & will leave us a miserably dirty Country; for our roads were in a shocking condition before the frost, & will now be much worse. Your Gravel defies every change, & every thing & keeps you upon Terra Firma let the weather be what it will, whilst our mire & Clay – but happily my paper is at an end & will not allow me to complain.
Etruria, 21st Jany., 1771
We are much obliged to our good friend Mr. Shonen I beg my respectfull Compts. to him & thank you for the gratifiction of my curiosity in sending me the Daily Advertiser. The article is not much amiss, but I hope the good People of England will not imagine we are the Authors of these puffs, though it has (with me) so much the appearance of it, that in any other instance (besides this of ourselves) I shod. allmost venture to swear that the Manufacturer & Puffer were one & the same.
I am told this morng. that Palmer set out for London again yesterday, & has taken his head Enameler (Baker, late of Liverpool) along with him. He says the tryal comes on the 26th. inst. & is very confident of succeeding against us. Another of his intended pleas is, that our Patent is not founded upon a new invention, but upon an improvement only, & they do not fear, if this shod. fail them, of proving that our Patent will be a detriment to trade.
These you will percieve, are points which Mr. Neale & I have discuss’d in an amicable manner before, how they may stand in Court I know not. If you must have me to London to attend this tryal I hope you will give me timely notice to prepare my business here before I set out.
Etruria, 13th Jany., 1771
I have several good letters to thank my dear frd. for, which I shod. have done before now, but I have been extremely busy for a week past in making a general review of all my experiment pitchers, & writing to such as were not wrote to, & have not yet completed this tedious jobb. As I am making new experimts. with several difft. objects in view, I thought it wod. be best to take this general review, to see what I had done & I do not repent the trouble, though it has been no little to look over 1,000 experiments, & compare them with their respective registers, -with each other &c &c – Some of my present views are – first To make a white body, succeptible of being colour’d & which shall polish itself in burning. Bisket To make a black body, that shall shrink little or none in burning. To make a black & a red body as light as can be consistent with other necessery qualitys. I have made some progress in these matters & hope to conquer the remaing. difficultys – in due time. The first will enable us to make wonderfull pebbles & other fine things – The next to make Tablets & figures &c without cracking, & the third to make real Antiques you know. We have fram’d one of the Herculaneum pictures & I think it looks very well.
I have neither heard from nor wrote to my dear Friend this year, which methinks is a long silence on both sides. -Permit me to begin this letter by wishing you, & the good Ladies under your Roof many happy years, replete with every good thing your hearts can wish. -We have hitherto had a very dirty Christmass, rain, wind, frost, snow & every sort of weather in the twenty four hours: but these are matters you know little of in the Town, comparatively with us at Etruria. -Unshelter’d & Bleak as we are, not a blast, or drop of rain escapes us. But we now comfort ourselves that summer will return, & with it every rural beauty & pleasure to us poor Villagers. In the meantime you will be so good to let us know what is going forwd. in the Great World. -How many Lords and Dukes Visit your rooms, praise your beauties, thin your shelves, & fill your purses; & if you will take the trouble to acquaint us with the daily ravages made in your stores, we will endeavour to replenish them.
We are every day suffering more disgrace at Mr. Boltons from some of my first Vases which I made him a present of & they now stand as a specimen of our Vases compar’d, as they must be by all his company, with those of Soho! I could not bear this situation, & the odious comparisons they must give rise to, & the only plausible way of removing them was to offer to replace them, which I did, with Etruscan painted ones. They have a Clock for a middle piece so they will want 2 side & 2 end ones. The room is small & the Chimney piece not large. The present Vases are the two middle size Chetwynd Vases & 2 Orfords Creamcolour, Engine lathed and gilt, such as you have now stow’d in the Garrat out of the way, & such a situation Mrs. Boulton has promis’d me for hers when we send her better.
Please direct for me near Newcastle & not near Stone.
The Cranberrys shod. be distributed in time for old Xmass – to Mrs. Wright – Mrs. Noades – Mrs. Blake. I dont know who else.
Etruria 24th Decr., 1770
I am glad to hear you have waited upon her Royal Highness the Princess Dowager, though her commands are not great at present, ’tis good to have an opening, & to be known, the former may increace, & the latter cannot hurt us …
I need not tell you that I had a most agreeable journey home. We breakfasted at Oxford on Friday (to gain which we rode 20 miles in the Dark on Thursday evening) & had an high feast in looking over the Collection of Paintings & Drawings at Christ Church, I mean a few of them for there are an immence number of drawings! enough to take up a summers week to run them over. This we had leave to do & to offtrace any of them. I saw but few Vases, that I had not seen before, but suppose there are many more, & some I saw were new, & very good. -The next morning we breakfasted at Woodstock looked over the fine paintings at Blenheim with which, accompanied with my companions learned remarks I was equally delighted & edifyed. We lay at Warwick that evening tho’ it was late before we got there, & on Sunday we dined at Soho where we stay’d ’till Tuesday morning & in the evening after leaving my fellow traveler at Wolseley bridge I was stopped all night at Stone by the flood. -But I must now take you back a moment to Blenheim to tell you how exceedingly civil Mr. Turner was to us (you know the inference we have so often drawn upon these Phenomena) & at our coming away he told me that his Grace on mentioning the Cranberrys I had sent to the Duchess said that perhaps I did not choose to make any charge of them & order’d him (Mr. Turner) to send me some Venison. I beg’d leave to return my best thanks to his Grace & accepted his favour & promis’d to let Mr. Turner know when & where to send it. So Mr. Stewart & I have promis’d ourselves a merry meeting with you & some of our friends in Town over a Hanch but in the meantime pray see if there is any acct. of these Cranberrys in the books agt. his Grace & Cr. the Acct. by V-n.
Mr. Boulton has promis’d to make us some branches such as I have fixed upon, & amongst other things shew’d me some bodys & necks made of Porcelaine colour’d green to be mounted in Or moleau for Tea Kitchens, but he wished we wod. make him some of them in Etruscan painted ware which I promis’d to do, one of which Mr. Stewart has bespoke for Mrs. Montague instead of a plated one he was to order for her. They have 35 Chacers at work & will have a superb shew of Vases for the spring but believe he has not yet determin’d upon the mode of sale. He has spoke to Mr. Adams for Rooms at Adelphi & professes a good deal of pleasure that we were likely to be such near neighbours, but Mr. Stewart has put us both off ’till he shews us a ground plan of the houses he mention’d which is to be in a few days, they are in the front of Adelphi, betwixt & the Strand the very houses Mr. Adams’s want to purchace to complete their plan. I was sorry to hear this as it may have disagreeable consequencies betwixt Mr. Stewart or Mr. Adams & us – But this must be left to time & circumstances.
Mr. Stewart & I debated the matter at full length whether it wod. or wod. not be best for both partys that Boulton & Fothergill, & Wedgwood & Bentley shod. have their shew rooms near to each other, or if this alliance wod. throw an advantage into either scale which wod. have it.
We agreed that those customers who were more fond of shew & glitter, than fine forms, & the apperance of antiquity wod. buy Soho Vases, & that all who could feel the effects of a fine outline & had any veneration for Antiquity wod. be with us. -But these we were afraid wod. be a minority; a third class were therefore call’d in to our aid, compos’d of such as wod. of themselves choose shewy, rich & gaudy things, but who wod. be overruled by their betters in the choices of their ornaments as well as other matters; who wod. do as their Architects, or whoever they depended upon in matters of taste directed them; & with this reinforcement we thought Etruria stood a pretty good chance with any competitor; but when it was recollected that to all this we could add richness & splendour equal perhaps, if not superior to water gilding, the odds were clearly in our favour, & we decided accordingly, but left the question open to be more thoroughly discuss’d by the learned & very able Triumvirate at Chelsea whose decision we shall be glad to know in due time.
I hope the Ladys increase in their learning & will furnish you with many quotations out of their beloved Count Caylus to embelish the History of the Art of Pottery . . .
I am inform’d that Mr. Palmer will stand tryal with us & says that his Vases are not made in imitation of ours but from a book publish’d abroad which they have bought & this I suppose will be one of their strongest pleas against us.
I forgot to tell you that Mr. Boulton was making an immense large Tripod for Mr. Anson to finish the top of Demosthenes Lanthorn building there from Mr. Stewarts design. The Legs were cast & weigh’d about 5 Cwt. but they (the workmen) stagger’d at the bowl, & did not know which way to set about it. A Council of the workmen was call’d & every method of performing this wonderfull work canvass’d over. They concluded by shaking their heads, & ended where they begun. I then could hold no longer but told them very gravely they were all wrong – they had totally mistaken their Talents & their metals. Such great works should not be attempted in Copper or in Brass. They must call in some able Potter to their assistance, & the work might be completed. -Would you think it? they took me at my word & I have got a fine jobb upon my hands in consequence of a little harmless boasting. -Mr. Stewart said he knew Mr. Anson wod. glory in having the Arts of Soho, & Etruria united in his Trypod & that it wod. be a feather in our Caps which that Good Gentleman would delight in taking every opportunity to shew to our advantage. So the matter stands at present, but Mr. Boulton, Mr. Darwin & I are to dine with Mr. Anson on New-years day & shall then talk the matter over again . . .
Adieu – yrs. affectionately
It is hard, but then it is glorious to conquer so great an Empire with raw, undisciplin’d recruits. What merit must the General have who atchieves such wonders under such disadvantageous circumstances. The Glory, & honour my friend is yours & as the desert is to be decorated with Vases I hope it will lay the foundation for your emolument too. To add still to your Bays I send you two more Recruits on Monday, Barrat, & Glover. I believe they will learn in time, but you must have patience with them. They walk it to London, & I allow them 12s each besides their wages. Barrat has 12s. say twelve shillings per week, 4 of which is to be pd. to his wife by Mr. Boardman in Liverpool & the other 8 he is to recve. with you, the other is hired for 3 years at – I forget what, but will let you know in time. Please to try them at borders, husks, & flowers, & dispose of them as you think best. They have been practiceing here at the latter, but they make little progress in their improvment as we have nobody to instruct them or shew them how to manage the colours in this new way of working.
To Mr. Bentley
Etruria 22nd Decr., 1770
. . . When Ld. Shelbourne was here he told me he had recommended it strongly to our Envoy at Lisbon to endeavour to introduce such of our manufactures at that Court as were not there already, & to inquire what alterations wod. be acceptable in such as are now bought of us & to acquaint his Lordship with the particulars, & he was so kind to offer us his interest with the Envoy in favour of our Manufacture & advis’d me to send a set of patterns & request his advice upon them to know if they might be alter’d any way to suit their taste more completely . . . The usefull Queens-ware has long been sent thither & is going continually upon very low terms, some of the Houses there having a Packer here so that I have no expectations but from Desert ware, or ornaments, & in these I do not know that it will be prudent to attempt anything ’till we know if we are to have war or peace.
Etruria 21st Decr., 1770
You will wonder, I dare say, notwithstanding my fascinating companion, & the many things we had to see, & perform upon the Road, that I did not reach home before yesterday, but there was no avoiding this delay, part of which indeed was oweing to the floods, the rest was fate, which you know there is no resisting. However, I have now the pleasure of thanking you by my own fireside for all the good things you bestow’d upon me at your hospitable Mansion, & I beg Miss Oates & Miss Stamford will accept my best thanks for the very friendly & polite entertainment I recd. at their hands during my widowship at Chelsea.
Octr. 29, 1770
Mr. John Holland of Mobberley was with me last night about a nephew of his, son to the late Mr. Peter Holland of Knutsford, whom he wants us to take apprentice. He says the Boy has a taste for drawing & he shod. like him to be a painter with us. I told Mr. Holland I wod. write to consult with you & know if you had room. They wod. ingage to find him with Cloaths in his apprenticeship & we must find him the rest. If we could order it for Mr. Stringer to instruct him in the rudiments of drawing whilst he is at home with his Mother for a year or so he might do very well for us, it will doubtless be our best method to bring up a few likely hands to painting as we shall thereby be more independent &c &c &c.
Sukey & Jack who are at my elbow insist on my now sending their love & thanking Mr. Bentley for his most acceptable present & little Jos says ta ta.
I have glazed some black Vases but do not like them at all. You must paint & border & honeysuckle them all over to hide the glaze or you will never sell them.
I can say nothing to the price of the figures, only that they will never be sold for so much as they have cost us. You’l compare them with other things, remembering that we made a Bull when we prised as well as when we made the Elephants. They were certainly too dear, though I do not think they would be selling articles at any price.
Oct. 17, 1770.
So you will be content with anything less than the conquest of the Hero of the Age! Well I wish you success equal to your Ambition, which by the bye is wishing you a great deal. I like your connection with the Universal Mercht., & long life the King of Prussia! – He sends some desert sets “-Any of the Royal Purple? Flora Marine – Royal Marine – or what have you Xnd. it? – it must have a name so do not let it go to Vienna without one.
Etruria, 13th Octr., 1770.
I was very glad to learn by my dear friends kind letter that he was arriv’d safe amongst his friends in London, notwithstanding the perils, & dangers with which he was beset upon the road. I hope you have recover’d your right, but indeed these Gentry will be so familiar to you soon at this rate that they will scarcely be able to put you into one.
Your stay here, short as it was, was a most agreeable treat to us, & all your friends in this part of the world, as well as myself regret the loss of your good company & often wise – but wishing is the constant hectic of you know what, so no more of it, but in its stead a quiet submission to the will of our good Lords & Ladies who will not permit you any long residence in the Country.
I expected no less than what you have wrote me respecting the invasion of our Patent & I apprehend they will persist in it to the utmost so that a tryal seems inevitable, & if so, the sooner, the better. I shall therefore now just mention what occurs to me upon the subject, & what Mr. Sparrow advises, as I have mention’d it to him.
I think we shall stand a much better chance to have it tryed in London than in the Country, & shall more easily prove the invasion of the Patent agt. Neale than Palmer, the first thing therefore we shod. do in my opinion shod. be to purchase a T:pot from Neale, & afterwards to leave an attested copy of the Patt. with him by some person who can evidence for us. This shod. be done immediately as I must have the Patent sent me here that I may deliver another to Palmer. May not this affair furnish us with a good excuse for advertiseing away at a great rate? pray consider of this & favour me with your thoughts upon it. And in this advertisement could not you weave in Count Caylus’s lamentation that no Artists had then been able to imitate the Antient Etruscan Vases. I think you told me he had said some such thing, & at this time such a publication might answer more purposes than one to us.
We have often talked of introducing these Vases to the notice of LdM[ansfiel]d which is now more necessary than ever; & I do not see why you might not wait upon his Ld.ship with patterns. He could not be displeas’d with the compliment, you know we were allways recd. very politely upon the same occasion by other noblemen & had their thanks for our trouble, why therefore shod. we omit doing this where it seems the most necessary.
There is a most famous puff for Boulton & Fothergill in the St. James’s Chronical of the 9th & for Mr. Cox likewise How the Auther could have the assurance to leave us out I cannot concieve. Pray get another article in the next paper to complete the Triumvirate.
Etruria, 3rd Septr., 1770..
My dear friend
I like your mode of painting companions to great men exceedingly, & I hope it will have a proper effect, & I need not tell you that I shall be glad to travel with my good & worthy friend & the agreeable company he mentions to the utmost regions of Posterity. But an Earth Potter shod. not soar too high – however lead the way, & I shall have too much confidence in my guide to be very inquisitive whither I am going.
With respect to the difference between Usefull ware & Ornamental I do not find any inclination in myself to be over nice in drawing the line. You know I never had any idea that Ornamental ware shod. not be of “some use.” You knew that from all that we have done hitherto, from the many conversations we have had upon this subject, & from the list we wrote in your commonplace book of the uses to which ornamental Vases might be put; I cod. have wish’d therefore that you had not repeated this idea so often, & ask’d me if my Partnership with T: W. wod. exclude our making Stellas Ewers.” Tell me my dear friend did you ask me this question for information, or were you realy angry with me, as the question accompanied with any other idea wod. seem to import. I hope you were not, for I shod. be very unhappy to think you wod. be angry with me lightly, or that I had given you any just occasion for the warmth some parts of your letter seem to express. I say seem for I hope I am mistaken & shall rest in that hope ’till I have the pleasure of hearing from you again. But as this question has put me upon thinking a little more upon the subject, & the situation I am, or may be in, betwixt two Partnerships, it may not be amiss to enter a little deeper into it, & attempt something like a line in Theorie, though I hope we shall none of us be too rigid in our adherence to it in practice. And first Negatively, I do not think that fineness, or richness, or price, or colour, or enameling, or bronzeing, or gilding can be a criterion, for our purpose, for though we make a Table, or desert service, ever so fine, rich, or expencive, though they are every piece rich enough to adorn a Cabinet, they are, in my opinion, usefull ware still, & I think the same may be said of a Teapot, & on the other hand, though we make a flowerpot, Vase Candlestick &c. ever so plain, it is still in the Class of ornamental ware & clearly within the partnership of W. & B. only, & I shod. think I did wrong in making them at Burslem on any occasion without first asking your consent. If degrees of richness, or elegance of form, were to constitute the difference in question, & consequently the making of it be transfered from Burslem to Etruria upon its improvement beyond such a pitch, this wod. not only lay a foundation for frequent disputes, but must have the same effect upon my usefull works, as the King of Frances Edict has upon the Potteries in France to prevent their rivalg. his works at Seve, for T: W. might with reason in that case say, I have, or such an improvement to introduce into the desert, or Tea-ware, but I shall then lose the Article, or if I improve such a single article any farther it is gone! May not usefull ware be comprehended under this simple definition, of such vessels as are made use at meals. This appears to me the most simple & natural line, & though it does not take in Wash-hand basons & bottles or Ewers, & a few such articles, they are of little consequence, & speak plain enough for themselves; nor wod. this exclude any superb vessels for sideboards, or vases for deserts if they could be introduc’d, as these articles wod. be rather for shew than use.
This appears to me the plainest line, & the least liable to objections of all others, but if you think otherwise, & have a different one to propose, I am perfectly open to conviction & am so far from wishing to limit our undertaking, or to render it too trifleing for your attention, that I wish to extend it by every means, & that, I can very truly assure you, as much on account of my friend as myself. A friend whom I esteem & love (next to the nearer ties of nature) before all mankind, & cannot bear the thoughts of haggling with him about trifles. I may not continue long in business, & my life itself is a very precarious one, & whom have I then to leave my business to, capable of conducting it in the manner you know I shod. wish to have it continued, but you two, let us therefore, my friend & Brother, live, & act like Brothers, & friends indeed, & not suffer any small matters to put our peace & harmony in jeapordie. All I mean by the above distinctions, is, to chalk out a path that I may walk in securely, by defineing the limits of two interests, at present seperate, & of which my situation renders me the connecting link, without giving offence to either; for if my friend on one side shod. tell me, in any way, that I am too partial to my Burslem work, & my Relation, & Partner on the other hand be discontented & think I learn too much to the ornamental works, & am throwing every advantageous article into that scale – Think, my friend, you who can feel for me, the situation I must be in. Do you think I could bear it – no, & I am sure you would not wish me to lead a miserable life, continually jarring with those I wish most to be at peace with. Next to my Wife & Family, my Partners are those with whom I must be at peace.
You have for some time past, or at least it has seem’d so to me, from very many passages in your leters, been doubtfull of our undertaking being worth the time & attention you have bestowed upon it; & in your last you intimate its certainly coming to nothing upon the present plan. I should be sorry to think so too, but own I have no apprehensions of that sort. -Ornament is a field which notwithstanding you have bestowed one years close attention upon it, & I many, yet it appears to me that we are but just stepped or steping into it, & I am fully perswaded that the farther we proceed in it the richer crop we shall reap, both of Fame & Proffit, & I do upon the maturest deliberation give it as my firm opinion that mixing usefull with ornamental wares wod. in the end, limit us both, (in Fame & Proffit I mean) and make no doubt of your being of the same opinion too, if you have patience, & perseverance to proceed on in the same tract a little longer. But how, or in what aspect does this first years essay give either you or me any ground for repineing, or such gloomy forebodeings? If the first year of a business pays all expences, & furnishes any proffit at all, I shod. not call it a bad one, but if beyond this, it likewise gives a proffit of £500, or £1000 in Cash for goods really sold & an increase of stock in manufactur’d goods ready for sale of one to two thousand pounds more, surely we ought to be more than barely content, I think we have reason to rejoice, & are robbing ourselves of what is more valuable than money if we do not take the satisfaction of a prosperous, & very promising business along with us, as a cordial to support us in every hour of toil & fatigue wch. our avocations necessarily require at our hands.
I must now quit this subject ’till I have the pleasure of seeing you here which I hope will be soon suppose you made Etruria in your way to Liverpool came this way back again & then by Derby to London you wod. by that route see your works here twice & travel very few miles round for it. Adieu my dear friend, believe me most affectly., yours at all times
Note by Mr. Bentley.
Mr. B. recd. this letter a few Days before he set out for Etruria. The Difficulty was easily setled, & the Etruscan Tea Pots made by ye. Company at Etruria. The Company very much wanted some such constant selling Article.
Etruria, 29th Augt., 1770.
As I dare not write by Candlelight or rather cannot, for my Eyes will not bear it, & every moment of daylight is too little to oversee the Vasiers, Statuaries, Potters, Brickmakers, Bricklayers, Carpenters, Farmers, &c, &c; I am oblig’d to pinch a little time out of my breakfast & dinner allowance, to write a few lines to you, but I am really asham’d to see so many of your good letters before me, when I reflect how deficient I have been in making any returns for them; & yet my Conscience will not permit me to stay in the house, whilst so many things are calling for me abroad, & going absolutely wrong if I am not constantly with them. This was the reason I could only send you three lines yesterday when I had an hundred things to say to you, but I hope you will prevent me in all my sayings by giving me the pleasure of saying them face to face, so that I intend this as my last to you whilst you stay in Town, & shall just give your letters another review to see if there is anything which requires an answer before I have the pleasure of seeing you here.<br>With respect to making some usefull Etruscan ware at Etruria, I shall myself have no sort of objection to it, but you know I have another partnership, in which it is stipulated that he (T.W.) shall have 1-8th share of the profits upon all usefull ware, & he has bestow’d a great deal of attention for some time past upon China bodys for T:pots in brown, black, grey, &c. &c. so that though I believe he wod. not deny me if I ask him to give up the black T:pots &c to us, yet I have some fear of its being a tender point with him. I have not yet mention’d it to him but propose doing so in a day or two, & shall be very happy if I can settle this matter so as to be agreeable both to him & you.
Stellas book is an admirable one indeed! & the Roman Antiqs. is a very valuable addition to our books of Vases, many good things may be made out of both.
Have you pd. your visit yet to Ld. Bessboro’? I long to be molding from his Porphiry Vase.
I am extremely glad you have got another so good a neighbour as I am confident Mrs. Russel, if she is at all like the Miss Sinclair I knew, will make. I believe you may recollect my mentioning that Lady as having had the address to convert a plain Person into a most agreeable Woman. lI shall be very glad to see Mrs. Russel when I come to Chelsea & if you shod. see her before you leave that place pray make my respectfull compliments to her, & tell her I am sorry I did not know I had a friend so near when I was at Chelsea.
We hope to remove to our other house [Etruria Hall] very soon, but we want two floor, Oyl cloaths, I think Chocolate colour, to save the floors. Will you be so good as to buy them for us & have them sent down as soon as you can.
Aug. 28, 1770.
What Treasure! & how many good letters, & matters, & things have I to thank my dear friend for, & but three minutes to do it in, being determin’d to catch this mornings post & not wait ’till tomorrow. And first – you acted like a Man, & a Prince with Mr. Baxter & I thank you most cordealy for it. We feel so much alike on these occasions, that you need not wait to consult me upon them. Nothing less than such spirited, & at the same time polite treatment will do with Bashaw like Gentn. We recd. the packet safe & pd. 5s 6d postage. It wod. have come by the Coach & in the same time for 1s 6d.
25th, Saturday morning.
We are drawing a good Kiln of Gloss this morning, & have nearly finish’d turning 4 large Rockingham Vases wch. will be about 31 inches high when fired. They are fine Vases & must fetch a very good price, or we shall add to the number of our Bulls in making them.
I am now going to Leek for some of his Majestys money & must bid you adieu.
Etruria, 24 Augt., 1770.
“When Roman luxury increas’d, Etruscan ware gave place to Plate; but when English luxury seems at the height, your elegant taste has put to flight Gold & Silver vessels, & banished them from our Tables &c &c.” The Gentn. to whom I am indebted for this very polite compliment recommends the following books to our inspection.
Museum Odescalcum, sive Thesaurus Antiq. gemmarum at Bartolo. – Rome 1750.
Maffie’s, & Agostini’s gemms. . . . .
This Gentn. has presented us with Perrirs statues, Fecoronis gemms, & Middletons Antiquities.
We have made a Boy (Autumn) from the mould Hoskins sent us but cannot find any pedestal, or ground for it to lye upon & that sent for the infant Hercules we cannot make it fit. We are under the same difficulty with Neptune, though we have the large shell model’d for him. It shod. have been contriv’d like the Triton rock, to support his legs, for they will not bear him without some such support. The making of these figures out of such moulds as these sent us is an endless work, for they are all to be model’d over again, & our Statuaries are not qualified for such a task, but if we have the remainder of the moulds I wrote for in my last we shall make one of each sort, but I fear they will be a sacrifice to shew & not to profitt. In truth I fear they will be Bulls.
Vases – Vases are the articles for us to get money by, if we can but sell them, & surely the world is wide enough to take 5 or £6000 per annm. in these articles off our hands, if they could be sufficiently made known & dispos’d in convenient situations for the purchasers.
We have begun to make the dishes for his Majestys service but we have not a cover for them. I hope you will send us either a cover, or drawing soon, but I had much rather you could have them all planish’d for us, as we shall have eno. to do with the other articles to have them completed in any reasonable time. We have finish’d one Terrine model & begun upon another, but they are long – very long in hand. The Terrines & Sa: bowles will take us 6 weeks to model – the Compotiers, cover’d dishes, salts &c as much longer; & the covers if we model them will not be finish’d scarcely on this side Feby.! This will be a monstrous loss of time, & everything else, & there will be no avoiding it unless you can procure us some help in Town; besides whilst these things are in hand at Burslem, I am oblig’d to be so much there that I cannot spend so much time at the works at Etruria as I wish, & as is necessary for me to do.
Spen Green, 20th Augt., 1770.
I shall take particular care of this letter as it contains some excellent instructions for our Dublin plan if we shod. ever be reduced to put it into execution, but I think we have settled to try awhile as we are, as we certainly have many good advertisers there already.
-New means of exciteing attention to our Vases.”-
Wod. you advertise the next season as the Silk mercers in Pell Mell do – Or deliver cards at the houses of the Nobility & Gentry, & in the City – Get leave to make a shew of his Majestys service for a month, & ornament the Desert with ornamental Ewers, flower baskets & Vases – Or have an Auction at Cobbs room of Statues, Bassreliefs, Pictures, Tripods, Candalabras, Lamps, Potpouri’s, superb Ewers, Cisterns, Tablets Etruscan, Porphirys & other Articles not yet exposed to sale. – Make a great route of advertising this Auction, & at the same time mention our rooms in Newport St., & have another Auction in the full season at Bath of such things as we have now on hand, just sprinkled over with a few new articles to give them an air of novelty to any of our customers who may see them there. – Or will you trust to a new disposition of the Rooms with the new articles we shall have to put into them & a few modest puffs in the Papers from some of our friends such as I am told there has been one lately in Lloyds chronicle – or something, but I have not seen it, & do not know the particulars. – But I shall never get thro’ your letters at this rate.
-Will not the people of Ireland like these things better that come from London &c” – A certain degree of difficulty in coming at fine things may excite, increase & keep up the attention to, & appetite for them; but when this difficulty extends beyond a certain point, the bulk of those who wod. otherwise become purchasers will content themselves without such things, & it will only be few, who have the disorder very strong upon them who will be at the trouble of procuring them from such a distance. For if you consider how many difficultys, risques and disagreeable circumstances a Gentleman in Dublin must submit to in procuring a sett of our Vases, you’l say a very strong stimulus is necessary to carry him thro’ them. He must trouble some friend in London to buy them and does not know at what expence, whether at £5 or £20 which circumstance alone, as he wod. not limit his friend in the price, may prevent his ordering any. Then he must unavoidably trust to the taste & choice of another Person, which I am certain you will think a very disagreeable circumstance where so much depends upon it, & after all this is submitted to, there is the risque of carriage, & of their being forfeited at the Custom House by a wrong entry as they will scarcely know how to specify them. So that upon the whole I do not think we shall sell many Vases to Ireland under these discouraging circumstances, notwithstanding all our Noble & honourable friends do for us there.
I am sorry his Excellency the Rn. Ambassador choose rather to have plain ware for the Polish services, than Printed; we could certainly have got them ready in less time than he can have an answer from Warsaw. Could not you prevail upon his Excellency to mix some of our Pebble Vases in the Deserts. If this could be made fashionable it wod. open a fine market & is worth trying for every way, at home & abroad. Do you think his Majesty wod. set the example? This wod. be a finer conquest to us than all Poland, or perhaps even than China.
I am sorry Miss Cox has behaved so ungratefully, but some people I have observed recieve all favours from their friends, as if they were so many debts due to them. I wonder Mr. Cox has not wrote, but do not know how to interfere without making bad into worse …
The Pyramid flowerpots dress with flowers so excellently that my Wife says they must sell in time, when their good propertys come to be known, however we shall make no more of them ’till farther orders.
I have led a strange rambling life since Wednesday last. I came here that Eveng. returned to Etruria on Thursday morng.-Came here again on Friday, returned to Etruria to dinner on Saturday, yesterday I came here again, & now we are journeying alltogether to be, I hope, a little more settled, when you shall hear again from your most affecte. friend J.W./
Etruria, 11th Augt., 1770.
I do not know what to say about the Irish expedition, your hints are very good, but your objections to the whole plan are so powerfull that unless we find an absolute necessity to adopt it I think with you that we shod. let it rest at present. As to an Agent, we shod. be at a loss, for I durst not venture Mr. C.; he goes on in the same way here as in London, was out all last night, for which, & his behaviour in London I have been talking to him very seriously. I told him we had a plan in which he might have been employd very advantageously to himself, but he had depriv’ himself of the oppertunity, & without a thoro’ alteration in his conduct, I could never do anything for him. He own’d he had done wrong, & promis’d to mend which I shall be glad to see.
It is impossible to make the surface of the black Vases allways alike, the differences being made in the fire, a little more or a little less, a little quicker, or a little slower makes the difference. The last as you observe are the roughest we have had of a long time, oweing merely to their having a little too much & too quick a fire But I am trying another method to render the surface smoother in general when no accidents happen in the fireing, which is to burnish them when they are pretty hard, with steel burnishers, ’till they have the polish of a mirror; but as this is done by hand, it is very tedious work, but they take an admirable polish if the fire does not destroy it, which I can acquaint you of soon, having sent one of them to Burslem to be bisketed there.
Etruria, 2nd Augt., 1770.
We had a Sr. Charles Bingham from Ireland here on Tuesday last with is Lady & Daughter. They came from Namptwich hither on purpose to see the works they had heard so much talk about in Ireland, & immediately set off for London where you will see them in a little time They told me the Duke of Richmond had made a present of a pair of Vases to the Duke of Leinster who was in Rapture with the, & that the D. is a Gentn. of the first Virtu in Ireland. -That some others had seen our Vases & there seem’d to be a violent Vase madness breaking out amongst them, & they were sure if we had a room in Dublin, a large quantity might be sold. -This disorder shod. be cherish’d in some way or other, or our rivals may step in before us. We have many Irish friends who are both able & willing to recommend us, but they must be applyd to for that purpose. I am putting down in writing, as it occurs, everything I think likely to be of use to us, & our Agent in this expedition, & I hope you will do the same. Ld. Bessborough you know can do a great deal for us with his friends on the other side the water by a letter of recommendation or otherwise as he may think proper – you are to visit him soon – the rest will occur to you. The Duke of Richmond has many & virtu-ous friends in Ireland. We are looking over the English Peerage to find out lines channels & connections – will you look over the Irish Peerage with the same view – I need not tell you how much will depend upon a proper & noble introduction. This, with a fine assortment of Vases & a Trusty & adequate Agent will insure us success in the Conquest of our sister Kingdom.
With respect to the sale of Vases, it is first, & above all things absolutely necessary that they shod. sell, & that in quantitys, therefore if we cannot sell enough in London we must try elsewhere & I cannot think of any other places so proper as Dublin & Bath, unless we can make an inroad into China which I think we shod. try the other places in the interim. Lady Bingham fell violently in love with one of the new Tripods, a water, I told her we did not sell imperfect ornaments, but she said she shod. die if she had not one of them & begged I wod. fix a price upon it, & as she had promis’d to be a good friend to us in Dublin I indulged her with a waster at half price, which half price she told Sr. Charles was three Guineas & looked so at me at the same time that I could not forbear saying as she died. This tripod is sent to you, where she is to recieve & pay for it & a small bill they owe besides.
We are making 2 or 3 Rocking. Vases. They are enormous things – a yard high, & will be 30 inches when fired. Pray fo our success, for they are perilous goods & have many chances against them. But they are a sacrifice to Fame, & we must not look back.
We had a Mr. Willbram of Namptwich here yesterday who has been digging amongst the Ruins in Italy, & was one of the party who spent several months in opening the Mausoleums & Caves the figures from which are nearly ready for publication. I subscrib’d for them with Doddesley some time since. Upon seeing the painted Etruscans Mr. Willbram asked me if they were done by the man in Vine street, which question surpriz’d me not a little, but before I could answer him, he said – no – they are not so well done. How do you think he comes to know the man in Vine St.? Mr. W. asked if we had got the Herculaneum, & mention’d some other books to me, all which I told him we had, at which he seem’d both pleas’d & rather surpris’d but as I am often ask’d these questions & do not know the title of all our books I shod. be glad to have a catalogue when you have so much liesure.
Etruria, 30th July, 1770.
We arrived here last night after a pleasant journey, & without any cross accident in our way, my good Father very happy & thoroughly well pleas’d with his journey. -He joins with me in the warmest thanks to you, & your good sister, for the cordial reception & entertainment, & all the good things we enjoy’d at your hospitable mansion. We still drink our friends in the four Counties, with Middlesex at the head of them, which is likely to become a fashionable toast at Etruria, & we flatter ourselves with being remember’d sometimes over an evening pipe at Chelsea.
We have a good deal of compy. come here constantly & I think we shod. have a few more sorts of painted Etruscans to make a shew with, though I do not suppose we shall sell many, yet we shod. nevertheless endeavour to gratify all in our power such of our friends as bring their company hither to see the works from Trentham, Keel, &c, &c. -We have had Mr. Sneyd here this morning with a Mr. Vernon, Lady Grosvenors Brother, & have some company or other allmost every day.
After thanking my Dear Friend for his last good letter with the drawings &c, & assuring him that a moment shall not be lost in executing the fair Ladys commands, in the most pretty, odd, new, quere, whimsical, Vase-like manner possible, I cannot help telling him how much I admire his Gallantry – Ovid himself, after a visit to his most favourite Mistress, could not have infus’d more spirit & vivacity, into so plan a subject, as the orderg. a few Potts, than my Good friend has done on the present occasion. – The Lovely Countess can elevate him many degrees above the stupid, comming & vulgar forms of business: quicken the circulation of his animal spirits, & make his pen flow like a feather dipp’d in Oyl, or rather, like his own river Dove, after an April shower.
After such delicious treats as these, what can we furnish you with in the Country that will not be insipid or disgusting. It is true we had a Mrs. Boverie here the last week. Do you know the celebrated Mrs. Boverie, she is truly Elegant, beautifull, & affable, in short she is a Gem of the true Antique character. But she is gone! & may not return again this summer. – Your Ladys are as kind as beautifull, & if they cannot visit yr. apartments, send a kind summons for you to their own where I find they ipart their warmest wishes to you with the utmost freedom. – Happy mortal! how do I envy you, but hush, my Wife is coming, & may look over my shoulder, so that it may be the safest way for me to descend to plan downright business with you.
In the first place then I am advis’d by Mr. Hyde of his having sent me some samples of Clay to London by land directed as we order’d them, to be left at the Castle & Falcon Aldersgate St., & must beg the favour of you to forwd. them hither by the first Waggon. His men dug 16 Grafts deeper (8 inches to the Graft) than usual when the sides of the Pitt tumbled in, but no sand, or blue water appear’d.
Etruria, 2nd July, 1770.
I have your favour of the 27th acquainting me of your having open’d another Avenue into the Russian Empire for which I return you my best thanks, & have no objection to allowing the five pct.
My Father is here today to settle the day of our departure, & I think of going by Soho to order the branches, as I can then see what patterns they have & shall take a Triton, & Vase or two along with me.
I think with you that the answer to my Lady Mayoress may have its consequences, & that no written answer will have a proper effect; if you wod. be so good to wait upon her Ladyship that is the best possible way of negotiateing this business. You know everything about the white ware as how that I have given over the thoughts of making any other color but Queens ware. The white ware wod. be a great deal dearer, & I apprehend not much better liked, & the Queens ware whilst it continues to sell is quite as much business as I can manage.
Etruria, 19th June, 1770.
With respect to our business answering I have not the least doubt of it, nor do I think you will, now your good sister is recovering; I could feel the impression her illness made upon your spirits very sensibly by sundry expressions in your last letters, however there is nothing like demonstration, & if you will let us have the accounts up to the end of Augt. next we will then see what we have done with certainty.
I have form’d a little plan to treat myself with a sort of pleasure journey to London to have a peep at the Russian service, & your enamel work at Chelsea & shod. be glad to know when you think I shod. set out for that purpose, but before I leave Mr. Cox shod. be here, & that about a week before I set out, for I have nobody that I can rely much upon for their steadiness in the Vase work for Danl. will absent himself sometimes when he shod. not.
Did I tell you that we had inoculated Joss, he is now at the height of the disorder, the eruption is a good sort but thick & teizes the poor fellow sadly, but hope he will now be soon well over with it. Jackey Willett is under the same circumstances, only much better.
PS. I am over head & ears in planing, altering, & setting out my works. Mr. Pickford & I shall not agree, I believe, but we must begin to build at all events.
Etruria, 31 May, 1770.
I recd. your favour of 26th & shod. have wrote to you yesterday but it was Saint Amputation day, & my friends came upon me before I could sit down for that purpose, & now I have scarcely three minutes to spare.
I do not know your objections to the Painters working over hours. As you want painting I shod. think the more hours they work the better, but I do not know your reasons to the Contrary, so cannot tell that I am right. I only judge from what I do in the like case with my Potters.
I am glad you like the dark Pebbles as I have made a good many of them. Sally said they wod. do, & that made me venture to do more of them that I otherwise shod. have done. Farewell for a week – I believe you will say amen. Oh! that you wod. but mark out a place for your seal as I do.
Etruria, 23rd May, 1770.
The Man I mention’d to you from Derby will do us no good. He told the Man he work’d along with that he wod. stay abot. a month here, wod. then go to Liverpool which wod. complete his Tour over all the works in England, & he wod. then embark for America. He has been drinking three days & I have ordd. him off that he may proceed upon his intended Tour without farther loss of time, so you will hear no more of him.
I observe what you say about the care of the Cash, & have not the least doubt of the integrity of the two you mention. But you know the cash is a weighty matter, it is the Ultimatum of all our labours, & unless either you or I know that the acct. is kept right we shod. never be easy about it. At the same time I wish you to make your burden as light as may be, & you will know much better how to adjust these two matters than I can at this distance advise you.<br>So you have had your visions of late, well, I hope you will communicate them when you have time & paper. I have a waking notion haunts me very much of late which is the begining a regular drawing & modeling school to train up artists for ourselves. I wod. pick up some likely Boys of about 12 years old & take them apprentice ’till they are twenty or twenty one & set them to drawing & when they had made some tolerable proficiency they shod. practice with outlines of figures upon Vases which I wod. send you to be fill’d up. We could make out lines which wod. bear carriage & these might tend to facilitate your doing a quantity of the Patent Vases, & when you wanted any hands we could draft the out of this school. “The Paintings upon these Vases from W & B school” – so it may be sd. 1000 years hence. Adieu.
I condole with you for the return of your Elephant, & will send you more more such cumbrous Animals ’till you have sold what you have, for as the Lady sd. I fear we made a Bull when we first made an Elephant.
Etruria, 19th of May, 1770.
You certainly judge very right when you say we must have a 2nd & a 3d. sort of painting, permit me to carry this idea yet farther & to believe that the bulk of our Vases must be in that stile or we shall never have very many done. I wod. have what quty. I could get done in the best manner, to please the nicest eye, & shew what we can do; but at the same time I wod. get all I could done in such a manner as Mrs. Willcox, a Japaner, Coach, Fan, or Waiter Painter could do them, & I think I may venture to assert that if all your present stock of plain vases were done in that way they wod. be sold in a few days, & more money got in the same time by these common paintings, than by the very fine ones, & no credit lost to us, as we shall have very fine ones for very fine Folks, & they must fetch a very fine price as they will allways be raritys, few hands, who will paint potts, being to be had to do them.<br>What is become of your scheme for taking in Girls to paint? Have you spoke to Mrs. Wright? Mr. Coward too said he could tell you of some Fan Painters. – You observe very justly that few hands can be got to paint flowers in the style we want them. I may add, nor in any other work we do – We must make them. There is no other way. We have stepped forwd. beyond the other Manufactures & we must be content to train up hands to suit our purpose. Where amongst our Potters could I get a complete Vase maker? Nay I could not get a hand through the whole Pottery to make a Table plate without training them up for that purpose, & you must be content to train up such Painters as offer to you & not turn them adrift because they cannot immediately for their hands to our new stile, which if we consider what they have been doing all this while we ought not to expect from them. <br>J. Bakewell sets out by tomorrows coach & promises to be a very despatchfull hand.
Etruria, 12th of May, 1770.
You will certainly do right in bringing the painting to piece work but it will require a good deal of knowledge & attention in fixing the price or the hands will all be ruin’d, by geting too much in a little time. I mean cheifly, flower painters. The fine figure Painters are another orr. of beings, & I suppose must be by piece work, that being as you observe the likelyest way to satisfy them. The crack’d Vases must be stopped after they are enameled. We have very few crack’d now to what we used to have. We have drawn a bisket oven this morning & scarcely a bad vase in it. We shall send you some Green Porphiry Vases, Gilt, but I hope to make some true Porphiry, ungilt Vases soon, if you dare risque their spoiling the sale of your stock on hand.
Etruria, 4th of May, 1770.
I thank you for two fine packets by the last post which I must reply to as briefly as possible having just rec’d. a summons from Mr. Baumgartner to meet him at Newcastle where he arriv’d this morning, & from thence by Etruria to Liverpool is our route.
I have this moment ingaged one of my hands to come to London. I have hired him for three years to have 16s per week in London & 13s when in the Country, & I purpose sending him & R. Unwin the next week. I spoke to Mr. Rhodes about Ralph being with him to which he was agreeable & I have promis’d Joseph Unwin that his son shall be there & within a few doors of you.
Mr. Baumgartner is here now (Saturday morning) & he proposes sending four or five boxes of Vases to Italy for his Bror. to dispose of & take orders by. He is fully perswaded there may be a quty. sold there, especially the painted Etruscans. He will look out the boxes of patterns with you in London.
As I going to Liverpool I will talk with Mr. Boardman about settling a Correspondence with a good Jewelers shop or two in Dublin, & I think we shod. have another in Bath wch. with a City Correspondt. may perhaps take off as many Vases &c as we can make.
I think the Windsor brick will make a more durable Kiln than composition, but experience only must determine that point. I hope you will have a kiln of some sort up soon that we may drive away like Jehu the son of somebody.
-“Bronze Terrines” – Take the covers off, I think they Terrineify the Vase and spoil it. Do not call them nor the others done here Bronze. They will give bad ideas of a good thing.
Etruria, 29th April, 1770.
… We are allways too much in a hurry to do anything right.” Who says so? “Things done in a hurry are never done well.” Never? That I deny as Mr. Yorick says on another occasion for, first thoughts are often best, & many things must be done now or never, – Dispatch is the soul of business – And – Take Time by the forelock or he will slip through your fingers – And – but I have not time for any more old proverbs or I wod. string you as complete a necklace of them as ever Sancho hung round his masters neck. It was not precipitation in making, but in firing the Kiln at Chelsea which blew it up.
I am told young Stringer of Knutsford is coming to Town to see the exhibitions & draw at the Acadamy. I sent him a direction to you & ventur’d to promise you wod. introduce him to the notice of some Painters, who might be of use to him, & hinted at your being able to put him in a way of geting some money to pay his expences in Town if he chose it. You will know I mean by painting Vases so if he shod. call you will know how to act with him.
Etruria, 18th April, 1770.
I wrote a few lines to you from Leicester & Loughbro’ which I hope you recd. That Evening I got to Ashbourne, & dined here yesterday. I found all friends well, Mr. & Mrs. Willet have dined with us today, we drank your health & our friends in London. Mrs. Willet is very well & look as if nursing her younge Patagonian was not very prejudicial to her health. They are just gone back, making but a short visit least her younge Gentleman shod. miss his Mamma.
We have another Ovenfull of Vases for bisketing which we shall set in the oven tomorrow. I apprehend we shall make many more than you can sell in any one place, that some other additional mode of sale must be thought of or our dead stock will grow enormous.
I was not surpris’d at learning by Mr. Cox’s note that one of Mr. Rhodes’s men wanted to be rais’d to 24s. per week because I had expected that consequence from an imprudence I had been guilty of, contrary to my judgment & settled rules of acting in such cases – I mean telling Mr. Rhodes in the hearing of his servants how much we wanted of Enamd. ware & what a number of hands he might employ &c. My conscience smote me before I left the room, & I expected the consequence which has follow’d. Our treatment of the first appearance of this disorder to which painters are more liable I think than other men, will have its consequences too. If we absolutely refuse this mans demands, & turn him off, or let him go about his business, & at the same time instruct Mr. Rhodes to tell the rest, that unless I can have the usefull ware enameld upon moderate terms in London, I am determin’d to have it done in the Country where I can have hands in plenty at 12s or 14s per week the dissease may perhaps be stopped in its first stage, but if his demands are at all complyd with, it is sure to spread & infect every soul we employ. It is very probably a settled plan that this man – this best hand – shall make the first onset upon his new masters; if he succeeds, the rest, both those we have at present & shall ingage afterwards are sure to follow the example, & there is no knowing where it will end. I am therefore for parting with this man at all events, unless he chooseth to be good, & continue upon the terms he is at present ingaged for. I believe I could send Mr. Rhodes two or three hands who wod. soon learn to do flowers, & desire he will let me know if he cannot meet with enough to his mind & I will seek after some & send them up as he can employ them …
I wish you could take some opportunity to call upon Checkaw & tell him, or Mr. Marr, that I was oblig’d to leave London (my Wife ordd. me positively away you know) before Monday or I wod. have sat to him, but it shall be the first thing I do when I return to Town again.
I hope to have a peaceable letter from you tonight acquainting me that every body has been very good at the release of their Patriot [Wilkes was released from prison in this month.] We have had great rejoycing in the Country, Ringing & roasting sheep, Drinking, Dancing, &c, but we are all very quiet again now as I hope you are.
Etruria, 19 Feb: 1770.
Will Bourne got to London! I need not tell you by this time that he is a chip-i’th’-porridge Animal, will neither do much good, or harm in any situation, he took French leave of us because pounding plaister blister’d his hands which is all the Character I can give you of him, my Workmen call’d him Miss Nancy.
If it is bearable to keep in with Mr. Crofts we had better do it, he may give us more trouble in our patent than anybody else.
I wish you every good thing in yr. new habitation & am most affectionately yours, J.W.
Etruria, 10th Feby., 1770.
The last Vases were not, some of them, what they were intended to be, & it will very often happen so in Pebble Vases, but I have often observ’d that we we have esteem’d a great fault, has been admir’d by some as a peculiar beauty wch. makes me easier about such mishaps…
When you have settled matters in the best manner you can in London & Chelsea, I could wish you to be at the Manufactory awhile to learn the Art of Pottmaking, whilst I am able to go through that branch with you, which I shall do with great pleasure & hope you will carry on to great perfection those improvements which I have been endeavouring to lay a foundation for, & shall be happy in leaving a foundation for, & shall be happy in leaving them with you my good & worthy friend, who neither want ability or spirit to pursue the task. = May it be a pleasing & successfull one, – Indeed I have no doubt but it will, & so long as my eyes & health will permit I shall gladly assist you in it. Do not think by what I have wrote that my eyes are worse, but I am sensible of my danger, & the last attack may be sudden & not give me an opportunity of communicateing many things which I wod. not have to die with me. I know how ill you can be spared from the rooms, but I think it will be better to suffer a little inconvenience for the present than leave you immers’d in a business, & not master of the principal parts of it
Etruria & Burslem, 3d Feby., 1770.
I thank my dear friend very cordially for his last kind & affecte. letters which I read over, & over again by way of cordial to my heart when it stands most in need of support. Your advice to make my business an amusement only is very good, & wod. suit me extremely well if I could but put it into practice, but ’tis very difficult to see things going wrong without feeling uneasy sensations & exerting the necessary force be it more or less, of the head or hands to set them right again. I do strive to make things pass on with me as easy as possible, & hope to be makeing some progress in that very usefull Philosophy, but to keep 150 hands of various professions, & more various tempers & dispositions, in tolerable order is no easy task even when the mind is otherwise free & in full vigor. I long to see you my dear friend, & I must on acct. of the Patent be in Town in a few weeks, but how to leave these works at Etruria, & the Warehouse without any head to look after them I do not know.
Danl. does pretty well when at work, & I am here every day, but he often leaves the works, & drinks two or three days together, & or the Warehouse I have nobody at all.
Burslem, 24th Jany., 1770.
I wrote to my dear friend by Mondays post & I fully purposed writing to Lady Cathcart today but find it impossible for me to do it on several accts. … I must my dear frd. scarcely use these eyes, or this head of mine at present -my life, as well as my sight is at stake, for I find this disorder with which I am afflicted nearly as often deprives the miserable patient of one as the other, of which we have had two recent instances in this neighbourhood very lately wch. have come to my knowledge, & many more perhaps of which I am unacquainted, for I have made no enquiry after such cases. If the disorder is seated near the brain wch. is often the case, Vertigoes convulsions &c put a period to life & sight together. I only mention these things now as a reason why I dare not make much use of my pen. Time – perhaps a little time may effect a change, & whether it be favourable to my hopes, or the contrary, I shall endeavour after that resignation & fortitude which I know my best friends wod. advise, & if possible inspire me with through every trying occasion in life.
22d Jany., 1770
Sr. Watkin Wms. must have anything & anyhow, so let us know as soon as possible what we must provide. I fear I cannot wait upon Sr. Watkin at Blithfield I am so tyed down to this spot of Etruscan earth.
Thank you my Dear friend fo your entertaing. and interesting acct. of the debates in the House of Lords, & for a thousand other good things which I recieve by every post but alass, all the return I can make is a gratefull heart, which you have every day & allmost every hour of my life.
I left Spen Green yesterday, & this time have brought my Wife & Child along with me. Etruria is now beginning to brighten up & look like itself again, five long weeks of absence have hung very heavy upon me, but her aid was much wanted to nurse & comfort an Aged, & worthy parent, & I was well pleased that she was able to pay this debt of duty & affection to him. He is now pretty well recover’d & sends his best respects & thanks to you.
Etruria, 15th Jany., 1770
How happy shod. I be in spending a few weeks, or even days with my dear friend, his letters comfort, & console me greatly, but his chearfull, & enlivening compy. accompanyd with the visible emanations of his sympathizeing heart wod. be a corcial indeed – a cordial wch. alass I must not expect. There is a gulph betwist us, which neither one nor the other can pass with any degree of propriety, prudence, or convenience. I am sensible what a wrong step it would be for you to quit the rooms at this season, & I am equally ingaged & tyed down to this spot. The frost is now nearly left us, & we are going to set out the buildings, & I am just open the eve of agreeing, or disagreeing with Mr. Pickford for completeing them. The prices he has given me in his estimate are much higher than I shall agree to, but he has deputed Mr. Matthews to talk with me upon the subject, we are to try what we can do tomorrow, & this afternoon I must prepare myself a little to be a match for him. I have seen Mr. Bent today at Newcastle, & told him you had sent me to consult with him upon the disorder in my eyes. He says a perpetual blister, or a caustick behind my neck he thinks is absolutely necessary, & he believes this wod. cure, or relieve them, & prevent their growing worse, but this application he told me with great earnestness & several times over he believ’d to be absolutely necessary for my safety. I did not greatly like the earnestness of his manner for reasons you will easily guess at, but I intend to try his prescription, though I must first consult the Doctr. under whose care I have put myself, & of whom I have a very good opinion.
I shod. my dear friend, be under some uneasy apprehensions for your Eyes, if I was not perswaded the crisis was over, & the danger past. Many I believe are attacked with this disorder. Some are perfectly recover’d, others remain in the same way with little variation their whole lives, whilst in others the disorder hurries on to the last dismal stage, a total deprivation of sight. Yours my friend I believe, & rejoyce in it, is of the middle kind, & there is all the reason in the world to believe the disorder will not proceed any farther, but I wish nevertheless you may believe them in so much danger as to induce you to use them gently. The disorder in my eyes is recent, & the event uncertain, but I am learning to acquiesce in this, whatever may be the issue, as I wod. wish to do in every other unavoidable evil. I am often practising to see with my fingers, & think I shod. make a tolerable proficient in that science for who who begins his studys so late in life, but shall make a wretched walker in the dark with a single leg.
I have a thousand things to say to you if I had time & eyes for it, but must not omit to thank your good sister for her kind concern in my behalf which induc’d her to consult her worthy cousin, who I believe is perfectly right in his opinion & I am under great obligations to him for so freely giving his advice wch. I shall pay a due regard to. – My best thanks are due to Mr. & Mrs. Cooper two worthy souls on the same account. My heart overflows with gratitude to my sympathizeing friends though I am often oblig’d to be short in the expressions of it. Will you my dear friend accept of the same apology for this short, or rather no reply at all to yr. two last good lettrs. & believe me at all times most gratefully & affectly. yr.
Spen Green, 10th Jany., 1770
I shod. have wrote to my dear friend on Monday but was two days, Sunday & Monday in traveling to this place, & am now weather bound, & do not know when I shall be releas’d for the Welkin is made of Glass & the snow comes down most abundantly. …
I hope to send Mr. Baumgartners orders complete, the next week, but for the future as we shall certainly have great choice of Vases at the Rooms I wish you could bring it so to pass with him, & he with his correspondents, that he might from time to time choose out of your stock instead of giving particular orders, which ordrs. must be given by his correspondts. from some of the first, & worst, & lowest priced things we have made, & our complying with such orders is carrying us many degrees backward (a road I hate to travel) in our manufacture. In my first essays upon Vases I had many things to learn myself & everything to teach the workmen, who had not the least idea of beauty or proportion in what they did, few, or none of our productions were what we should now deem tolerable, & the prices were fixed accordingly; but after so long practice from the best models, & drawings, such a long series of instruction as our workmen have gone through, & so very expensive an apparatus, or rather collection of apparatus’s as we are now masters of, & all to enable us to get up good things, I think we ought not, & I am sure we cannot without great loss return back again to make such things as we first started with.
Besides, this course wod. not be doing justice to our selves or our manufacture on many accounts. The same hands who at first finish’d the serpent & other Vases with white bodys at about 3s. 6d or 4s 6d. each were content, with earning 7 or 8s per week, but they now are improv’d in their wages, as well as in their workmanship, to double that sum. – It wod. prevent our improvements from being seen or known abroad, & consequently all demand which suc improvements ought, & would naturally procure us; for how any man order what he has no idea of? I observe in the ordrs. which have come from Paris, that no regard has been had to the price, but to the goodness only of the articles sent for, & I have no doubt but they wod. act from the same motives if they were to ave all our all our improvements laid before them; & I am equally certain that it would be as much for the interest of Mr. B-s correspondts. as it wod. for our satisfaction, to have the choice of the Vases left to the judgment & good taste of Mr. Baumgartner, & I hope you will be able to shew such variety soon as we will give satisfaction to all parties. -Defend me from particular orders, & I can make you allmost double the quty. & accompanied with much greater variety & Elegance.
Though some of the faults you mention in the Vases had been observ’d by me before, do not let that prevent your writing just what occurs to you upon them, let it be good, bad, or indifferent. It is sure to be edifying, & often what may please me better- Flattering, when I find myself confirm’d in the opinions I had form’d, by your concurring approbation.
Whilst I have been busied at Eturia & elsewhere, the painters at Burslem I find have had shamefull prices, & done shamefull work for it. I have turned one off & reduced another from 3s. 6d. per doz. to 2s.-& I wish you wod. in some way or other let Mr. & Mrs. Willcox know this, as I find they were offended at these people who were inferior hands, geting as much or more than themselves.
Etruria, 6th Jany., 1770
As I have not for some time past omitted writing to my dear friend by every post I was surprised to find by your last very affectn letter that you recd. no letter from me on monday or Tuesday last. Upon inquiry I find it was not sent off in time to Newcastle which I had intrusted to Mr. Cox & begged the Man might be sent off in time, but he was not.
I thank you my dear friend for the share you take in our afflictions. I know your friendly & affectionate heart, & that you do sympathise with us most cordially, & this perswasion is not without its comfort, though the distance at which we are fixed robs us of a great deal more. I often stand in need of your advice, assistance, & consolation. The great variety, & load of business I am at present ingaged in with the near prospect of a vast increase if I pursue the plan I am already in a manner involved in, & can scarcely retreat from, without giving up business intirely & at the same time being threatned with a disorder which must totally incapacitate me from doing anything at all, & yet it is absolutely necessary that I shod. resolve upon, & pursue some one plan immediately – These things altogether, with some other Anxietys I have lately felt, have at times brot. on a temporary suppression of spirits which I am not accustomed to & which do not naturally belong to my constitution.
If I carry on my works I must build the next year. If I build I must lay in the Timber & other materials, agree with all sorts of workmen &c immediately, & perhaps may lose both my Eyes (for they are equally affected) before the building is completed. Is not this a terrible dilemma – What I do my Good frd. But who can advise what is best to be done, when the better or worse, depends upon an event which we can neither foresee nor command. – But let me turn from this dark scene, & tell you that my good Fatyher continues to recover without my interruption & I hope will be able to come down stairs, & spare me my wife again in a short time which will be a great comfort to me for at present I am sadly forlorn indeed. I hope I shall recieve a good letter from you by tonights post which will do me much good. God bless you & preserve you from every evil Amen.
Spen Green, 2nd Jany., 1770
I still date from this place, being confin’d here by rainy weather. My Father is not quite so well as he was yesterday, but notwithstanding these little relapses continues to mend upon the whole.
Mr. Cox I suppose will be with you before you recieve this, and I hope he will employ his time solely, as I have earnestly requested of him, in settling the accts. that collecting may go forward without the risque of ruining my Character. I have great need of the former, but am much more solicitous about the latter, as Cash may be procured on some terms, but a good name, when lost, is scarcely redeemable. Mind has been made free with here of late on another acct. A report has been pretty current that I was broke, & run away for no less a sum than Ten Thousand Pounds! This report I believe has been rais’d by Voyez, & I have sufficient ground for a prosecution, but I believe his insignificance, & worthlessness will save him. He is not worth any serious notice & yet I have half a mind to frighten the Rascal a little. It wod. be charity to the Country to drive him out of it, but I am aware that it wod. be deem’d revenge & pique rather than justice in me to do it. What wod. you advise me to do? I shall wait your advice before I take any decisive step in the affair.
Spen Green, 1st Jany., 1770
I cannot begin the new year better than by thanking my dear & worthy friend for his affectionate solicitude for my health and wellfare with that of my friends, & assuring him that whatever relates to his health, ease or happiness is far from being indifferent to his friends in Staffordshire. They lament with me the necessity of your very distant situation, & cannot any more than myself by reconciled to a plan which robs us of the pleasure we had long flatter’d ourselves with the enjoyment of in your company. I often comfort myself with the thought that this necessity may be of no long duration though at present, I must confess, I do not see any probability of our wishes being gratifyed soon – Patience & hope are our best friends, we allways need their assistance, & therefore shod. make them our constant companions through every stage of our lives.
My Good Father, in whose room I write, has had some comfortable sleep tonight, & is much better for it. His fever has in a great measure left him, & I hope he is in a fair way of recovering, though we must expect it only by very slow degrees. He desires me to send his best respects & thanks to you.
I thank you my dear friend for your kind caution & inquirys about my eyes. The Dr. I apply’d [to] has made these organs his study for many years, & is the most famous in this branch of the healing Art of any man in England. He cured the Duke of Bedford who was with him several weeks, & he was just return’d from attending the Duchess of Norfolk at Bath for a complaint in her eyes much the same as mine, when I waited upon the Dr. at his house. He has cured her, & hopes he shall be able to set me to rights but says there is allways some danger in these cases. He has ordd. me a Collyrium consisting of Elderflower water, Spt. of Wine Champoratd. – Sugr. of Lead & something else which I have forgot & with this I am to wash my eyes three times a day, & use them favourably & see him again in March, but in the meantime I must let him know the effect of his prescription. I have made use of it a week & percieve no alteration. The Atoms which appear when I look at the sky, the line or lines which are pellucid, & the little clouds continue still before my eyes when I look at the sky, or any distant object, as usual, & sometimes upon the paper when I am reading or writeing, but not allways. These things do not allways appear before my eyes, & never in the dust of the evening or by Candlelight, but I can allways find them (in the daytime) by looking for them in the Air, or against a cieling, & sometimes against the floor but not allways there. They are near, or father from the Eyes in proportion to the distance of the object I am looking upon. When I look at the sky, or a distant landskip they seem floating in the air at twenty or thirty yards distance, allways descending till I raise them again by a turn of the eyes. If I look at a window they are upon the glass, & float upon the paper (when they appear at all in that situation) when I write or read. The little Atoms are lucid, fill the whole compass which the eye takes in, & are ever twinkling & in motion. But these sorts of Atoms I have allways seem from a Child though not in the same degree as at present. The Dr. says that both they & the other appearances are the same disorder. Both my Eyes are equally affected. The lines & clouds assume various forms but ever appear like two distinct & different objects, – the lines always pellucid, & the clouds dark & more opaque.
Mr. Whitehurst was at Etruria about a fortnight since but I was at this place & did not see him. He told Mrs. Wedgwood he wod. insure my Eyes for 6d. – he had been affected in the same way, thought he was going blind immediately & apply’d to Dr. Darwin for advice. The Dr. told him he was very safe – that everybody at one tie of life or other had the same appearances before their eyes, but everybody did not look at them, that he wod. be well again in a little time, which he soon was, & says he has no doubt but I shall be so too.
Etruria, Wednesday Eveng.,
[Dec. 29, 1769].
It is now just dark, & I am absolutely forbid to write, or read by candlelight but I cannot longer forbear thanking my dear friend for his many kind letters & affectionate concern for my health & welfare.
Mr. Cox wod. write you that I was gone to consult a Dr. Elliott abot. my Eyes. I met with him at home & he told me there was allways some danger in these cases (Mice Volanti, I think he calls the disorder) but he hopes he shall be able to overcome them. I am this moment return’d from Spen Green where I left my Wife & her bantling [His second son, Josiah] both well, my Father is still very poorly, far, the Apothecary says from being out of danger.
I am very well in health but cannot help thinking my eyes in a bad way, & I do not know what to determine about building any more though I must leave my works at Burslem the next year.
Etruria 28th Decr., 1769
Keep making such things as these – I wish I had nothing else to do you shou’d see a great deal better very soon, indeed it has been the chief of my business since I came home, ’till within this week or ten days, but thirty hands employed in making Vases, things of which they have no idea when they are doing right, or when they are doing wrong, is alone sufficient employment for three of the best heads in the Kingdom to look after them. I shall do the best, but as I am obliged at present to leave them, sometimes for whole days together, many things will escape my attention ’till it is too late to remedy them, & this in every branch that is going forward from the Throwing to the Gilding, most of the faults you mention were noted by me before the Goods were sent off; but I shall nevertheless allways be glad to heare of any defficiencies, as they occure to you, as those I might know of will serve as memento, & those I did not is so much knowledge gained.
I am convinced of the Difficulty of your situation, owing chiefly to the perplexed state of accounts you are involved in, & I have my fears lest your adjournment to Chelsea will not mend the matter, you will then only be able to visit the Warehouse in the busy part of the day, when you will scarcely find time to recieve & examine their Cash & Cash accts. which shou’d be done daily, to avoid that confusion or, other bad consequences which may ensue, & there are a thousand other things which they will want to consult you about, & which that busy tie of the day is ill calculated for; if it now requires all your attention, which I know it does, when you are the whole 24 hours upon the spot, what will become of those things which you can scarcely keep streight in this time, when you have only four or five hours to regulate them in. I am perswaded you will find it necessary to Continue a bed in the house & stay now & then a night amongst them in the busiest part of the Season. I shall want Mr. Cox here early in the spring, & to stay with me the whole summer, & as he will be chiefly in the Country for the future, I apprehend it will not be convenient for him to be a Housekeeper in London. I have mentioned it to im, & he thinks as I do; he will acquaint you of the plan we have talked of, & either that or some other must be adopted in two or three months.
The plan I have mentd. to Mr. Cox is for the servts. to be at board wages & supposing there is four of them they may afford to give a woman her board for cooking, washing, mending &c for them, & we must pay her wages for cleaning the rooms, stairs & other things. There are some objections to this plan, & so there will be to every one, I wish we may fix upon that which has the least. I only mean to give hints & leave them to be digested by you.
I think Mr. Crofts does not use us very well & I admire in you what I feat I could have imitated, though I believe it was right – I mean your patience with him – Not pleas’d with our behaviour to him ! – Why if he had been a Nabob hiself we could not hd with more respect, & caution towards him, & between friends I believe that is the very thing which has spoiled him, by giving him an air of more importance than he can bear. – But does he think it is right in him, or doing justice to us, to neglect our constant employment for the sake of a lucrative jobb? – If he does, I wod. not give sixpence for him, or his principles, let his professions be what they will, we never have, nor ever shod. have serv’d him so, & as he knows how much we want the Vases done for this season, adn the bad consequences of neglecting Mr. Du Burks ordrs. I shall ot easily forgive his deserting us at this time, & meanly preferring a jobb to our constant employmt. He too will find in the end, as such people allways do, that he is penny wise & pound foolish. I shall be glad to know the new proposals he makes to you. I believe our ingaging him at the rate of 200 per Annm. & making a companionn of him, has turn’d his head more than his working for the Nabobs will ever do, though we shod. not have thought too much of one or the other, if he could have bore it. But enough of this subject, you will know much better what to do with him that I can at this distance advise.
I agree with you that it is very desirable that Vases of the same kind shod. be done the same way, but it cannot allways be so. They are done different ways to hide different defects wch. was the case with the Candlesticks with gilt Listels, & will unavoidably be so with many other things, but you may rest assur’d we shall observe your maxim when we can.
Pray get the Companion to our Triton if possible, but not at 30 Guineas. I suppose you mean the Triton was carv’d from a work of Michael Angelo’s.
My good Father is somthing better, but not out of danger, his disorder is a fever, & of a bad kind. He has kept his bed some weeks but as the fever dininishes a little I hope he will get over it. My eyes continue the same.
Etruria Decr. 16, 1769
I am much concerned to find so many more blunders in Mr. Cox’s Cash accot., as I am daily suffering in so tender a point, as that my Character for Honesty, & all through his neglect, I cou’d not help reproving him very severely for it, I shall send him up to Town immediately, & before he sets out, shall tell him that I insist on his doing nothing, but assist in clearing up the Books, ’till that is done, & ’till this work is finished, I beg you will not send out any more bills, unless such as you are certain are not paid, for I had rather hire money at fifty P Ct. interest, than lie under the suspicions, Mr. Cox’s extreme neglect has brought upon me. – It must appear as the Gentn. you mention justly observes, that I must either be wanting in honesty or have trusted my business to servants, who cou’d not, or wou’d not keep any books, & as you know this latter has been the case, I beg they may be told so without reserve, or any way mincing the matter though Mr. Cox shou’d be present at the time. I acquaint him with what I write to you, & I owe this piece of justice to myself. It is equitable and just, that he shou’d rather lose his Character as a book-keeper which he has deserved to do, than I shou’d lose mine for honesty, which I have never forfeited.
Josiah Wedgwood’s wife Sarah – Sally – takes up the pen on this day 250 years ago due to concerns about Wedgwood’s vision. Additionally we learn that there are issues with his wooden leg, the result of an amputation necessitated by a bout of smallpox in his youth. Mr. and Mrs. Wilcox will five years hence be among the painters of the second service for Empress Catherine the Great of Russia, often called today the Frog service.
Etruria Decr. 6, 1769
The complaint in Mr. Wedgwoods eyes which he mention’d to you in London growing worse he has consulted Mr. Bent who advises him to use them as little as possible and not to write by Candle light at all for which reason he knows you will excuse his not writing.
The peg leg is much wanted. Mr. & Mrs. Wilcox set out by the Waggon on Sunday night please to let somebody meet them at the Inn on Satturday the less Mr. Willcox sees beside his own proper business & better for he will drink and prate with every painter he meets .
Etruria 1st Decr., 1769
I have two good letters to thank my dear friend for, & first of the first with the Portrait of Mr. Grubb, an excellent likeness, so just that I see him squeeseing & straining his Phyz before me, just as he sat for you when you took the sketch. I hope he was easier when he left you with the Cash in his pocket. Much good may it do him, I do not think the Patent dear, & we must now endeavour to make the best use we can of it.
I am often giving my people lessons upon the loss of Clay, & with it the loss of credit in making heavy ware, but all will not do, I have bot them half a doz. pair of scales, but there seems one thing wanting still which I propose to have soon – A Clerk of weights & measures, whose constant business it shall be to weigh the goods as they are get up – he will save me three times his wages in Clay, & ten times as much in Credit. The first clever fellow I can spare I shall certainly set down to this business.
I have a very small drawing of a Vase which was dug out of Herculaneum, & I think you told me Sr Wm. Farringdon gave it to you. I do not see any beauty in it but will make somthing like it if we can manage it without too much trouble.
We find our large Ovens very inconvenient for Vases, I mean in point of time as it is near two months work to fill the bisket oven. I am therefore building a small one of a new construction which is only to hold two or three basketfull, say £100 worth or so of Vases, it is to be a very good natur’d Oven & either bisket, Gloss, or Enamel as occasion serves. We have some Medallion Vases in the Oven, & are making plenty of them which you shall have in due time, I now give myself allmost entirely to Vasemaking & find myself to improve in that Art & Mysterie pretty fast. Many fine things revolve daily in my pericranium, some of which I hope will escape as our hands & other matters approach to greater maturity.
I have set two hands down to Lyons, Sphynx’s & figures, & work along with them myself, we have made a few much better than Boot ever did as you will see (pray keep one or two to compare with them) & shall improve as we proceed in the business.
Etruria 19 Novr., 1769
We have got another Lathe up (the third) and I have committed a sad robbery upon my works at Burslem to furnish it. I have taken James Bourn to Etruria! The only tolerable turner of Good things I had at Burslem, and he is far superior to Abram at Vases. I wod. not have parted with him from my works at Burslem for a great deal on any other acct. for we have not one Engine Turner left there now. Poor Burslem – Poor Creamcolour. They tell me I sacrifice all to Etruria and Vases!1
We have now got thirty hands here, but I have much ado to keep the new ones quiet. Some will not work in Black.2 Others say they shall never learn this new business, and want to be released to make Terrines and sa: boats3 again. I do not know what I shall do with them, we have too many fresh hands to take in at once, though we have business enough for them, if they knew how, or wod. have patience to learn to do it, but they do not seem to relish the thoughts of a second apprenticeship. I have been but three or four times at Burslem since my return though they want me there very much, indeed I have been confin’d to my room several days Planning with Mr. Gardner the remainder of my works here, wch. must be all built beside a Town for the men to life in, the next summer, for I have notice to leave the Brickhouse Works the next year, my Landlord is married and will come to them himself. Heres a fine piece of work cut out for me! Where shall I get money, materials, or hands to finish so much building in so short a time. It is work enough for years if I had not one other Iron in the fire, and must be done in one summer, and nothing else stand still the while. Collect – Collect my frd. – set all your hands, and heads to work – send me the L’Argent and you shall see wonders – £3000! – £3000?” – Aye £3000 not a farthing less will satisfy my Architect for the next years business, so you must either collect or take a place for me in the Gazett.
I sell for ready money only you know, now if we can but manage that it shall be so in reallity, all may be well and the business done in due time. When you want a hand I will send you John Wood, and when you needs must have another – Mr. Cox, but you’l let him stay here as long as you conveniently can, but you shall have him, Mr. Swift, myself, or anybody else when necessary, for the main point, getting in the Cash.
Oh, – thank you my inspired, poetical friend, a most excellent song indeed. – What a pity that the subject was no better, however I love, and thank you for your partiality and have begged the Original of Mr. Cox least any copies shod. get abroad.
I have no objection to employing Tassie,4 but the money, and I think we can repair the things as fast as we can make use of them, so you may send us some down from time to time for that purpose. We want several pieces to complete the Apollo and Daphne wch. is highly finished.
I have not seen these sd. black figures which have converted you again to a good Opinion of figure making, therefore if I shd. waver a little you will not wonder. My opinion is, that if we can make more Vases than can be sold, or find hands who can make figures and cannot work at Vases, then we shod. set about figure making, but ‘till one of these cases happen I cannot help thinking our hands are better imploy’d at Vases. If there was any such thing as geting one sober figure maker to bring up some Boys I shod. like to ingage in that branch. Suppose you inquire at Bow, I despair of any at Derby.
The six Etruscan Vases three handled sent to you a fortnight since were those we threw and turn’d the first at Etruria, and shod. be finish’d as high as you please, but not sold, they being first fruits of Etruria.
Has Mr. Cox taken a drawing of the Seve Vases at Morgans? I think them composed in a very Masterly stile, and as well put on. One or two of the forms were poor, the rest I thought good, that like Ld. Marches not so find as his Ld.ships. I shod. like much to have drawings of those Seve Vases, many of the parts are excellent, and the whole has often a very fine and pleasing effect, though after all I must confess that the colourg. has a great share in their merit.
Must we make pebble Teaware? – When you send the drawings for Sr. Geo. Young, and I can make a little time to attend to the forms we will see what can be done, but I could sooner make £100 worth of any ware in the common course that is going than this one sett. It is this sort of time loseing with Uniques which keeps ingenious Artists who are connected with Great Men of Taste, poor & wod. make us so too if we did too much in that way.
I am glad you go on so currently at Chelsea, and hope you will soon be settle there to your satisfaction, pray push them all you can to find money for the alternations, and take the new buildings too if practicable.
They must be unreasonable mortals who want a larger soup ladle than our largest. But peradventure it may be intended for the Patagonian trade. We are making the Vases light, but our composition is much more metallic and heavy than the Etruscan earth.
Katherine Eufemia Farrer, ed., Letters of Josiah Wedgwood 1762 to 1770. London: Printed by the Women’s Printing Society, Limited, n.d., pp. 308-12.
1 Cream-colored earthenware continued to be made at Burslem, while the ornamental wares were produced at Etruria.
2 i.e. black basalt.
4 This offhand reference to what is perhaps James Tassie, the Scottish gem engraver, is worth more research.
Contact Harwood Johnson – email@example.com
Follow us on Instagram at circa1775