admit that, granted Fox was a great parliamentarian and Wesley a moving preacher, the counterfeit presentment of such celebrities cannot honestly be described as decorative, and it is this quality in the portraits of old masters which now secures such high prices. Some day perhaps an enterprising patron of the fine arts will be sufficiently patriotic to desire to restore the lost charms of both stipple and mezzotint. The thing is possible, and from every point of view is worth doing. I believe there is one stipple engraver left in England, but I cannot name a second, nor do I believe that the solitary exponent of the school which Ryland and Bartolozzi founded, and Burke, Tomkins, and Caroline Watson brought to such a pitch of excellence, is by any means overwhelmed with commissions. Yet, at the very apogee of the early English school of painting, stippled prints, married to color engraving, commanded a ready sale, and the best examples realize long prices in the sale-rooms to-day. Mezzotint, it is true, is still very much in evidence, but how terribly fallen from its high estate! Take a print engraved about 1790 and place it alongside the best of the modern work, and cease to wonder why even a secondrate portrait of the old school commands a hundred times the value of the modern print. In the former there is depth, tone, harmony, a soft and velvety impression, richness and warmth, and, above all, character: the modern print, on the other hand, though often brilliant and effective, is generally cold, flat, hard, and unsympathetic. It is not that our modern artist-engravers fail, it is their public that fails them-the publishers, who insist on steel-faced plates for the sake of facility for reproduction; the buyers, who cannot distinguish what they have lost by the absence of the soft and ductile qualities of the old copper

plates. But the plate is not everything: the modern system of "laying the ground" of the plate differs materially from the old: the hard, unreceptive, machine-made paper now used is also incapable of receiving and absorbing the ink in the manner done by the old hand-made paper: the ink, the act of printing-all is changed. Artists do not now give the personal attention to their engravers' plates that they used to do, while engravers expect the printers to do half the work. Thus, while engravers and printers are often equal to the old school as artists, and generally superior to them as draughtsmen and mechanics, the work they turn out is immeasurably inferior. I can see no vestige of a sign that it will ripen and harmonize as the old engraving seems to have done with the lapse of time, and our only consolation is that the paper will probably crumble away before the century closes, and the entire product of the age be lost to futurity.

I believe this can all be changed. I believe that copper-plates can be made precisely identical with the old, and the ground laid similarly by the careful study of a good model. Handmade paper of the right sort can be provided when the demand for it begins, and meanwhile the old paper can still be procured, though with difficulty. All the rest is a matter of close attention to detail. Going into the matter with a leading publisher in London, I found that the cost of issuing a single plate in the way I have indicated would amount to £400, half of which represents the fee of a leading engraver at the head of his profession. Now, with a copper-plate one cannot safely reckon on more than twenty proofs and fifty print copies before the plate may have to be reworked and perhaps ruined: one would therefore have to issue the proofs at. say, £10 and the prints at £4 to merely

cover the expenses, apart from all question of profit, and there would still be the risk of the work not finding a market if the subject were not wisely chosen and the engraving not well done.

In the old days a proof rarely cost more than two guineas on publication, and a print from 5s. to a sovereign according to the size of the plate, and there was still a good profit secured. All fees and expenses were lower. I am inclined to think that the public would be quick to recognize a return to the best traditions, and would not be averse to pay rather a higher price than at present: the small issue and rarity of each print would also be an additional attraction. In any case It is my belief that both stipple and mezzotint could be restored to the artistic excellence achieved a hundred years ago; but it is not likely that this will be done unless some patriotic person is prepared to risk his money, and is not disheartened by a first failure. Should, however, any lover of the art care to embark upon the undertaking on the chance of coupling his name with the revival of the best traditions of an important English art, I would willingly give my time to the supervision of the details, every one of which is important not only in itself but in relation to the artistic harmony of the whole.

I am often asked to advise about buying prints, and my advice is always to buy the best things and not to waste money on the purchase of inferior impressions of even good subjects. Bet ter one fine Valentine Green of a fulllength Reynolds than fifty cheap prints or worn impressions.

Above all, a beginner should be encouraged to exercise independence of judgment; for in art, as in everything else, there is a great tendency to follow the fashion. If a collector has good taste and good judgment, and

knows how to wait, he will be sure to succeed; if not, no amount of advice will be of any service to him. He may choose a period, an artist, an engraver, or a style, and resolutely adhere to his specialty, or he may have a more catholic taste, and prefer to have a few examples of all schools and styles. The first method is well suited to a collector who stores his treasures in portfolios, the second to wall decoration. In the first case the question of margin assumes a certain importance, especially for the preservation of the prints from ill-usage; in the second, brilliancy of impression comes first, but margin must not be neglected, since the fact must be recognized that a wide margin adds very materially to the market value of a print. In hanging prints upon a wall there are questions of framing, of light, of wall-paper, and of arrangement, all of which require taste and supervision, in order that the prints may appear to the best advantage. Much of the beauty of old engravings can be, and often is, lost by bad framing, ill-chosen mounts, or unsuitable wall-papers: a fierce garish light is also a disadvantage. Every collector has his own ideas about framing and mounting: personally I prefer black-and-gold of English make for all uncolored prints; fairly simple gilt frames of old patterns for colored prints, and French gilt frames for all the French school, whether plain or colored. Wall-papers should in all cases be without pattern, or at most with barely definable vertical lines: a particular shade of deepish red is best, but olive-green is equally effective: whites and yellows are hopeless, and pinks only suitable for prints issued since 1820.

It has been very well said that if you want to know an individual you must spend ten days in a country-house with him or with her as the case may be. and in the same way there is no more

infallible guide to the excellence or reverse of a print than to have it under close observation for a time in one's own house. It is curious to observe how some prints grow on one, and this is especially true of the masterly works of J. R. Smith: others, again, which may have attracted at first, fail to stand the test of intimacy. No one, of course, should attempt to combine in one room a variety of periods and styles. The mezzotints of the earlier masters up to 1770 should be kept apart from the works of the grand period of 1770-1800; stipple work, whether plain or colored, must be kept away from the mezzotints; and the French school demands a place by itself. Everything later than S. W. Reynolds must be regarded as modern: it cannot exist side by side with the grand productions of the old engravers, not even if the signature be that of Samuel Cousins himself. The first two works of this engraver which secured his reputation were his Master Lambton and Lady Acland: both are undeniably superb in proof state before the title. His Lady Grey, Countess Gower, and Mrs. Wolff are also very fine indeed, and his Lady Grosvenor and Nature good but overrated. For the rest he is very uneven, and has the misfortune to be also very hackneyed. I think that his first two works after Lawrence show the merit of his teaching by that fine artist S. W. Reynolds, and that a proof before letters of Master Lambton is the best print of the nineteenth century, and one of the most perfect things that money can buy, but that, on the whole, the relative position which Cousins holds in the sale-rooms is far too exalted.

The test of propinquity soon brings out a very important point-namely, what are the companionable prints and what the reverse. There can be no doubt whatever that the prints which attract and hold one's interest longest

are the great mezzotint portraits of that period of giants, extending from somewhere about 1770 to 1800-that magic period of some thirty years which saw all, or nearly all, the best work done. The best portraits of this date are a real pleasure to live with and it is the same for many contemporary subject pieces, not labelled portraits, such as Walton's Fruit-Barrow and The Promenade at Carlisle House, both engraved by J. R. Smith, and others one could name of the same character. These things are the aristocracy of this fascinating art, and any new-comers placed beside them are only admitted on sufferance until they are found to be worthy of their surroundings.

I have only one fault to find with mezzotints, and it is that many of them are too dark. Contrary to the practice of the line-engraver and the etcher, the scraper of a mezzotint works from dark to light, and is often prone, out of sheer laziness, to leave large portions of his plate unworked or only lightly defined. There are, of course, many brilliant exceptionsDean and J. R. Smith, for example, whose plates are generally bright and luminous throughout, constituting not the least of their great charm. Another point-rather a misfortune than a fault is the absence of good examples of landscape in the works of the great engravers of the eighteenth century. That mezzotint is capable of adapting itself to the treatment of landscape is beyond a doubt; but, except here and there a Hobbema or two, we have to be contented with those charming little glimpses that form the backgrounds of some of the great portraits, and these glimpses rather whet our appetite than satisfy it, making us regret that the talents of the Dutch and English schools of the period were so largely devoted to portraiture. True it is that mezzotint

is peculiarly adapted to the delineation of flesh-tints, draperies, silks, satins, and all the delicate half-tones that make for so much in a fine portrait: at the same time, David Lucas's “English Landscape" series after Constable has shown us, at a later date, how well adapted the art is for the rendering of landscape, and these comparatively modern successes make one all the more keenly regret that a few men of the grand school, and S. W. Reynolds among the later masters, did not give us more evidence of their talents in this direction. Charming as the work of Lucas is when found in the earliest impressions, it is not absolutely perfection, having the defect of being surcharged with heavy blacks and deep shadows for the purpose of contrast with the high lights: such as it is, however, it is about the best thing in mezzotint landscape we possess, and comes next to the finest of Woollett's line work, which still retains its pride of place.

We are continually told by accomplished writers that the present price of old engravings is fictitious, and has been reached, by means of a skilfully engineered boom, by a ring of dealers. We are solemnly warned that a slump is impending, and that prices will soon give way and go down with a run. There are rings in all trades, but no one who knows much about sale-rooms will admit that the printsellers are disposed to force up the prices paid at auctions. Their action is rather in the other direction; and as they are pracically the only, and in any case the chief, buyers at sales, it is manifestly not to their advantage to make the market too dear. I can see no signs whatever of an impending fall in prices; on the contrary, the omens are all the other way. Taste and the means of education, research, and comparison are greatly superior to what they were, and if fashion still neglects

many fine prints and exaggerates the value of others, it has on the whole fairly decided at last upon the beautiful and valuable things, and the prices of these will continue to steadily rise. Old books, old pictures, tapestries, curios, furniture, china, and bric-a-brac of all kinds increase in value year by year. It is a simple matter of supply and demand. Every year the supply decreases, and more fine things get locked up in the collections of rich men or in those cold tombs of museums. Every year more buyers come forward and the demand increases: it is the rise in prices alone that tempts all but executors to part with their treasures. There has been a marked decrease in the quality of prints offered for sale during the season which closed in July last: the names often sounded well, but the engravings themselves often proved most disappointing. Foreign collectors in all countries have thoroughly recognized the artistic merits of the early English school of engraving, and their buyers are busy in the field: at sales abroad the prices rule higher than they do in England, a good test of the justice of the complaint made against our printsellers. For the moment, Boston and Chicago millionaires hardly distinguish between mezzotint and photogravure, but example is contagious. Mr. Morgan and other rich Americans are collecting on a grand scale, and once the practice of buying prints by the yard and Caxtons by the hundredweight becomes generalized in the States, the Americans will raise the prices both of prints and of books to famine point.

Had "print states" been numbered consecutively by the old publishers we should now have graduated prices and some means of fixing approximate values from year to year: as matters stand, it is almost impossible to fix the money value of a good old engraving. The general public lumps together all

print states as of equal value, whether the work is palpably one struck off just after the proofs or when the plate was worn out.

The highest art in print-collecting is the faculty of recognizing and securing early and brilliant print impressions, which differ hardly at all from the proofs themselves. A constant source of disappointment is the belief that because one print has fetched SO much at auction another of the same subject, and apparently identical in "state," size, and description, will realize the same figure. Sale prices taken by themselves are absolutely meaningless unless the collector has himself seen the print sold and taken note of its condition. It may be a good impression or a bad one; it may be rubbed, creased, torn, harmed by a fault in printing, worm-eaten, restored, badly cleaned, or bleached beyond recognition; it may have been cut down so that the platemark is lost or the whole subject not given; it may be "laid down" on cardboard, touched up or strengthened; it may have uncut margins or no margin at all; and the inscription may be complete or partly wanting, or pasted on. None of these points are mentioned in a list of sale prices, and yet every one affects the value. Even with all faults and blemishes it may become a bone of contention for two amateurs who may have left unlimited commissions for its purchase, and the price may mount up to many times the value of the print. Old engravings are not like candles, all equal of their sort and saleable at so much a dozen: they vary as widely as the price of yearlings at Newmarket sales, and generally for far better reasons. Engravings have one great pull over oils: it is that, given equal care, the print will preserve its freshness and life when the picture is a ghost of its former self. Prints also preserve for us the faithful record of

great works lost or destroyed, such, for instance, as Reynolds's great portrait of the Duchess of Rutland, burnt at Belvoir in 1816.

As a hobby, print-collecting is to my mind one of the most fascinating of pursuits, allowing endless scope for interesting study, judgment, decision, and independence of opinion. The print-collector adorns and beautifies his house with his treasures, surrounding himself with the portraits of famous men and women whose names have made history, with the scenes of great events, the truthful record of the daily and domestic life of all classes, the heroic and the commonplace side by side, and all explanatory of their time. Here is a famous duchess, Georgiana of Devonshire; there Polly Kennedy, the not less queenly and dignified demi-mondaine who won such a tribute of admiration from Reynolds "the face has more grace and dignity than anything I have ever done." Here is the strong and manly face of David Garrick; and farther on the portrait of an even greater actor on a larger stage, Appiani's Bonaparte, surrounded by Whitworth, Castlereagh, Pitt, Nelson, and others intimately connected with the history of the great war. Here again is the salon at Carlisle House, with portraits of many famous men and women; there, a life-like scene from а back-slum in Chelsea; mothers and their children after Lawrence, Romney's idealizations of his imperishable model, Gainsborough shepherdesses, Hoppner beauties, princes and ploughboys, duchesses and dairymaids, scenes and idylls and costumes from the every-day life in all classes of a great and a rising people. It is not possible to surround oneself with a similar record of any age or time, and these beautiful things-for even the commonplace are beautiful-breathe life and meaning into history as one reads it,

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