“What profitteth a man for alle bis toyle
Under ye Sunne,” atte Schole or Colledge,
To slave and burn ye mydnyght oyle,
And cramme hys hede wyth uselesse knolledge!
“Of makynge bokes thereys no ende”
Say the ye wyze and wittie Soloman;
A truer worde was never penned
By hym or anie other man!
For knolledge ys butte “Vanitie
Of Vanities,” ye chiefeste ende
Andde buyinge bokes withouten ende
There ys no greater follie, man.
Butte yff thatte bookes ye sure must have
(Instede offspendynge monie on),
To save your sowl, and conscience salve,
I’ faith thenne goe and borrowe one!
(Im-) Moral: Never buy a boke iff thatte
ye can cozen one from a friend, and then be
sure to stikke your boke-plate on,?
on top off hys!
the bold, frank, boastful, noisy, and talented man who landed at Torbay with Dutch William and who showed ability yet much indiscretion, and who was honest in spite of every excuse for not being, merciful when all around him were full of bitterness and spite, had a book-plate in the ecclesiastical style, which is rare and valuable to-day. The plate bears the following inscription, Gilbert Burnet Lord Bishop of Salisbury Chancellor of the most Noble Order of the Garter; and behind the arms are the crosier and key with above them the mitre of his office. The royal motto of England, Honi soit qui mal y pense, is given upon the garter encircling the arms. The date of this plate is about 1690.
Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford and Mortimer, founder of the Harleian Society and collector of that vast accumulation of literary treasure which was purchased by Parliament and now under the name of the Harleian Collection may be seen in the British Museum, used a book-plate of the highest style of the art as developed in his day, in which his arms are shown along with nineteen other quarterings.
The plate dates somewhere about 1695, and is not readily obtained to-day.
It will be remembered that when Dean Swift used to take his exercise about the park in order to reduce his growing girth there often accompanied him, for the purpose of adding to his sparseness, that “thin, hollow looked” man, Matthew Prior,
the wit, politician, and diplomatist, of whom Swift wrote: ” If his poetry be generally considered, his praise will be that of correctness and industry rather than of compass of comprehension, or activity of fancy. He never made any effort of invention.” Rather lukewarm praise this for one who aspired to some fame as a maker of verse and who had a fine wit which surely must have brought him some measure of “invention.” Anyway, Prior had a bookplate in which he called down Mars and Apollo and an angel blowing on the trumpet of fame to sit about his shield of arms, and this plate in good Jacobean style is one of considerable rarity and consequently of considerable value to the collector. John Bagford, it must be admitted, has rather an odious memory even among those who allow the followers of Granger some little claim to distinction as lovers and collectors of literary memorabilia. This man, who began life as an apprentice to a shoemaker, developed a desire for knowledge which took him from so humble a calling and sent him off on a tour through Germany and the Low Countries in search of material for a book on printing, which, however, he never wrote. The name ” biblioclast” has been angrily bestowed upon him, and there seems to have been good reason for it; for not less than twenty thousand volumes passed through his hands, from which he tore title-pages, frontispieces, wood-cuts, portraits, and ornamental letters, wholly destroying some volumes and mutilating, to an extent which was actual destruction, a great many others. When one thinks of the rare books that were thus put beyond the reach of the preserving hand of the collector, of the bindings which were executed for the great bibliophiles of the past, and of the engravings of the masters now wholly gone, this destruction makes the blood boil. Among the collections of this book-killer was found the earliest known specimen of a book-plate used by an English lady. This is the plate of Elizabeth Pindar, which dates about 1608. The motto she chose was, God’s Providence is mine inheritance.
There is a book-plate bearing the inscription William Cowper, Clerk of the Parliaments, which is sometimes erroneously attributed to the poet, him of Olney, the William of a greater fame. The way in which the office of clerk fell to this William Cowper, who was an uncle of the poet, is rather curious and interesting. When George I. ascended the throne, the office was held by a certain Mr. Johnson. One of the despicable creatures of the court was a man named Robethon, who succeeded in getting the office promised to him in futuro. No sooner was he possessed of this grant in certainty, than he sold the right for $9000! Upon the death of said Johnson the actual grant was made out, and the name to be placed upon it was ” anybody that Robethon should name.” The price named was paid by Spencer Cowper, as may be certified in the diary of his sister- in-law (Lady Mary Cowper, wife of the Chancellor, and Lady of the Bedchamber to Princess Caroline), where the transaction is entered under date of Dec. 25, 1714. Spencer Cowper gave the post to his eldest son, who held it until 1740, in which year he died. The book-plate is one of real interest in itself, being well engraved, and in the pure Jacobean style.
All lovers of books will recall the witty lines by Dr. Trapp, and the even more witty rejoinder they brought forth from Sir William Browne, the founder of the prizes for odes and epigrams at Cambridge, upon the occasion of the gift in November, 1715, from King George I. to the University of Cambridge, of some books, and the sending at the same time of a troop of horse to Oxford. Dr. Trapp wrote as follows: –
“The King, observing with judicious eyes The state of both his universities, To one he sent a regiment: for why? That learned body wanted loyalty. To th’ other he sent books, as well discerning How much that loyal body wanted learning.” To which Sir William made answer: –
“The King to Oxford sent his troop of horse, For Tories own no argument but force; With equal care to Cambridge books he sent, For Whigs allow no force but argument.”
This gift of books was the greatest benefaction the library of Cambridge ever received, and it consisted of 28,965 volumes of printed books and 1790 manuscripts. This liberal gift cost the royal treasury the pretty sum of ?6000, the price paid to the heirs of John Moore, D.D., Lord Bishop of Ely, to whom the library had belonged. This munificent act was suggested to the king by his Secretary of State, Townshend, in acknowledgment of the loyalty of the university which, through its senate, had voted an address in which expressions of its attachment to the person and government of the king were introduced. Beyond question this trifling act pleased the monarch, who knew of the Jacobite tendency manifested at Oxford. Some nineteen years after the books were received, they were given suitable housing in rooms especially prepared for them. The fact which makes this bit of history worthy of mention in the present connection is that, at this time, the celebrated engraver, John Pine, made a book-plate for these books which was intended to commemorate the gracious generosity of the royal giver. This plate is very handsome in appearance and bold in execution. There were four sizes engraved to fit the folios, quartos, octavos, and books of lesser size. In all 28,200 copies were printed, as appears from the receipted bill dated July 8, 1737. The three larger plates are alike in design, and may be described as follows: upon an architectural base upon the front of which is a medallion of King George, rises a pyramid, whose fore-front is nearly concealed by a large oval shield which gives the arms of the university; upon the right sits Minerva, and upon the left stands Apollo. Piles of books lie about, and the ornamental touches of the period are used to good advantage. There is extant a letter from Pine in which he discusses some proposed alterations in the plate, and offers to make the profile of the king ” more like.” In the smaller-sized plate many of the features of these larger ones are omitted, notably the figures of Apollo and Minerva, the sun, clouds, and pyramid. Lady Betty Germain, friend of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, used a dainty book-plate made after the death of her husband in 1718. The Germain arms appear in the proper lozenge impaling those of Berkeley, and surrounding the shield is the widow’s knot, the whole upon a hatched background whose blackness throws the graceful design into effective prominence.
One of the very early families of England went by the musty name of Fust, and various of its members have crept into history at one time or another, having been in the train of some valiant prince, expatiated some horrible crime at the stake, or attained to rank and fortune. There is a book-plate used by a certain member of this family going by the name of Sir Francis Fust of Hill Court in the County of Gloucester, Baronet, which is of note on account of the immense number of armorial bearings it shows. No less than forty coats are blazoned upon this plate. There is one large shield which is divided down the centre, and upon the dexter side are shown the marriages in the male line and on the sinister the marriages in the female line. So says the inscription itself. The date of this remarkable plate is about 1730.
A very interesting plate, both on account of its appearance and the memories it stirs, is that of the Rt. Honble. Henrietta Louisa Jeffreys Countess of Pomfret, Lady of the Bed-chamber to Queen Caroline. This is the inscription as it reads upon the largest and most interesting of her three notable plates. This lady was the granddaughter and heiress of that “monster in ermine,” Lord George Jeffreys, Baron of Wem, the infamous minion of James II. As this large and rare plate falls under the eye of the collector, he cannot but remember the atrocious deeds committed by Jeffreys, his inhumanity and his terrible cruelty in the high position in which he was allowed to display these traits of his character. His son succeeded to the title of Baron Wem and was the last to hold it, a title bestowed by a despicable specimen of royalty for a despicable ingenuity in the trials of the adherents of Mon-mouth. His daughter married Thomas, first Earl of Pomfret, and was made Lady of the Bedchamber, as the plate indicates. This office she was released from upon the death of the Queen in 1737, and the plate was probably made within three or four years of that date. The motto on the bookplate is in Welsh and reads, Pob dawne O dduw. The armorial bearings shown are Fermor and Jeffreys with supporters and coronet: at either side the Fermor and Jeffreys crests are seen, and a distant view of the open field appears at one end. This plate, which is signed S. W., is of a very unusual shape, being long and narrow and quite large, not at all of the dimension or form one would pick out for the use of a lady.
There is a very bold bit of engraving which seems to represent huge tomes lying upon a table near the grating of an unglassed window, which was used by the Earl of Aylesford as a book-plate. The plate has this peculiarity that while very strong and massive in appearance, the exact meaning of the design cannot be understood. Another interesting point which this plate presents for solution relates to the person who engraved it. The work very strongly suggests the touch of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, and if one did not know that the Earl had been a student of the art of engraving under this very master and prided himself in no small measure upon the ability he possessed, it would be at once assigned to the graver of Piranesi. But as the Earl may very possibly have executed the plate himself, the question is one not to be decided until further proof is adduced for one side or the other. William Wilberforce, the abolitionist, used a bookplate of no very handsome design and which is thought to have been drawn originally for his grandfather, of the same name. However, as it was used by the great philanthropist and statesman, it may well be included here as having much interest attaching to it; for the bravery and eloquence of his speeches and the finally triumphant persistence with which he urged his abolition measures before the House of Commons made him of world-wide reputation. The plate shows the arms without motto enclosed in a neat frame in the rococo style. There are three varieties of this plate, which are so nearly alike as to make it quite likely that their differences will be overlooked without close examination. It is conjectured that the plate was used first by the original William Wilberforce, then by his son of the same name, an uncle of the following, and finally by the owner who achieved greatest distinction.
Thomas Bewick engraved many book-plates, and his style is so well known as to require no description. The charming little bits of landscape and water-side are found in profusion throughout the books he illustrated, as well as on many book-plates. Among these dainty bits there is one which bears under the picture the name “Joseph Pollard. This plate is illustrated here with a print from the very copper upon which Bewick traced the design. This represents a view of Newcastle, to which town Bewick belonged, and whose natural beauties and the ruins in the neighborhood of which, furnished the great engraver with not a few motives and ideas. This print shows the sky line of the town from up the Tyne, with the towers of St. Nicholas and the Old Castle showing faintly. It is of interest to record that this plate was in all likelihood a gift from Bewick to his friend Pollard, between whom there were strong bonds of affection. The Pollard family is perhaps even older to Newcastle and the Tyneside than the Bewick, and Mr. Percival Pollard of New York, who furnished these data, tells me that the original owner of the plate was his great-grandfather. Mark Lambert was a pupil, indeed an apprentice, of Bewick’s, and many of his book-plates have been erroneously attributed to his master, so closely do they follow the style and manner of the great wood-engraver. Indeed in even so authentic a work as Hugo’s Catalogue of Bewick’s Works, some few things by Lambert are unconsciously included, and it is curious to learn that the plate of Buddie Atkinson, which was at first accredited to Bewick, and then to Lambert, now turns out to be the design and the engraving of Mr. George F. Robinson, who was with the firm of M. and M. W. Lambert for a long time, and who is now living at Gosforth, not far from Newcastle. The collector who can number a dozen plates by Lambert can feel assured that he has well over half the total number of plates which Lambert ever made. Bartolozzi is known to have engraved a few bookplates, and among the most pleasing of them is the one for Lady Bessborough. In this the interior of what seems a Roman villa is pictured, the female figure seated in the chair in the foreground being probably intended to represent Venus, who holds in one hand a flaming human heart and in the other the dove of purity. Two cupids hover near, bearing in their hands a floating scarf, upon which the name of the owner, H. F. Bessborough, is seen. The workmanship here is of the finest order, the drawing is faultless, the engraving most beautiful. The plate bears the signature of Cipriani as its designer and that of F. Bartolozzi as its engraver, and it is dated 1796. It may be that the distinguished lady who used this beautiful plate in her books also made use of it as a visiting-card, for which purpose it was quite in keeping with the fashions of the day. This is a plate not often met with in the collector’s albums, and one that is highly prized by those who have it.
To William Blake, student of engraving under Basire, and honored with the friendship and patronage of Flaxman, is attributed a small and most delicately engraved book-plate for one Charles Con-way. This is decidedly monumental in character, with its figures of an old man with a flowing beard, and the students upon either side in affectionate attitude, all resting upon a stone sepulchre of oblong form and simple, design. On the very bottom of the pedestal is carved the motto, Liberty of Opinion.
There is a very rare and particularly interesting plate once gracing the books of Robert Dinwiddie, sometime Lieutenant-Governor of the colony of Virginia, which is a very fine bit of engraving and is of especial interest to American collectors on account of his connection with the early history of this country. The Chippendale style in its most ornate period is employed here, and the frame has two cartouches, one holding the arms and the other the name in ornamental script. The arms are peculiar; they represent, in the upper half of the shield, an Indian archer shooting his arrow at a deer, and in the lower, a single-masted, port-holed vessel making for a formidable fort which floats the English flag. The motto is, Ubi libertas ibi patria, and is the one used by the Baillie, Hugar, Beverly, Darch, and Garrett families, as well as the Dinwiddies. It is also the motto which Edmund Ludlow placed over his hut in Switzerland. Ludlow was obliged to flee England at the Restoration, but he was one of the men of whom Macaulay wrote in high terms of praise, calling him, indeed, “the most illustrious survivor of a mighty race of men, the judges of a King, the founders of a republic.”
The Dinwiddie folk are of ancient Scotch extraction , and on the Ragman’s Roll, which Sir Walter Scott describes as the list of barons and men of note who subscribed submission to Edward I. in 1296, when that sovereign invaded Scotland and despoiled it of historical records and of the sacred coronation stone, which last is still preserved in London, appears the name of Alleyn Dinwithie, who is considered to be the progenitor of the family. There were some daring and bloody deeds in the days back of the Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia and his immediate family, when peaceable and prosperous merchants living in Glasgow took no little pride in the records of their ancestors. Robert was born in 1693 at Germiston, a seat his father owned, and was brought up in the counting-room and was in all likelihood a merchant as were his forbears. For some eleven years after 1727 he held the office of Collector of Customs in Bermuda and was given his appointment as Surveyor-General of Customs of the southern ports of the Continent of America in acknowledgment of his ability and zeal. Defalcations were not unknown in those days, and it needed such a man as Robert Dinwiddie to discover the purloiners of the government moneys and to set matters upon a proper basis. After this he seems to have had a residence in London and came out to Virginia in 1751 with his wife and two daughters, Elizabeth and Rebecca. He set sail in the latter part of the month of July and landed just four months afterward to the very day. It was under Dinwiddie’s administration that the attempt was made to expel the French from the Ohio and Fort Duquesne, in which campaign George Washington distinguished himself and Braddock fell. It will be remembered that it was Governor Dinwiddie who recognized the worth of Washington and who sent him on the commission to the French settlement upon the Ohio. However, things were not all smooth sailing for Dinwiddie, and when at last he left this country, he was not in the best of favor with the colonists. He had recommended the taxation of the colonies, and was charged with having converted to his own use something like $100,000, which should have been distributed to the Virginians as compensation for their over-contribution to the public service. When he embarked he declared himself ” worn out with vexation and age.” His book-plate, which was without doubt engraved in England, bears witness to his American residence in unmistakable manner.
Perhaps no family has borne a more famous name for so many years in the ” north countree” than have the Delavals, and of this interesting family, among whom were numbered a cousin of William the Conqueror, knights who fought for the Holy Sepulchre, a baron who was among those forcing from King John the great foundation of English national liberty, patrons of literature and of art, heroes on the seas and in the battles of the land, statesmen and companions of royalty, hardly any equalled Sir Francis Drake Delaval in natural ability and in those winning graces which make friends and attract wide notice. Sir Francis was a statesman of no mean order, and it is related of him that upon one occasion his claims to election were emphasized by the procuring of a cannon from which five hundred guineas were discharged among the electors of the particular town he wished to carry! This method proved exceedingly satisfactory, as Sir Francis was returned at the head of the poll. Valiant in war, he swam half a mile to be the first to land on French soil when the expedition was sent to make a descent upon St. Cass, and for his bravery he was made by George III. a Knight of the Bath. Among other amusing anecdotes of this brilliant man is that upon one occasion he hired Drury Lane Theatre and gave a performance of Othello, with himself and other members of his family in the principal roles. Even the House of Commons adjourned some two hours earlier than usual to be present, and no less a critic than Garrick praised the acting. When he settled down in 1750 in his beautiful seat in Northumberland with his bride, the relict of Lord Nassau Paulet, his hall and parks are said to have resembled fairy-land, and every sort of gaiety and splendor was indulged while the chanties of the neighborhood suffered no lack. Sir Francis used a book-plate which is now rare, and interesting because of his remarkable history. The plate is of the Chippendale style, showing the arms of Sir Francis and those of his wife in separate shields. In his own shield the arms of Delaval and Blake are quartered, and in his wife’s those of Paulet and Thanet are impaled. The plate is very ornate, and under the two shields the mottoes of the families appear, Dieu me conduise, ” God guide me,” for the Delaval, and Aymez loyaulte, ” Love loyalty,” for the Paulet. There is a bit of interesting history connected with this motto which adds to the interest of the plate. John Pauletus, the Marquis of Winchester, garrisoned his house during the civil wars in the reign of Charles I. and held it against the Parliamentary forces for nigh two years. In honor of the principles which actuated him in this enterprise the Marquis called his house “Aymez Loy aulte,” and he caused these words to be written with a diamond upon every glass window in the house ! Ever since this show of loyalty and pugnacity these words have been used by the descendants of the house as their motto.
Sir John Hussey Delaval, Bart., known as Lord Delaval, was the second son of Sir Francis, and was in his way quite as remarkable a man as was his father. An apt business man and a lover of architecture, he did much to beautify the old estates and the ample additions he made to them. By the publication of the Delaval Papers the conspicuous position taken by this gentleman as a patron of the arts is made noticeable, and one reads with interest of his favors to the needy poet of Grub Street, to the penniless opera singer, and the broken-down member of the dramatic profession. Legends of his open-handed generosity and benevolence are still related upon the old northern estates. By the marriage of his favorite daughter to the second Earl of Tyrconnel, the historic Ford Castle and estate, including the field of Flodden, eventually came into the possession of the Beresford family; for the daughter and only child of the Countess of Tyrconnel married the second Marquis of Waterford. Sir John Delaval, after seeing his daughters married to high positions, received a great blow in the death of his only son a few months before coming of age, and by this sad event he was the last of his family to wear the robes of a peer. His book-plate, around which so many interesting memories cluster, is a brilliant specimen of the Jacobean style.
Laurence Sterne, to whom the title of Reverend is properly, yet withal it seems improperly prefixed, was in all probability the designer of the book-plate he used in his own collection of books. The centre of the design is filled with a stone slab, upon which the bust of Juvenal, perhaps, is placed. Closed books lie at either side, upon one of which is the title Tristram Shandy, and upon the other Alas, poor Torick ! At the bottom the name Laurence Sterne is written in a flowing hand. Sterne added the talents of an artist and a musician of the ordinary level to his accomplishments as a lover of literature and a writer of books, and this design is not probably beyond his powers or above his imagination. He wrote a letter towards the end of July, 1761, to John Hall Stevenson, the satiric poet who figures in Tristram Shandy as ” Eugenius,” in which he tells him, ” I have bought seven hundred books at a purchase, dog cheap, and many good, and I have been a week getting them set up in my best room here.”
Quite possibly this purchase inspired the bookplate, which bears not a little resemblance to that of his dear friend, David Garrick, upon whose library as well as that of ” Eugenius,” on whose shelves there seem to have been collected some store of ” facetiae,” Sterne depended a good deal for his reading, particularly perhaps before the purchase recorded in the letter.
The book-plate of David Garrick is of pleasing design. The name is engraved upon a graceful cartouche around which are disposed such emblems indicate the tastes of Garrick. There is the as mask of comedy, the bauble of the fool, the lyre of poetry, and such “properties” of the stage as the goblet, crown, sceptre, and sword. The bust of Shakespeare crowns the whole design and below runs the motto, –
La premiere chose qu’on doit faire quand on a emprunte un Livre c’est de le lire afin de pouvoir le rendre plutot.
Garrick’s library contained many rich and priceless Shakespearian quartos, which this plate was well fitted to adorn. No wonder that ” the great Cham of literature,” as Warren dubs Dr. Johnson, was not allowed to make use of Garrick’s volumes, although the refusal made cause of troublesome complaint.
There is a very handsome book-plate of which but few copies are known and which bears the name Capt. Cook. The design exhibits a shield upon which the globe is seen showing the Pacific Ocean, and round the shield flags and guns are disposed in graceful arrangement. This at a glance one would take for the plate of that famous Captain Cook whose surname was James and among whose famous exploits was the discovery of the Sandwich Islands, upon the shores of which he lost his life at the hands of the natives. But the great circumstance navigator probably was not the owner of this plate, which was in all probability made for his son, who was not really a captain, but whose title was properly Commander.
William Hogarth was apprenticed by his own preference to a silversmith, and there studied the arts of designing and engraving to good purpose. In addition to the book-plate made for himself, there are three others which are supposed to have been from his graver. These are for Ellis Gamble, his master, John Holland, the heraldic artist, and George Lambart, the scene-painter. These must be accounted early endeavors of the future expert and they display little of the ingenuity his celebrated pictures are so famous for. Heraldic in treatment, they introduce a few allegorical features, the plate of Holland being especially favored in this way. Here Minerva is seated evidently in the studio of the artist and about her are four cupids who disport themselves upon the floor with books and the shield and crest of arms for toys. John Wilkes, of fascinating manners and dissolute conduct, founder of the North Briton, the thorn in the flesh of the Bute administration, the clever, courageous, unscrupulous scamp whose conversation could charm all and whose repartee was full of delicious wit, scholar and orator, had three bookplates to denote his ownership of a library in which one fancies must have been some of the works of the old wits and the poetry and novels of his time. Hogarth drew his picture, a picture of Jack Wilkes sitting in jaunty posture and leering beneath his liberty cap, which will never fade from the memory.
The book-plates date between the years 1755 and 1770, and they all show the arms with accessories corresponding to the style of the period in which the plates were engraved.
Horace Walpole, eminently fitted to be remembered by the book-lover as the writer of many charming epistles, as the owner of a private press from which charming books were issued, and as a collector, indiscriminate yet by no means objectless, used one or two book-plates which are considered an important addition to the book-plate collector’s album. The first of these is an armorial arrangement with the words Mr. Horatio Walpole upon a festoon at the bottom. The design is very simple, and one wonders at it somewhat when he considers the lurid style of architectural ornament with which Strawberry Hill was embellished and which brought its builder such generous measure of ridicule and criticism.
But the glory of the collector is that while the world outside may fail to understand the purposes or the delights of his ways, he himself is gathering about him for his own delectation and that of the few choice spirits able to appreciate them with him those bits which eventually prove even to the sceptical world to have had a value beyond their conception. I presume that if the various collections contained in Strawberry Hill and which were sold in the months of April and May, 1842, were to be sold to-day they would bring well toward $750,000. The sale was not well conducted; George Robins, the well-known auctioneer, managed it, and his catalogue of the library is a lamentable piece of work. This rare collection of books, manuscripts, engraved portraits, etc., brought about $40,000, and the miniatures (which were extremely good), the pictures, coins, drawings, porcelains, stained glass, armor, furniture, plate, etc., were sold for something like $166,000. Wai-pole lived fifty years in his villa at Twickenham, enjoying his collections, his roses and lilacs, his nightingales, and, of course, his friends. We may believe with certainty that these book-plates were used in the books gathered there. Towards the end of his life he succeeded his nephew George as Earl of Orford, and he had a new book-plate to commemorate the fact. This is a circular design, with the arms in the centre and the words Sigillum Horatii Comitis de Orford around the edge. There has been some idea that he may have used the delightful vignette of Strawberry Hill as a bookplate, but recent investigation leads to the conclusion that it was never so used. The picture of the life which Walpole enjoyed, as so delightfully set forth by Austin Dobson, comes anew to the mind as one turns in the hand these old marks of book-ownership used by this famous dilettante.
One cannot help wishing that Walpole had continued that parody on the Letters of Lord Chesterfield to his son, which he commenced under the title of the New Whole Duty of Woman, and which was intended to be a series of letters from a mother to a daughter. This vivacious and witty gentleman, whose personal appearance in no wise fitted his intellectual gifts, is described by Lord Hervey as being, ” as disagreeable as it was possible for a human figure to be without being deformed. He was very short, disproportioned, thick, and clumsily made; had a broad, rough-featured, ugly face, with black teeth, and a head big enough for a Polyphemus. One Ben Ashurst, who said a few good things, though admired for many, told Lord Chesterfield, once, that he was like a stunted giant, ? which was a humorous idea and really apposite.”
This strong picture is one not easily forgotten, although one hardly likes to have it in mind when reading those choice epistles in which the manners of the times were reflected for the improvement of that son, who died before reaching the position he was intended to fill, leaving his father a disappointed and broken-down man. The book-plate of Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, shows the arms, the Earl’s coronet, the ermine mantle, the royal motto on the encircling garter, but no name.
Perhaps the most beautiful ladies’ plate known to the collector, is the one designed by Miss Agnes Berry for Mrs. Anna Damer, and which was engraved by Francis Legat. In this the designer has drawn a scene which is most perfectly adapted to the charming and gifted person who was to use it. The scene is out of doors. Before a stone pedestal of imposing proportions, upon the top of which in beautiful carving stands out the shield of arms in a curved lozenge of delightful form, having two hounds as supporters, kneels a female figure clad in classic robes, who with one hand resting upon the coping, with the other points to the emblems of the sculptor’s trade, which are carved upon the base and are surrounded with the wreath of the victor. The distant view is of the mountains in dim outline, while near at hand are the protecting trees. This plate is one of the most beautiful known to the collector, and one of exceeding interest from its association with the lives of delightful and gifted ladies, brilliant and worthy men. It is related that Anna Conway, not then Mrs. Darner, walking one day with David Hume about the streets of London and meeting a vendor who bore upon his head a board containing plaster dogs and shepherdesses and the like images, some remark made by the light-hearted young lady caused the historian to say, ” Be less severe, Miss Conway. Those images at which you smile were not made without the aid of both science and genius. With all your attainments now, you cannot produce such works.” Hume was a bit heavy in conversation, and the seriousness with which these words were delivered led Miss Conway to determine to show Hume that, if she chose, she could make images equal to those of the vendor’s collection.
Thus, at the age of eighteen, she received from a playful remark her first incentive to take up that serious study of art in which she attained such eminence. Her portrait by Cosway, which hung at Strawberry Hill, shows her to have been of a beautiful and refined appearance, with something of genius in the pretty oval face and the look of mastery in the very hands which grasp the chisel and mallet as she leans upon the pedestal of a completed bust. Gay and witty in society, she yet had opinions of her own which she held with good reason and would not lose. She was especially well read, and in all ways was fitted to adorn any circle of society in which the wits and queens made merry sport or discussed, in heavier moments, questions of import and weight. However, the remark of Hume, which led her to retire by herself and practise with wax and clay, was the means of deciding her to devote herself with assiduity to what was now a chosen profession. Her first production Hume laughed at, and told her that to model in yielding substances was a very different thing from chiselling in marble. After an argument with her obstinate critic, she decided to attempt some work in marble, and, procuring tools and the stone, she set to work privately upon her task. Having ample means at her command, she was able to have the best of instruction, and very soon she became the pupil of Ceracchi and Bacon, the former being her instructor in modelling, and the latter in the use of the chisel. Ceracchi lost his life for plotting against Napoleon, and Bacon made a justly celebrated monument to Lord Chatham, which is in Westminster Abbey. Cruikshank, too, was one of her teachers, and from him she learned enough of anatomy to draw figures with accuracy. Married at nineteen to George Darner, a young and foolish spendthrift, whose chief pleasure lay in appearing in three new suits a day, her married life was not pleasant; but she bore with her husband’s folly, while losing the love he had at first enkindled. Things went from bad to worse with him and he blew his brains out in August, 1776, at the Bedford Arms, leaving a wardrobe worth some 140,000. With renewed interest his widow turned her attention to her art, and travelled extensively on the Continent in order to study the best models. A number of her groups of animals, Walpole chivalrously declared to be equal to those of the ancient masters, and Darwin wrote the following lines, which may be taken to express the common opinion of this gifted lady of noble rank. ” Long with soft touch shall Darner’s chisel charm, With grace delight us, and with beauty warm; Forster’s fine form shall hearts unborn engage, And Melbourne’s smile enchant another age.” Mrs. Darner was greatly interested in the ideas of that peculiar person, Charles James Fox, who, in spite of his widely known habits and his unpleasant appearance and manners, could be so fascinating to the fair sex, and she with other noble women, dressed in the Continental colors of blue and buff (in which Fox then appeared in the House of Commons), went forth electioneering for the champion of the liberties of the American colonists. In 1797, upon the death of Walpole, Mrs. Damer entered into possession of Strawberry Hill, and here gathered about her those friends she admired and loved. Among the amusements of the place, amateur theatricals held no unimportant part, and in them Mrs. Damer showed herself to have considerable ability. For a full score of years she occupied the charming old estate and had for her particular friends the Misses Berry and the widow of David Garrick. Among her famous works of sculpture are a statue of George III. and a bust of Nelson. Very fittingly does her delightful book-plate commemorate her achieve- ments in her art, and very properly is it given a choice place among the treasures of the collector.
Very suggestive of this delightful plate of Anna Darner is the plate of Charles Hoare, Esq., of whom and whose plate, however, but little is known. The design cannot but suggest the pencil of Agnes Berry, nor is the engraving not unlike to that of Legat, who engraved the other. In this plate, which is enclosed within an oval frame, a muse, presumably Calliope, sits in an attitude of reflection before a marble monument upon which stands a bust of Homer, which is evidently from a well-known marble of antique workmanship, and upon the side of which are the arms of the said Charles Hoare. The family of Hoare has attained prominence in art and letters through several of its members, and it may very possibly be that this plate belonged to the half-brother of that Sir Richard Colt Hoare who wrote the Ancient and Modern History of Wiltshire. Charles James Fox used a book-plate also. In the inscription he terms himself the Honorable, etc., showing that the plate was made previous to his appointment as Secretary of State in 1782, which office he held but a few months on account of the death of the premier, Rockingham. His plate is of the ordinary sort used by the folk of his day, and of no interest save for the accident of ownership.
There is a bit of a record preserved regarding some books from the cabinet of the gay actress Peg Woffington. There was a library sold in England somewhere in the early forties in which several of her books were dispersed. Among the interesting items was this of a religious character, Catechisme du Diocese de Boulogne, Boulogne, 1730. Not only does this item from the sale catalogue interest us because of its remarkable ownership, but more particularly because of the delicious scribbling in the hand of the fair Margaret herself which several pages reveal and which reads as follows : –
Miss Woffington, her book, God give her grace therein to look. Ce livre appartien a Mademoiselle Woffington.
Garrick, who survived the fascinating performer some thirty odd years, became possessor of this volume and regarded it with no little affection as a juvenile book of his favorite Peggy. It will be interesting to note that at this sale the book mentioned brought only seven shillings and sixpence, and that a second one owned by the same fair reader and which had her autograph within its covers brought but two shillings.
Another plate, which must be grouped with those which draw some interest from the association of their owners with Horace Walpole, is that of Lady Hervey, the “fair Molly Lepel” of the ballad written by Lords Chesterfield and Bath. In itself the plate attracts no particular notice, as is the case with many a book-plate; but when one knows something of the story of the times and the society in which Lady Hervey moved, even so small a bit as this receives its quota of value. The plate is armorial in form with the motto, Je n’oublierai jamais, on a ribbon below. The name Mary, Lady Hervey, is below this again. Lady Hervey was one of those three Marys ? Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Mary Bellenden, and Mary Lepell?who were so famous for their beauty, their intelligence, their wit, and their savoir faire: women of the gay and fashionable world they were and they wielded the powers granted them over no small or insignificant number of adherents. Upon Lady Hervey’s death in 1768, Walpole wrote more feelingly than was his wont upon such occasions. The following extract is from his voluminous letters : –
” My Lady Hervey, one of my great friends, died in my absence. She is a great loss to several persons: her house was one of the most agreeable in London, and her own friendliness and amiable temper had attached all that knew her. Her sufferings with the gout and rheumatism were terrible, and never could affect her patience or divert her attention from her friends.”
One of the treasures of Strawberry Hill was a portrait of Lady Hervey by Allan Ramsay, in which she is represented in what was probably her ordinary dress, laced in front, a fichu of muslin upon the shoulders, the sleeves falling in abundant folds over the arms but being caught back at the elbow. There is a hood upon the head tied becomingly under the chin with a tiny ribbon. The expression is attractive, while the features cannot be called perfect.
In the year 1758 Walpole printed at the Strawberry Hill Press a thin volume called An Account of Russia as it was in the Year 1770, by Charles Lord Whitworth, and among his letters to Lady Hervey is one dated October 17 of that year, in which, towards the end, he says: “A book has been left at your house. It is Lord Whitworth’s account of Russia.” It so happens that through the generosity of a book-collector now dead, a large number of choice books from his collection were left to the Watkinson Library of Hartford, Conn., and among them is the very copy of this book which Walpole presented to Lady Hervey. Her book-plate is still intact upon the front cover, and what is perhaps of even greater interest and importance in establishing the identity of the book, the name M. Hervey is written by Walpole himself in two places, once upon the cover above the bookplate and again on the title-page. This volume, the fifth issue of the famous press, thus bears an added value to the book-lover. The name of the former owner of this precious volume, George D. Sargeant, is also penned upon the title-page. Mary Berry, the eldest of the ” twin wives ” of Horace Walpole, had a charming little book-plate the design of which Walpole himself must have had something to do with. It represents a strawberry plant with the motto, Inter folia frucfus, and the name under it. The choice of this design for her book-plate is, of course, in plain allusion to her home and her name, and it calls to mind at once that verse from a poem which Walpole addressed to her, and which he himself printed upon his press, having it ready for the sisters to see as a surprise when he took them out to see the press-room.
” To Mary’s lips has ancient Rome
Her purest language taught;
And from the modern city home
Agnes its pencil brought.
” Rome’s ancient Horace sweetly chants
Such maids with lyric fire;
Albion’s old Horace sings nor paints,
He only can admire.
” Still would his press their fame record,
So amiable the pair is!
But, ah ! how vain to think his word
Can add a straw to Berry’s.”
The interesting history of the delightful Countess of Blessington is brought to mind by a very unobtrusive little book-plate which occupies the corner of a page in the album which contains most of the plates these pages describe. There is simply the coronet of the earl and the letters, M. B. When one thinks of the books in which these plates were placed and of the hands which may have handled them, when he recalls the visitors they looked down upon from their shelves in Gore House and the conversations carried on before them, as if they had no life, he regards the plate with something more than interest. Perhaps the very hands, the models of whose beauty in wax, ivory, and marble were to be seen at that house in Kensington Gore, had deftly pasted these bits of paper within the covers of the precious volumes. Here to this house, once the residence of William Wilberforce, where the rooms were large and lofty and whose garden was one of extraordinary beauty, with its extensive lawns, its terraces, and its flower-pots, came such people as the Prince Louis Napoleon, then a refugee; Count d’Orsay of course, who indeed made the place his home in order, for one reason, to escape the punishment due him for contracting debts amounting to $500,000; the old friend of Lady Blessington, the Countess Guiccioli, no longer the charming creature who captivated the famous poet; Dickens, and John Forster. Misfortune overtook Lady Blessing- ton, and her house was sold under the hammer, the price it brought just about paying her debts, which amounted to some $60,000. She went to Paris, where the d’Orsays and the Countess Guiccioli, now the wife of the Marquis de Boissy, an old French nobleman who boasted of his wife’s intimacy with Byron, received her kindly. When she died in 1839, d’Orsay raised a beautiful mausoleum in her memory in the churchyard of Chambourcy near St. Germain-en-Laye. The ground around it was covered with turf and ivy brought from her old home, and within were two sarcophagi, one for her and the other for d’Orsay, who survived her but three years.
Some of the poets of England used book-plates which, in themselves of no especial interest, become of value to the collector from their association with men of bygone fame. There was Lord Charles Halifax, whose plate is not uncommon and whose fame would seem to rest more upon his career as a statesman than upon his few efforts in verse, yet as Dr. Johnson, in his Lives of the Poets, makes room for Halifax, shall any quarrel with this distinction being granted him ? His chief poetical work is his reply to Dryden’s Hind and Panther, and as Johnson himself is forced to remark, “a short time withered his beauties.” But his book-plate has an interest in itself, as it bears an early date, 1702, and I believe at the time this engraving was made Lord Charles was for the moment out of royal favor, as well as out of the Council. However, at his accession George I. made him an Earl and a Knight of the Garter, so that in some later plates we find these titles added.
Born in poverty and knowing it as a constant companion all his days and at the last dying in its arms, Robert Bloomfield, the uneducated shoemaker poet of London, had sufficient imagination to design For himself a coat-of-arms, and sufficient pride to have it engraved for a book-plate. His motto, A jig for the heralds, was a plain indication of the fictitious character of the arms he used, in which were represented the tools of his trade and what seems upon the other side of the shield to be a shoemaker about to beat his wife. This was designed in some moment of playfulness or hate, and while it makes a welcome addition to the collector’s albums, poor Bloomfield could not have had much use for it, as circumstances never favored him with many books.
William Cowper made use of the libraries of his friends and. of those open to the public, and had but few volumes he could call his own. In fact, he had but nine books in all between the years 1768 and 1788, and when he died a dozen years later his library consisted of 177 volumes, many of which were thin, trifling 12mos hardly worthy the name of book. However, he had a book-plate, and for this reason his books are of interest here. The plate is a plain armorial, and from its style is judged to have been made somewhere about the year 1790, towards the completion of his happy labor of translating Homer into blank verse. The nervous fever which caused the last few years of his life to be passed in hopeless dejection came on him about this time, and as these book-plates have never been seen in more than four books, it may be that, having begun the pleasant task of pasting them into his books, he was not able to complete it.
Christopher Anstey had a book-plate in the Ribbon and Wreath style, which was made about the year 1780. He was a poet of no mean order and one who, according to Gary, ” had the rare merit of discovering a mode of entertainment which belonged exclusively to himself.” This is in reference to his famous New Bath Guide, which hit off the fashionable follies of the day in a manner which took at once with the reading public and which caused the presses of Dodsley to run to their fullest capacity and which really brought in a larger recompense than did Johnson’s Rasselas. Edition after edition was sold, and it is not untrue to say that Smollett is indebted in no small degree to Anstey not only for the motive but the incidents of Humphrey Clinker. The suddenly and worthily famous writer of the clever satire upon the dissipation and frivolity of the Beau Nash regime died in 1805 and was buried in the city which gave him the materials for his famous work. A monument in the Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey commemorates the man and his work. The armorial bearings carved upon the stone which is set up against the central pillar of that splendid memorial will look to the collector of book-plates like a book-plate in stone. Robbie Burns had no book-plate as far as is known to-day, but as he invented for himself a coat-of-arms which he used as a seal and which might have served as well for a book-plate, it will be of some interest to give here a letter which he wrote to a friend in March, 1793, mentioning his new seal.
” One commission I must trouble you with, – I want to cut my armorial bearing (on a seal). Will you be so obliging as to inquire what the expense will be ? I do not know that my name is matriculated, as the heralds call it, but I have invented arms for myself, and by courtesy of Scotland, will likewise be entitled to supporters. These, however, I do not intend to have on my seal. I am a bit of a herald, and shall give you my arms. On a field azure, a holly bush, seeded, proper, in base; a shepherd’s pipe and a crook, saltierwise; also proper in chief on a wreath of the colors, a woodlark perching on a sprig of a bay tree proper, for crest. Two mottoes, round the top of the crest, Wood notes wild; at the bottom of the shield, in the usual place, Better a wee bush than nae bield. By the shepherd’s pipe and crook I mean a stock and a horn and a club.”
This seal was made (indeed, he had three or four) and was used by Burns until his death. When the Chevalier James Burnes was invested with the Guelphic Order of Hanover by William IV., he incorporated the poet’s seal with other devices in his arms as registered in the office of Lyon King of Arms. ” Then to the well-trod stage anon, If Johnson’s learned sock be on, Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy’s child, Warble his native wood-notes wild.” (Il Penseroso, 131-4.)
It may have been from this verse of Milton’s that Burns took one of his mottoes. The words frequently occur in Burns’ writings.
Henry James Pye, Poet-Laureate of England from 1790 to 1813, used a book-plate of the middle Chippendale style, which is of some interest on account of the distinguished office held by its owner, which, however, by all accounts was not graced by his holding; for he was the maker of but dull verse and, while a respectable member of Parliament and loyal to the interests of the government, was not thereby fitted to be its chosen songster.
Robert Southey immediately succeeded Pye, and he too had a book-plate which is of as much more interest than Pye’s as his verse is of better quality. The family of Southey traces its line back a considerable distance, and among those ancestors was a follower of Monmouth, who, had he not in some way escaped the vigilance of Judge Jeffreys, would have lost his life and with it the possibility of continuing the line in which the poet was born. Southey tried to read law, but found it like ” thrashing straw,” and turned his attention with redoubled energy to the literary passions already enkindled within him. His book-plate is one of the dreamy landscapes of Bewick, and was engraved by that master in the year 1810. It shows the shield of arms nestling against a rock, while above and about the guarding shrubbery is thick and abundant.
The plate of Thomas Campbell, which is not dated but which is probably not later then 1810, shows the arms of the Argyllshire Campbells with the well-remembered “gyronny of eight” with the boar’s head crest, anent which the following verses may be read: –
” So speed my song, marked with the crest That erst th’ adventurous Norman wore, Who won the Lady of the West, The daughter of MacCullom Moore.
” Crest of my sires ! whose blood it sealed
With glory in the strife of swords, Ne’er may the scroll that bears it yield Degenerate thought or faithless words.”
It is to be remembered that the Campbell family sprung from the union of a Norman warrior of the twelfth century and the heiress of Lochow, to whom there is reason to fear the marriage was not welcome. Campbell expressed in these lines a hope to which he was loyal, for no written line of his could he wish to change or lose. And Rogers, Samuel Rogers, he who impressed every one with the elegance of his taste, he used a book-plate of elegant simplicity, as one would expect him to do. Designed in the chaste Ribbon and Wreath style, his plate dates not far from 1790, probably. Surely then this plate must have been in the books which were in the beautiful bookcase ” painted by Stothard in his very best manner, with groups from Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Boccaccio,” as Lord Macaulay relates. In speaking further of the delights of this famous house of Rogers’, at 22 St. James Place, to which the banker-poet came in the year 1800, the same writer says :
” What a delightful house it is! It looks out on the Green Park at just the most pleasant point. The furniture has been selected with a delicacy of taste quite unique. Its value does not depend on fashion, but must be the same while the fine arts are held in any esteem.” In a similar strain is the following from Proctor’s Recollections of Men of Letters:
“Upon the whole, I never saw any house so tastefully fitted up and decorated. Everything was good of its kind and in good order. There was no plethora, no appearance of display, no sign of superfluous wealth. There was not too much of anything, not even too much welcome, yet no lack of it.” Again, to quote from the diary of Byron:
” If you enter his house, his drawing-room, his library, you of yourself say this is not the dwelling of a common mind. There is not a gem, not a coin, a book thrown aside on the chimney-piece, his sofa, his table, that does not bespeak an almost fastidious elegance in the possessor.” And to have a copy of Rogers’ book-plate in his collection, to handle the very paper which he may have pasted with exquisite care into some selected volume, how real the pleasure, how rich the sense of companionship ! Lord Byron, admirer of Campbell, Moore, and Rogers, reckless in his choice of friends, he too had a book-plate, but it is with not a little disappointment that it is found to show the Noel arms. One cannot but wonder how this plate came to be made. Byron himself seems hardly likely to have ordered so slight a matter attended to while busy in Italy with his schemes with Hunt and Shelley; perhaps it was done upon the order of Burdett, the arbiter, or again, as conjecture is our only aid in solving the interesting question, may we not believe it was the gift of his affectionate half-sister, Augusta Leigh ? And again, had Byron any or many of these plates with him in Italy ? Amid all the excitement of the strange things there done, at Pisa, at Leghorn, at Genoa, at Ravenna, one wonders if a book-plate could have claimed the least attention. Deeply affected for a time by the dreadful death of Shelley and the burning of his body on the sands of Spezzia, within a few months he quarrelled with the fascinating Countess Guiccioli, and the journey to Greece was shortly afterwards undertaken. What with the monkeys and the other impedimenta, was there chance for a book-plate to have been thought of ? Little do we know, little can we guess, of the origin or the use of this bit of paper engraved with the arms of the Wentworth-Noels. In itself the plate is uninteresting, being one easily passed over in any collection of ordinary armorials, but when viewed from the standpoint of the informed collector with what interest it is invested! Charles Kingsley may with some considerable reason be classed among the poets, and his plate find mention here. It is another example of the common and undesirable kind, which but for its owner would never be retained by him who elects to have a choice collection of plates. However, this simple armorial plate ranks high among his treasures when once the collector is so fortunate as to secure it; for it is not widely distributed or indeed very widely known.
In the writings of the late Lord Tennyson one is somewhat surprised to find upon examination very scanty reference to the science of heraldry. Upon first thought the tales of the chivalrous knights of the Table Round will occur to the reader, and he may think the lines descriptive of their prowess to be full of heraldic emblazonry and the pomp and state the lists suggest. Not so; Arthur himself is clad in the silken garment, ornamented with a dragon, and the shield of Sir Lancelot is mentioned as bearing “azure lions crowned with gold, rampant,” while Gareth has one ” blue, and thereon the morning star,” and these are about all the passages that can be thought of that refer with anything like certainty to heraldry. And the book-plate which the poet-laureate made use of shows the arms of the commoner, and not the special grant, with its somewhat different blazoning, given when he was raised to the peerage. Truth to tell, it is but a common-looking plate, which, save for the autograph beneath it, would never attract notice. But that bit of scrawled penmanship makes the plate one the collector is proud to have within his cases.
Although Alfieri was not an Englishman, he is classed here among the poets. Vittorio Alfieri was born of a noble family in 1749, at Asti, in Piedmont. He lived many years in England and in France, and wrote some fine tragedies and a quantity of minor poems. His career was romantic, though not worthy of imitation, and his attachment for the Countess of Albany is of course familiar to every reader of history. He used a book-plate of exceeding beauty, and it is unfortunate that the name of its engraver is not preserved. The design represents Father Time casting down his scythe and with the gesture of despair regarding the works of the poet, which lie in a pile upon a stone pedestal. The Italian motto helps one to understand the motive of the designer, which was to record the fact that even Time himself was unable to obliterate the fame of their author. Rather a vain motto this, one would think, for a man to select for use upon his own book-plate, even if its verdict should subsequently be that of a nation upon the works of the most celebrated poet of his age, and the one who raised the Italian tragic drama from its degraded condition. The name of Thomas Frognall Dibdin must ever remain to the book-lover as that of a prince among bibliographers and book-collectors. Founder of the famous Roxburghe Club and writer of several important and much-prized works relating to the love and collecting of books, he used a book-plate upon which he recorded his tastes with a manner at once pleasing and characteristic. Without attempting the difficult feat of blazoning the arms in heraldic terminology, let it suffice to say that the shield is quartered and that in the first quarter there is upon the azure field a lion rampant debruised by a bendlet of silver, over which is a label of three points having the same color. In the second quarter, with which begins the bookish flavor of the design, a chapman clad in gold walks before a red field. Within the third, upon a silver field, the colophon mark of Fust and Schoeffer is given, and in the last the printer’s mark of William Caxton. For crest a hand upholds an open book, which is seen to be an early illuminated volume with metal clasps. Perhaps no plate has yet been devised by a bibliomaniac which equals this for the quality of its appropriateness and apparent conformity to the style of the period. It is a plate not easily picked up to-day and one to value when found.