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Editor: Charles Holme

Release date: October 1, 2023

Original publication: London: Offices of 'The Studio', 1909





The Editor desires to express his thanks to the following Collectors who have kindly lent their prints for reproduction in this volume:--Mrs. Julia Frankau, Mr. Frederick Behrens, Major E. F. Coates, M.P., Mr. Basil Dighton, Mr. J. H. Edwards, and Sir Spencer Ponsonby-Fane, P.C., G.C.B. Also to Mr. Malcolm C. Salaman, who, in addition to contributing the letterpress, has rendered valuable assistance in the preparation of the work.

" XL. "The Love-Letter." Stipple-Engraving, probably by Thos. Cheesman.


"Other pictures we look at--his prints we read," said Charles Lamb, speaking with affectionate reverence of Hogarth. Now, after "reading" those wonderful Progresses of the Rake and the Harlot, which had for him all the effect of books, intellectually vivid with human interest, let us suppose our beloved essayist looking at those "other pictures," Morland's "Story of Letitia" series, in John Raphael Smith's charming stipple-plates, colour-printed for choice, first issued while Lamb was hardly in his teens. Though they might not be, as in Hogarth's prints, "intense thinking faces," expressive of "permanent abiding ideas" in which he would read Letitia's world-old story, Lamb would doubtless look at these Morland prints with a difference. He would look at them with an interest awakened less by their not too poignant intention of dramatic pathos than by the charm of their simple pictorial appeal, heightened by the dainty persuasion of colour.

What, then, is their peculiar charm for us to-day, those colour-prints of stipple or mezzotint engravings which pervaded the later years of the eighteenth century, and the earliest of the nineteenth? No serious student, perhaps, would accord them a very high or important place in the history of art. Yet a pleasant little corner of their own they certainly merit, representing, as they do, a characteristic contemporary phase of popular taste, and of artistic activity, essentially English. Whatever may be thought of their intrinsic value as works of art, there is no denying their special appeal of pictorial prettiness and sentiment and of dainty decorative charm. Nor, to judge from the recent records of the sale-rooms, would this appeal seem to be of any uncertain kind. It has lately been eloquent enough to compete with the claims of artistic works of indisputable worth, and those collectors who have heard it for the first time only during the last ten years or so have had to pay highly for their belated responsiveness. Those, on the other hand, who listened long ago to the gentle appeal of the old English colour-prints, who listened before the market had heard it, and, loving them for their own pretty sakes, or their old-time illustrative interest, or their decorative accompaniment to Sheraton and Chippendale, would pick them up in the printsellers' shops for equitable sums that would now be regarded as "mere songs," can to-day look round their walls at the rare and brilliant impressions of prints which first charmed them twenty or thirty years ago, and smile contentedly at the inflated prices clamorous from Christie's. For nowadays the decorative legacy of the eighteenth century--a legacy of dignity, elegance, beauty, charm--seems to involve ever-increasing legacy duties, which must be paid ungrudgingly.

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