Saturday, January 28, 2006

"The Sort of Books Fine People Pay Ten Guineas For"

It's a sad fact that many of the artists and designers of former centuries whom we admire today were not so well-received in their own time. And let's face it- many of them were curmudgeons, eccentrics, slightly batty, or just plain nasty individuals. One cannot say that any of those describes the Regency-era furniture designer Thomas Hope exactly, though the introduction to his 1807 "Hints on Household Furniture" was a politically-slanted polemic that strayed so far from the topic of furniture that some editors have not bothered to include it in their reprints of the important work. Still, Hope's designs exerted great influence on his fellow designers and he is widely credited with popularizing the Empire/Regency style in England.

Today I was transcribing an 1807 review of the book which appeared in an English periodical, and if the reviewer is any indication, some Englishmen were taken into this neo-classic future kicking and screaming.

He begins-

"What should we say of a young nobleman who has studied and travelled, and drawn and modelled, for many years, in order to acquire and describe a collection of classical wigs, spencers, boots and pantaloons? And what better are Mr. Hope’s stools, fire-screens, candlesticks, and dressing-glasses? There is in England, we believe, a pretty general contempt for those who are habitually and seriously occupied about such paltry and fantastical luxuries; and at such a moment as the present, we confess we are not a little proud of this Roman spirit, which leaves the study of those effeminate elegancies to slaves and foreigners, and holds it beneath the dignity of a free man to be eminently skilled in the decoration of couches and the mounting of chandeliers".

But then the reviewer stops beating around the bush and says what he really thinks of the book-

"We do not know that we have ever met with any thing, out of a newspaper, so exquisitely bombastic, pedantic, and trashy, as the composition of this colossal volume. The Introduction, which covers near twenty of these vast pages, is, upon the whole, the most elaborate and highly finished part of the volume; and really deserves some commemoration for the preeminence of its solemn foppery...As the great price of the volume puts it out of the reach of ordinary readers, we shall make a few extracts, -just to let them see what sort of books fine people pay ten guineas for".

My my.

We are going to be publishing an inexpensive chapbook reprint of this period review, which we're hoping furniture lovers will find interesting. Let us know if you are interested.

1 comment:

jgodsey said...

well i for one am interested.....let me know if i can help produce it.