Admitting my inexperience, I must say that I think the instinct for beauty and all the desire to produce beautiful things, which you and Goethe refer to as the "Art Impulse," is a kind of sex quality, not unlike the song of birds or their beautiful plumage.
--Josiah Wedgwood to Doctor Erasmus Darwin
Once upon a day a financial panic was on in Boston. Real estate was rapidly changing hands, most all owners making desperate efforts to realize. Banks which were thought to be solvent and solid went soaring skyward, and even collapsed occasionally, with a loud, ominous, R. G. Dun report. And so it happened that about this time Henry Thoreau strolled out of his cabin and looking up at the placid moon, murmured, "Moonshine, after all, is the only really permanent thing we possess."
This is the first in the series of twelve love-stories--or "tales of moonshine," to use the phrase of Thomas Carlyle.
In passing, let us note the fact that the doughty Thomas was not a lover, and he more than once growled out his gratitude in that he had never lost either his head or his heart, for men congratulate themselves on everything they have, even their limitations. Thomas Carlyle was not a lover.
A great passion is a trinitarian affair. And I sometimes have thought it a matter of regret, as well as of wonder, that a strong man did not appear on the scene and fall in love with the winsome Jeannie Welsh. Conditions were ripe there for a great drama. I know it would have blown the roof off that little house in Cheyne Row, but it might have crushed the heart of Thomas Carlyle and made him a lover, indeed. After death had claimed Jeannie as a bride, the fastnesses of the old Sartor Resartus soul were broken up, and Carlyle paced the darkness, crying aloud, "Oh, why was I cruel to her?" He manifested a tenderness toward the memory of the woman dead which the woman alive had never been able to bring forth.
Love demands opposition and obstacle. It is the intermittent or obstructed current that gives power.
The finest flowers are those transplanted; for transplanting means difficulty, a readjusting to new conditions, and through the effort put forth to find adjustment does the plant progress. Transplanted men are the ones who do the things worth while, and transplanted girls are the only ones who inspire a mighty passion. Audrey transplanted might have evolved into a Nell Gwynn or a Lady Hamilton.
In such immortal love-stories as Romeo and Juliet, Tristram and Isolde, and Paolo and Francesca, a love so mad in its wild impetus is pictured that it dashes itself against danger; and death for the lovers, we feel from the beginning, is the sure climax when the curtain shall fall on the fifth act.
The sustained popular interest in these tragedies proves that the entranced auditors have dabbled in the eddies, so they feel a fervent interest in those hopelessly caught in the current, and from the snug safety of the parquette live vicariously their lives and the loves that might have been.
But let us begin with a life-story, where love resolved its "moonshine" into life, and justified itself even to stopping the mouths of certain self-appointed censors, who caviled much and quibbled overtime. Here is a love so great that in its beneficent results we are all yet partakers.
* * * * * * *
About all the civilization England has she got from the Dutch; her barbarisms are all her own. It was the Dutch who taught the English how to print and bind books and how to paint pictures.
It was the Dutch who taught the English how to use the potter's wheel and glaze and burn earthenware. Until less than two hundred years ago, the best pottery in use in England came from Holland. It was mostly made at Delft, and they called it Delftware.
Finally they got to making Delftware in Staffordshire. This was about the middle of the Eighteenth Century. And it seems that, a little before this time, John Wesley, a traveling preacher, came up this way on horseback, carrying tracts in his saddlebags, and much love in his heart. He believed that we should use our religion in our life--seven days in the week, and not save it up for Sunday. In ridicule, some one had called him a "Methodist," and the name stuck.
John Wesley was a few hundred years in advance of his time. He is the man who said, "Slavery is the sum of all villainies." John Wesley had a brother named Charles, who wrote hymns, but John did things. He had definite ideas about the rights of women and children, also on temperance, education, taxation and exercise, and whether his followers have ever caught up with him, much less gone ahead of him, is not for me, a modest farmer, to say.
In the published "Journal of John Wesley," is this: "March 8, 1760. Preached at Burslem, a town made up of potters. The people are poor, ignorant, and often brutal, but in due time the heart must be moved toward God, and He will enlighten the understanding."
And again: "Several in the congregation talked out loud and laughed continuously. And then one threw at me a lump of potter's clay that struck me in the face, but it did not disturb my discourse."
This whole section was just emerging out of the Stone Age, and the people were mostly making stoneware. They worked about four days in a week. The skilful men made a shilling a day--the women one shilling a week. And all the money they got above a meager living went for folly. Bear-baiting, bullfighting and drunkenness were the rule. There were breweries at Staffordshire before there were potteries, but now the potters made jugs and pots for the brewers.
These potters lived in hovels, and, what is worse, were quite content with their lot. In the potteries women often worked mixing the mud, and while at work wore the garb of men.
Wesley referred to the fact of the men and women dressing alike, and relates that once a dozen women wearing men's clothes, well plastered with mud, entered the chapel where he was preaching, and were urged on by the men to affront him and break up the meeting.
Then comes this interesting item: "I met a young man by the name of J. Wedgwood, who had planted a flower-garden adjacent to his pottery. He also had his men wash their hands and faces and change their clothes after working in the clay. He is small and lame, but his soul is near to God."
I think that John Wesley was a very great man. I also think he was great enough to know that only a man who is in love plants a flower-garden.
Yes, such was the case--Josiah Wedgwood was in love, madly, insanely, tragically in love! And he was liberating that love in his work. Hence, among other forms that his "insanity" took, he planted a flower-garden.
And of course, the garden was for the lady he loved.
Love must do something--it is a form of vital energy and the best thing it does, it does for the beloved. Flowers are love's own properties. And so flowers, natural or artificial, are a secondary sex manifestation.
I said Josiah Wedgwood was tragically in love--the word was used advisedly. One can play comedy; two are required for melodrama; but a tragedy demands three.
A tragedy means opposition, obstacle, objection. Josiah Wedgwood was putting forth a flower-garden, not knowing why, possibly, but as a form of attraction. And John Wesley riding by, reined in, stopped and after talking with the owner of the flower-garden wrote, "He is small and lame, but his soul is near to God."
* * * * * * *
Josiah Wedgwood, like Richard Arkwright, his great contemporary, was the thirteenth child of his parents.
Let family folk fear no more about thirteen being an unlucky number. The common law of England, which usually has some good reason based on commonsense for its existence, makes the eldest son the heir: this on the assumption that the firstborn inherits brain and brawn plus. If the firstborn happened to be a girl, it didn't count.
The rest of the family grade down until we get "the last run of shad." But Nature is continually doing things just as if to smash our theories. The Arkwrights and the Wedgwoods are immortal through Omega and not Alpha.
Thomas Wedgwood, the father of Josiah, was a potter who made butter-pots and owned a little pottery that stood in the yard behind the house. He owned it, save for a mortgage, and when he died, he left the mortgage and the property to his eldest son Thomas, to look after.
Josiah was then nine years old, but already he was throwing clay on the potter's wheel. It would not do to say that he was clay in the hand of the potter, for while the boys of his age were frolicking through the streets of the little village of Burslem where he lived, he was learning the three R's at his mother's knee.
I hardly suppose we can speak of a woman who was the mother of thirteen children before she was forty, and taking care of them all without a servant, as highly cultivated. Several of Josiah's brothers and sisters never learned to read and write, for like Judith Shakespeare, the daughter of William, they made their mark: which shows us that there are several ways of turning that pretty trick. Children born of the same parents are not necessarily related to each other, nor to their parents.
Mary Wedgwood, Josiah's mother, wrote for him his name in clay, and some years after he related how he copied it a hundred times every day for a week, writing with a stick in the mud.
Lame children or weakly ones seem to get their quota of love all right, so let us not feel sorry for them--everything is equalized.
When Josiah was fourteen he could write better than either his mother or his brother Thomas; for we have the signatures of all three appended to an indenture of apprenticeship, wherein Josiah was bound to his brother Thomas for five years. The youngster was to be taught the "mystery, trade, occupation and secrets of throwing and handling clay, and also burning it." But the fact was that as he was born in the pottery and had lived and worked in it, and was a most alert and impressionable child, he knew quite as much about the work as his brother Thomas, who was twenty years older. Years are no proof of ability.
At nineteen, Josiah's apprenticeship to his brother expired. "I have my trade, a lame leg and the marks of smallpox--and I never was good-looking, anyway," he wrote in his commonplace-book.
The terrific attack of smallpox that he had undergone had not only branded his face, but had left an inflammation in his right knee that made walking most difficult. This difficulty was no doubt aggravated by his hard work turning the potter's wheel with one foot. During the apprenticeship the brother had paid him no wages, simply "booarde, meate, drink and cloatheing."
Now he was sick, lame and penniless. His mother had died the year before. He was living with his brothers and sisters, who were poor, and felt that he was more or less of a burden to them and to the world: the tide was at ebb. And about this time it was that Richard Wedgwood, Esquire, from Cheshire, came over to Burslem on horseback. Richard has been mentioned as a brother of Thomas, the father of Josiah, but the fact seems to be that they were cousins.
Richard was a gentleman in truth, if not in title. He had made a fortune as a cheesemonger and retired. He went to London once a year, and had been to Paris. He was decently fat, was senior warden of his village church, and people who knew their business addressed him as Squire. The whole village of Burslem boasted only one horse and a mule, but Squire Wedgwood of Cheshire owned three horses, all his own. He rode only one horse though, when he came to Burslem, and behind him, seated on a pillion, was his only and motherless daughter Sarah, aged fourteen, going on fifteen, with dresses to her shoe-tops.
He brought her because she teased to come, and in truth he loved the girl very much and was extremely proud of her, even if he did reprove her more than was meet. But she usually got even by doing as she pleased.
Now they were on their way to Liverpool and just came around this way a-cousining.
And among others on whom they called were the Wedgwood potters. In the kitchen, propped up on a bench, with his lame leg stretched out before him, sat Josiah, worn, yellow and wan, all pitted with smallpox-marks. The girl looked at the young man and asked him how he got hurt--she was only a child. Then she asked him if he could read. And she was awful glad he could, because to be sick and not to be able to read was awful!
Her father had a copy of Thomson's "Seasons" in his saddlebags. She went and got the book and gave it to Josiah, and told her father about it afterward. And when the father and daughter went away, the girl stroked the sick boy's head, and said she hoped he would get well soon. She would not have stroked the head of one of those big, burly potters; but this potter was different--he was wofully disfigured, and he was sick and lame. Woman's tenderness goes out to homely and unfortunate men--read your Victor Hugo!
And Josiah--he was speechless, dumb--his tongue paralyzed! The room swam and then teetered up and down, and everything seemed touched with a strange, wondrous light. And in both hands Josiah Wedgwood tenderly held that precious copy of James Thomson's "Seasons."
* * * * * * *
In Eighteen Hundred Sixty, just one hundred years after John Wesley visited Burslem, Gladstone came here and gave an address on the founding of the Wedgwood Memorial Institute.
Among other things said in the course of his speech was this: "Then comes the well-known smallpox, the settling of the dregs of the disease in the lower part of the leg, and the eventual amputation of the limb, rendering him lame for life. It is not often that we have such palpable occasion to record our obligations to calamity. But in the wonderful ways of Providence, that disease which came to him as a twofold scourge was probably the occasion of his subsequent excellence. It prevented him from growing up to be the active, vigorous workman, possessed of all his limbs, and knowing right well the use of them; but it put him upon considering whether, as he could not be that, he might not be something else, and something greater. It sent his mind inward; it drove him to meditate upon the laws and secrets of his art. The result was that he arrived at a perception and grasp of them which might, perhaps, have been envied, certainly have been owned, by an Athenian potter. Relentless criticism has long since torn to pieces the old legend of King Numa receiving in a cavern, from the nymph of Egeria, the laws which were to govern Rome. But no criticism can shake the record of that illness and that mutilation of the boy Josiah Wedgwood, which made a cavern of his bedroom, and an oracle of his own inquiring, searching, meditative mind."
You remember how that great and good man, Richard Maurice Bucke, once said, "After I had lost my feet in the Rocky Mountain avalanche, I lay for six weeks in a cabin, and having plenty of time to think it over, I concluded that, now my feet were gone, I surely could no longer depend upon them, so I must use my head." And he did.
The loss of an arm in a sawmill was the pivotal point that gave us one of the best and strongest lawyers in Western New York. And heaven knows we need good lawyers: the other kind are so plentiful!
Gladstone thought it was smallpox that drove Josiah Wedgwood to books and art. But other men have had the smallpox--bless me!--and they never acquired much else.
Josiah kept Thomson's "Seasons" three months, and then returned it to Sarah Wedgwood, with a letter addressing her as "Dear Cousin." You will find it set down in most of the encyclopedias that she was his cousin, but this seems to be because writers of encyclopedias are literalists, and lovers are poets.
Josiah said he returned the book for two reasons: first, inasmuch as he had committed it to memory, he no longer needed it; second, if he sent it back, possibly another book might be sent him instead. Squire Wedgwood answered this letter himself, and sent two books, with a good, long letter of advice about improving one's time, and "not wasting life in gambling and strong drink, as most potters do."
Six months had passed since the Squire and his daughter had been to Burslem. Josiah was much better. He was again at work in the pottery. And now, instead of making brown butter-crocks and stone jugs all of the time, he was experimenting in glazes. In fact, he had made a little wooden workbox and covered it over with tiny pieces of ornamental "porcelain" in a semi-transparent green color, that he had made himself. And this pretty box he sent to Sarah. Unfortunately, the package was carried on horseback in a bag by the mail-carrier, and on the way the horse lay down, or fell down and rolled on the mail-bag, reducing the pretty present to fragments. When the wreck was delivered to Sarah, she consulted with her father about what should be done.
We ask advice, not because we want it, but because we wish to be backed up in the thing we desire to do.
Sarah wrote to Josiah, acknowledging receipt of the box, praising its beauty in lavish terms, but not a word about the condition in which it arrived. A few weeks afterward the Squire wrote on his own account and sent ten shillings for two more boxes--"just like the first, only different." Ten shillings was about what Josiah was getting for a month's work.
Josiah was now spending all of his spare time and money in experimenting with new clays and colors, and so the ten shillings came in very handy.
He had made ladles, then spoons, and knife-handles to take the place of horn, and samples of all his best work he sent on to his "Uncle Richard."
His brother Thomas was very much put out over this trifling. He knew no way to succeed, save to stick to the same old ways and processes that had always been employed. Josiah chafed under the sharp chidings of his brother, and must have written something about it to Sarah, for the Squire sent some of the small wares made by Josiah over to Sheffield to one of the big cutlers, and the cutler wrote back saying he would like to engage the services of so talented a person as the young man who could make a snuffbox with beautiful leaves modeled on it. Thomas Wedgwood, however, refused to allow his brother to leave, claiming the legal guardianship over him until he was twenty-one. From this we assume that Josiah's services were valuable.
Josiah had safely turned his twenty-first year before he decided to go down to Cheshire and see his Uncle Richard. He had anticipated the visit for weeks, but now as he was on the verge of starting he was ready to back out. A formal letter of excuse and apology was written, but never dispatched. On the appointed day, Josiah was duly let down from the postman's cart at the gate of Squire Wedgwood, Spen Green, Cheshire. The young woman who came down the steps to meet him at the gate might indeed be Sarah Wedgwood, but she wasn't the same little girl who had ridden over to Burslem on a pillion behind her father! She was tall, slender, and light of step. She was a dream of grace and beauty, and her presence seemed to fill the landscape. Over Josiah's being ran a bitter regret that he had come at all. He looked about for a good place to hide, then he tried to say something about "how glad I am to be here," but there was a bur on his tongue and so he stammered, "The roads are very muddy." In his pocket he had the letter of regret, and he came near handing it to her and climbing into the postman's cart that still stood there.
He started to go through the gate, and the postman coughed, and asked him for his fare. When the fare was paid, Josiah felt sure that Sarah thought he had tried to cheat the poor postman.
He protested to her that he hadn't, in a strange falsetto voice that was not his own.
As they walked toward the house, Josiah was conscious he was limping, and as he passed his hand over his forehead he felt the pockmarks stand out like moles.
And she was so gracious and sprightly and so beautiful! He knew she was beautiful, although he really had not looked at her; but he realized the faint perfume of her presence, and he knew her dress was a light blue--the color of his favorite glaze.
He decided he would ask her for a sample of the cloth that he might make her a plate just like it.
When they were seated on the veranda, over which were climbing-roses, the young lady addressed him as "Mr. Wedgwood," whereas in her letters she had called him "Dear Cousin" or "Josiah."
It was now Sarah's turn to be uncomfortable, and this was a great relief to him. He felt he must put her at ease, so he said, "These roses would look well on a platter--I will model one for you when I go home." This helped things a little, and the girl offered to show him the garden. There were no flowers in Burslem. People had no time to take care of them.
And just then the Squire appeared, bluff, bold and hearty, and soon everything was all right. That evening the young lady played for them on the harpsichord; the father told stories and laughed heartily at them because nobody else did; and Josiah seated in a dim corner recited pages from Thomson's "Seasons," and the next day was frightened at his temerity.
* * * * * * *
When Josiah returned to Burslem, it was with the firm determination that he must get away from his brother and branch out for himself. That he loved Sarah or had any idea of wedding her, he was not conscious. Yet her life to him was a great living presence, and all of his plans for the future were made with her in mind. Brown butter-crocks were absolutely out of the question! It was blue plates, covered with vines and roses, or nothing; and he even had visions of a tea-set covered with cupids and flying angels.
In a few weeks we find Josiah over near Sheffield making knife-handles for a Mr. Harrison, an ambitious cutler. Harrison lacked the art spirit and was found too mercenary for our young man, who soon after formed a partnership with a man named Whieldon, "to make tortoise-shell and ivory from ground flint and other stones by processes secret to said Wedgwood." Whieldon furnished the money and Wedgwood the skill. Up to this time the pottery business in England had consisted in using the local clays. Wedgwood invented a mill for grinding stone, and experimented with every kind of rock he could lay his hands on.
He also became a skilled modeler, and his success at ornamenting the utensils and pretty things they made caused the business to prosper. In a year he had saved up a hundred pounds of his own. This certainly was quite a fortune, and Sarah had written him, "I am so proud of your success--we all predict for you a great future."
Such assurances had a sort of undue weight with Josiah, for we find him not long after making bold to call on Squire Wedgwood on "a matter of most important business."
The inspired reader need not be told what that business was. Just let it go that the Squire told Josiah he was a fool to expect that the only daughter of Richard Wedgwood, Esquire, retired monger in Cheshire cheese, should think of contracting marriage with a lame potter from Burslem. Gadzooks! The girl would some day be heiress to ten thousand pounds or so, and the man she would marry must match her dowry, guinea for guinea. And another thing: a nephew of Lord Bedford, a rising young barrister of London, had already asked for her hand.
To be a friend to a likely potter wasn't the same as asking him into the family!
Josiah's total sum of assurance had been exhausted when he blurted out his proposal to the proud father; there was now nothing he could do but to grow first red and then white. He was suppressed, undone, and he could not think of a thing to say, or an argument to put forth. The air seemed stifling. He stumbled down the steps and started down the road as abruptly as he had appeared.
What he would do or where he would go were very hazy propositions in his mind. He limped along and had gone perhaps a mile. Things were getting clearer in his mind. His first decision as sanity returned was that he would ask the first passer-by which way it was to the river.
Now he was getting mad. "A Burslem potter!" that is what the Squire called him, and a lame one at that! It was a taunt, an epithet, an insult! To call a person a Burslem potter was to accuse him of being almost everything that was bad.
The stage did not go until the next day--Josiah had slackened his pace and was looking about for an inn. He would get supper first anyway, and then the river--it would only be one Burslem potter less.
And just then there was a faint cry of "Oh, Josiah!" and a vision of blue. Sarah was right there behind him, all out of breath from running across the meadows. "Oh, Josiah--I--I just wanted to say that I hate that barrister! And then you heard papa say that you must match my dowry, guinea for guinea--I am sorry it is so much, but you can do it, Josiah, you can do it!"
She held out her hand and Josiah clutched and twisted it, and then smacked at it, but smacked into space.
And the girl was gone! She was running away from him. He could not hope to catch her--he was lame, and she was agile as a fawn. She stepped upon a stile that led over through the meadow, and as she stood there she waved her hand, and Josiah afterward thought she said, "Match my dowry, guinea for guinea, Josiah: you can do it, you can do it." Just an instant she stood there, and then she ran across the meadow and disappeared amid the oaks.
An old woman came by and saw him staring at the trees, but he did not ask her the way to the river.
* * * * * * *
From a shy youth, Josiah Wedgwood had evolved into a man of affairs, and was surely doing a man's work. He had spent about five years making curious earthenware ornaments for the Sheffield cutlers; and then with full one thousand pounds he had come back to Burslem and started business on his own account. He had read and studied and worked, and he had evolved. He was an educated man; that is to say, he was a competent and useful man. He determined to free Burslem from the taint that had fallen upon it. "Burslem?" he once wrote to Sarah, "Burslem? the name shall yet be a symbol of all that is beautiful, honest and true; we shall see! I am a potter--yes, but I'll be the best one that England has ever seen."
And the flower-garden was one of the moves in the direction of evolution.
Occasionally, Josiah made visits to Cheshire, riding forty miles on horseback, for he now had horses of his own. The roads in Spring and Winter were desperately bad, but Josiah by persistent agitation had gotten Parliament to widen and repair, at the expense of several hundred pounds, the road between Lawton in Cheshire to Cliffe Bank at Staffordshire.
And it so happened that this was the road which led from where Wedgwood lived to where lived his lady-love. Josiah and Sarah had many a smile over the fact that Cupid had taken a hand in road-building. Evidently Dan Cupid is a very busy and versatile individual.
Sarah was her father's housekeeper. She had one brother, a young man of meager qualities. These two were joint heirs to their father's estate of something over twenty thousand pounds. Josiah and Sarah thought what a terrible blow it would be if this brother should die and Sarah thus have her dowry doubled!
The Squire depended upon Sarah in many ways. She wrote his letters and kept his accounts; and his fear for her future was founded on a selfish wish not to lose her society and services, quite as much as a solicitude for her happiness.
For a year after Josiah had exploded his bombshell by asking Squire Richard for his daughter's hand, the lover was forbidden the house.
Then the Squire relaxed so far that he allowed Josiah and Sarah to meet in his presence. And finally there was a frank three-cornered understanding. And that was that, when Josiah could show that he had ten thousand pounds in his own name, the marriage would take place. This propensity on the part of parents to live their children's lives is very common. Few be the parents and very great are they who can give liberty and realize that their children are only loaned to them. I fear we parents are prone to be perverse and selfish.
Josiah and Sarah reviewed their status from all sides. They could have thrown the old gentleman overboard entirely and cut for Gretna Green, but that would have cost them an even ten thousand pounds. It would also have secured the Squire's enmity, and might have caused him a fit of apoplexy. And surely, as it was, the lovers were not lost to each other. To wed is often fatal to romance; but it is expecting too much to suppose that lovers will reason that too much propinquity is often worse than obstacle. The road between them was a good one--the letter-carrier made three trips a week, and an irascible parent could not stop dreams, nor veto telepathy, even if he did pass a law that one short visit a month was the limit.
Lovers not only laugh at locksmiths, but at most everything else. Josiah and Sarah kept the line warm with a stream of books, papers, manuscripts and letters. By meeting the mail-carrier a mile out of the village, the vigilant Squire's censorship was curtailed by Sarah to reasonable proportions.
And so the worthy Richard had added the joys of smuggling to the natural sweets of a grand passion. In thus giving zest to the chase, no thanks, however, should be sent his way. Even stout and stubborn old gentlemen with side-whiskers have their uses.
And it was about this time that John Wesley came to Burslem and was surprised to find a flower-garden in a community of potters. He looked at the flowers, had a casual interview with the owner and wrote, "His soul is near to God."
* * * * * * *
Wedgwood knew every part of his business. He modeled, made designs, mixed clay, built kilns, and at times sat up all night and fed fuel into a refractory furnace. Nothing was quite good enough--it must be better. And to make better pottery, he said, we must produce better people. He even came very close to plagiarizing Walt Whitman by saying, "Produce great people--the rest follows!"
Wedgwood instituted a class in designing and brought a young man from London to teach his people the rudiments of art.
Orders were coming in from nobility for dinner-sets, and the English middle class, instead of dipping into one big pot set in the center of the table, were adopting individual plates.
Knives and forks came into use in England about the time of Good Queen Bess, who was only fairly good. Sir Walter Raleigh, who never posted signs reading, "No Smoking," records, "Tiny forks are being used to spear things at table, instead of the thumb-and-finger method sanctified by long use." But until the time of Wedgwood a plate and a cup for each person at the table was a privilege only of the nobility, and napkins and finger-bowls were on the distant horizon.
Wedgwood had not only to educate his workmen, but he had also to educate the public. But he made head. He had gotten a good road to Cheshire, and an equally good one to Liverpool, and was shipping crockery in large quantities to America. Occasionally, Wedgwood taught the designing classes, himself. As a writer he had developed a good deal of facility, for three love-letters a week for five years will educate any man. To know the right woman is a liberal education. Wedgwood also had given local addresses on the necessity of good roads, and the influence of a tidy back-yard on character.
He was a little past thirty years old, sole owner of a prosperous business and was worth pretty near the magic sum of ten thousand pounds.
Squire Wedgwood had been formally notified to come over to Burslem and take an inventory. He came, coughed and said that pottery was only a foolish fashion, and people would soon get enough of it. Richard felt sure that common folks would never have much use for dishes.
On being brought back to concrete reasons, he declared that his daughter's dowry had increased, very much increased, through wise investments of his own. The girl had a good home--better than she would have at Burslem. The man who married her must better her condition, etc., etc.
It seems that Josiah and Sarah had a little of the good Semitic instinct in their make-up. The old gentleman must be managed; the dowry was too valuable to let slip. They needed the money in their business, and had even planned just what they would do with it. They were going to found a sort of Art Colony, where all would work for the love of it, and where would take place a revival of the work of the Etruscans. As classic literature had been duplicated, and the learning of the past had come down to us in books, so would they duplicate in miniature the statues, vases, bronzes and other marvelous beauty of antiquity.
And the name of the new center of art was chosen--it should be "Etruria." It was a great dream; but then lovers are given to dreams: in fact, they have almost a monopoly on the habit!
* * * * * * *
Great people have great friends. Wedgwood had a friend in Liverpool named Bentley. Bentley was a big man--a gracious, kindly, generous, receptive, broad, sympathetic man. Your friend is the lengthened shadow of yourself.
Bentley was both an artist and a businessman. Bentley had no quibble or quarrel with himself, and therefore was at peace with the world; he had eliminated all grouch from his cosmos. Bentley began as Wedgwood's agent, and finally became his partner, and had a deal to do with the evolution of Etruria.
When Bentley opened a showroom in London and showed the exquisite, classic creations of Flaxman and the other Wedgwood artists, carriages blocked the streets, and cards of admission had to be issued to keep back the crowds. Bentley dispatched a messenger to Wedgwood with the order, "Turn every available man on vases--London is vase mad!"
A vase, by the way, is a piece of pottery that sells for from one to ten shillings; if it sells for more than ten shillings, you should pronounce it vawse.
On the ninth of January, Seventeen Hundred Sixty-four, Wedgwood wrote Bentley this letter: "If you know my temper and sentiments on these affairs, you will be sensible how I am mortified when I tell you I have gone through a long series of bargain-making, of settlements, reversions, provisions and so on. 'Gone through it,' did I say? Would to Hymen that I had! No! I am still in the attorney's hands, from which I hope it is no harm to pray, 'Good Lord, Deliver me!' Sarah and I are perfectly agreed, and would settle the whole affair in three minutes; but our dear papa, over-careful of his daughter's interest, would by some demands which I can not comply with, go near to separate us if we were not better determined.
"On Friday next, Squire Wedgwood and I are to meet in great form, with each of us our attorney, which I hope will prove conclusive. You shall then hear further from your obliged and very affectionate friend, Josiah Wedgwood."
On January Twenty-ninth, Sarah and Josiah walked over to the little village of Astbury, Cheshire, and were quietly married, the witnesses being the rector's own family, and the mail-carrier. Just why the latter individual was called in to sign the register has never been explained, but I imagine most lovers can. He surely had been "particeps criminis" to the event.
And so they were married, and lived happily afterward. Josiah was thirty-four, and Sarah twenty-nine when they were married. The ten years of Laban service was not without its compensation. The lovers had lived in an ideal world long enough to crystallize their dreams.
In just a year after the marriage a daughter was born to Mr. and Mrs. Josiah Wedgwood, and they called her name Susannah.
And Susannah grew up and became the mother of Charles Darwin, the greatest scientist the world has ever produced.
Writers of romances have a way of leaving their lovers at the church-door, a cautious and wise expedient, since too often love is one thing and life another. But here we find a case where love was worked into life. From the date of his marriage Wedgwood's business moved forward with never a reverse nor a single setback.
When Wedgwood and Bentley were designated "Potters to the Queen," and began making "queensware," coining the word, they laid the sure foundation for one of the greatest business fortunes ever accumulated in England.
Two miles from Burslem, they built the little village of Etruria--a palpable infringement on the East Aurora caveat. And so the dream all came true, and in fact was a hundred times beyond what the lovers had ever imagined.
Sarah's brother accommodatingly died a few years after her marriage, and so she became sole heiress to a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, and this went to the building up of Etruria.
Wedgwood, toward the close of his life, was regarded as the richest man in England who had made his own fortune. And better still, he was rich in intellect and all those finer faculties that go into the making of a great and generous man.
Twenty-two years after his marriage, Wedgwood wrote to his friend Lord Gower: "I never had a great plan that I did not submit to my wife. She knew all the details of the business, and it was her love for the beautiful that first prompted and inspired me to take up Grecian and Roman Art, and in degree, reproduce the Classic for the world. I worked for her approval, and without her high faith in me I realize that my physical misfortunes would have overcome my will, and failure would have been written large where now England has carved the word Success."
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