Monthly Archives: May 2014

Sir Charles Frederick

Sir Charles Frederick (1709—1785) was a subscriber to the second edition of Kirby’s Method of Perspective, and one of his sponsors for Fellow of the Royal Society. He was born in Madras, India, where his father Sir Thomas Frederick was on the council of Fort St. George (according to the DNB and Spier-Kagan) or governor of Fort St. David (according to the History of Parliament). He was educated back in England at Westminster School and New College, Oxford and then proceeded to the law, entering Middle Temple in 1728. An antiquarian with particular interests in numismatics and architecture, he joined the Society of Antiquaries in 1731 and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1733 before he was twenty-five.

In 1737 he set off for Italy and points East with his elder brother John, viewing antiquities and building up his collections. According to Spier-Kagan, they visited “Genoa, Pavia, Milan, Parma, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Venice, before going on to Constantinople and perhaps other destinations in the Near East, returning through Paris early in 1740″ (38). While in Rome in 1738, Frederick had his portrait painted by Andrea Casali.

Frederick was an accomplished draughtsman, producing numerous drawings of architecture and sculpture for the Society of Antiquaries, as well as drawing his own extensive coin collection. It was presumably his concern for draughtsmanship that accounted for his interest in Kirby’s works.

On his return to England, Frederick was elected a Member of Parliament, first for New Shoreham from 1741 to 1754 (succeeding his brother John), and then for Queenborough from 1754 to 1784. However, he was less a politician than a civil servant. In 1746, he was appointed Clerk of the Deliveries for the Board of Ordnance and in 1750 promoted to Surveyor General of the Ordnance, a post he held until 1782. He appears not to have spoken in parliament on any topic except those directly related to his work in the Ordnance department. In his capacity with the Ordnance, he was in charge of the fireworks display in Green Park in 1749 celebrating the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, for which Handel composed the ‘Music for the Royal Fireworks‘. He was made a Knight companion of the Order of the Bath in 1761.

Charles Frederick married Lucy Boscawen (1710—1784), eldest daughter of Hugh Boscawen, first Viscount Falmouth, in 1746. Together they had six children, four sons and two daughters.

When Frederick died in 1785, his will directed that his collections of books, coins, and other antiquities be sold at auction. Among the books auctioned, Frederick had Kirby’s Method of Perspective, listed as from 1754, which would make it a first edition, although he subscribed only to the second. He also had a copy of the Suffolk Traveller of 1735, a book listed as Kirby’s Perspective in 2 volumes, folio, of 1765 which really ought to be the Perspective of Architecture of 1761, as well as a copy of Thomas Malton’s Perspective from 1776, and a presentation copy of John Lodge Cowley’s Theory of Perspective of 1765.

Sources:

DNB

HoP Commons: 1715—1754; 1754—1790.

Spier, Jeffrey; and Kagan, Jonathan. `Sir Charles Frederick and the forgery of ancient coins in eighteenth-century Rome’. Journal of the History of Collections
12 (1) (2000), 35—90.

The Reviewer’s Lament

The Monthly Review of June 1791 carried the following weary review, decrying the lack of novelty in novels in a refrain that is still all too familiar. The book ostensibly under review was “The Labyrinths of Life” by the Author of Excessive Sensibility and Fatal Follies, 4 vols, 12mo, price 12s sewed.

When a manufacture has been carried on long enough for the workmen to attain a general proficiency, the uniformity of the stuffs will render it difficult to decide on the preference of one piece beyond another; and this must be our apology for not entering into a discussion of the merits of the novel now before us, which, at the same time that it exhibits nothing to shock our feelings, affords nothing to attract particular attention, either as to material or workmanship. Two of the earliest fabricators of this species of goods, the modern novel, in our country, were Daniel Defoe, and Mrs. Haywood; the success of Pamela may be said to have brought it into fashion; and the progress has not been less rapid than the extension of the use of tea, to which a novel is almost as general an attendant, as the bread and butter, especially in a morning. While we are on this subject, it is also to be noted, that nothing is more common than to find hair-powder lodged between the leaves of a novel; which evinces the corresponding attention paid to the inside as well as to the outside of a modern head. Richardson, Fielding, Smollet, and Sterne, were the Wedgwoods of their days; and the imitators that have since started up in the same line, exceed all power of calculation! When an art becomes general, then is the time for the invention of engines to facilitate the operations, as in the cotton manufacture. Swift’s machine for the composition of books, described in his Gulliver, like most other first attempts, has not been found to answer. It was reserved for us to publish a scheme for the easy multiplication of novels, cheap in its execution, and certain in its operations, so long as not only our presses, but those of Germany and France, will furnish raw materials to work up; and before then can fail, we may hope to import ample supplies from America. Here then we disinterestedly offer it pro bono publico; and expect the thanks of the whole body of frizeurs, for out assistance toward relieving them from a multitude of impatient exclamations, and profane oaths.

Recipe for Dressing up Novels ad libitum.

Go to Middle Row, Holborn; where, since mankind have discovered that their own hair is sufficiently capable of distortion, the sellers of old cast-off wigs have given place to the dealers in cast-off books; there, on the bulks, from among the classes of a groat or sixpence per volume, buy any old forgotten novel, the older the better; give new names to the personages and places, reform the dates, modernize such circumstances as may happen to be antiquated, and, if necessary, touch up the style a little with a few of those polite cant words and phrases that may be in fashion at the time. All this may be done with a pen, in the margin of the printed book, without the trouble of transcribing the whole, unless it is to be carried to a bookseller for sale; for then you must shew a manuscript. In either case, it may be boldly sent to the printer; for printers, like surgeons and lawyers, are bound to keep the secrets of their employers.

To a publisher, there are many advantages attending this mode of proceeding; and the saving of copy-money is to be reckoned as the chief. A novel of two or three volumes, that could not be purchased under four or five guineas, may be this new vamped from an old one, by a compositor who dabbles a little with his pen, for perhaps half a guinea; and if the alterations be skilfully performed, they will confound the judgment, so that, neither author nor bookseller knowing his own book again, a prosecution for copy-right need not be apprehended. The most that even a reader with a good memory could say, would be, that there is nothing new in it; and though we have so expressed ourselves a hundred time, novels are pouring forth as fast as ever! We therefore not without suspicions that this our scheme has been anticipated, and is already in practice; for, as far as recollection can reach, the characters, situations, plots, and catastrophes, are, with very few exceptions, still the same.

h/t James Raven for including quotes from this review in The Business of Books.

Purse-Proud Title-Page Mongers

Robert Campbell, in his London Tradesman of 1747 had some pungent things to say about the relationship between authors and publishers, or booksellers.

The Bookseller is another Branch depending on the Printer. Their Business is, to purchase original Copies from Authors, to employ Printers to print them, and publish and sell them in their Shops; or to purchase Books from such as print them on their own Account, or at auctions, and sell them at an advanced Price: But their chief Riches and Profit is in the Property of valuable Copies. The Author, generally speaking, has but a very trifling Sum for his Trouble in compiling the Copy; and finds himself treated with an abundance of Slights by many of the ignorant Part of the Trade, who are sure to depreciate his Performance, though never so well executed; with no other intention but to beat own his Price. It is not One in Ten that is Judge of any more than a Title-Page; and though they take Time to peruse the work offered to then, yet they seldom dip farther than the Title: If that and the Subject is popular, they trouble their Heads no more about the Manner of the Performance. Yet, when the Author comes for an answer, after many affected Delays, the wise Bookseller tells him, with a Sneer, It will not do; the Subject is not interesting enough; and it is but indifferently performed: But, adds he, I do not care if I run the Risk of Printing it, if you will take so much —Perhaps, not the Tenth of what was asked, nor so much as a Hackney-Clerk would get from so many Sheets of Writing. Authors are generally poor, and perhaps know not where to get a Dinner without disposing of their Work, and therefore are necessitated to comply with hard Terms, and put up with the ungentleman-like Treatment of the purse-proud Title-page Monger. (128—129)

For more of Campbell’s fulminations, see:

Campbell on Education;

Campbell on Painting, and

Campbell on Mathematical Instrument Makers.

For a modern analysis of the eighteenth-century book trade and the power dynamics involved, see

Raven, J (2007). The Business of Books. Booksellers and the English Book Trade. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Thomas Forster

A certain amount of mystery and confusion surrounds the Rev. Thomas Forster (?—1785), Rector of Halesworth in Suffolk. Venn’s Alumni Cantabrigienses has him born around 1708, coming from Durham, attending Queens’ College, ordained priest in 1735, and “perhaps” Vicar of Tunstead and Rector of Halesworth. The CCED is more cautious, listing two Thomas Forster’s as Rector of Halesworth, but noting that they are possibly not the same. In fact, the Durham Thomas Forster was the son of Rev. Joseph Forster of Norton in County Durham and died in 1743 at the age of 35.

Our Thomas Forster must be the other one (CCED #125060), about whom less is known. Although the CCED doesn’t give a Venn reference for this chap, he is presumably the Thomas born around 1722 who was son of George Forster (or Foster) of Barbados and one of three sons sent to Cambridge. This 1722 Thomas was ordained priest in 1746 and promptly appointed Vicar of Tunstead and, later the same year, Rector of Halesworth.

Thomas held Tunstead for thirty years before turning it over to his son Samuel, and was Rector of Halesworth until he died. I think. One complication is an advertisement in the Ipswich Journal for 10 August 1765 for an auction of “All the entire Houshold Furniture, and other valuable Effects of the Rev. Mr. Forster, at the Rectory in Halesworth…” We shall cheerfully assume he sold off all his belongings, including “a vertical Harpsicord of curious Construction, a reflecting and refracting Telescope, a Wilson microscope” etc. on a whim and press on.

Thomas Forster married Elizabeth Thompson of Southwold and they had at least four children who survived to adulthood. The eldest, Thompson Forster was an “eminent surgeon”. Samuel was the second son and went on to be Headmaster of Norwich Grammar School as well as Rector of Shotley. The third son, John, was also a clergyman. A daughter, Elizabeth, married Edward Berry in 1766 in London. Berry was apparently a merchant who generated a large family and then promptly died leaving a poor widow and numerous progeny. Their son, Edward Berry, joined the Navy and rose to become an admiral, being captain of Nelson’s flagship, the Vanguard, at the Battle of the Nile. Beforehand, he had recently married his cousin Louisa, daughter of Samuel Forster.

Thomas Forster wrote a couple of tracts on religious doctrine and had a collection of sermons published. In 1766, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, the citation reading,

Thomas Forster Clerk, Rector of Halesworth in the County of Suffolk, being desirous of the Honor of Election into the Royal Society: We the underwritten recommend him on our personal knowledge, as a Gentleman well versed in several Branches of Literature, likely to be a useful member of the Society, & deserving that Honor,

although he does not appear to have done anything very noteworthy at the Society. In 1767, he was one of the proposers for Joshua Kirby’s election.