Carter, John (1815-1850) (DNB00)

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CARTER, JOHN (1815–1850), a silk-weaver, who, having lost by accident the power of using hands, learned the art of drawing by holding the pencil or brush in his mouth, was born of humble parents at Coggeshall, in the coumty of Essex, on 31 July 1815. After attending the dame's school and the national school of the village, he was sent in his thirteenth year to an endowed school, where he remained two years. Here he gave some evidence of his remarkable artistic gifts by a tendency to scribble figures on his desk or copybook instead of doing his lessons; but, on account of untoward circumstances, his gifts were not developed further.

On leaving school he was apprenticed to a silk- weaver, and after his marriage in 1835 pursued the business on his own account. In May 1836, while climbing a tree in search of birds, he fell forty feet to the ground, receiving such serious injury to the spine as to deprive him of nearly all power of muscular motion below the neck. Having accidentally learned that a young woman who had lost the use of her hands had learned to draw with her mouth, he resolved if possible to turn his artistic gifts to account in a similar way. By dogged perseverance he mastered all the technicalities of drawing without personal instruction, and acquired such proficiency as would have done credit to him even had he possessed the use of his hands. He devoted himself chiefly to line-drawing, and, by holding the pencil or brush between his teeth, was able to produce the most accurate and delicate strokes. With the help of an attendant to supply his materials, he produced drawings of great beauty and of thorough artistic finish in every detail.

On 21 May 1850 the small carriage in which he was drawn was accidentally overturned, and his system received so severe a shock that he never recovered, dying on 4 June following. The Rev. W. J. Dampier, vicar of Coggeshall, published a memoir in 1850 (reissued in 1875). A list of eighty-seven of Carter's drawings is given, with the names of the owners. They include drawings after Albert Durer, Raphael, Rembrandt, Vandyke, and Landseer. They resemble line-engravings and, as Mr. Richmond tells the author of the book, the power of imitation is most extraordinary.

[Dampier's Memoir; Life by F. W. Mills, 1868.]

T. F. H.