Nesbit, Charlton (DNB00)

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NESBIT, CHARLTON (1775–1838), wood-engraver, was born at Swalwell, in Durham, in 1775, being the son of a keelman. He was apprenticed to Thomas Bewick [q. v.] of Newcastle about 1789; and it was stated that during his apprenticeship he both drew and engraved the bird's nest which heads the preface in vol. i. of the ‘Birds,’ and that he engraved the majority of the vignettes and tail-pieces to the ‘Poems of Goldsmith and Parnell,’ 1795. He is also credited with a caricature of Stephen or George Stephen Kemble [q. v.], manager of the Newcastle Theatre, in the character of Hamlet. This was a quarto etching on copper, appropriately executed in Drury Lane, Newcastle. In 1796 Nesbit engraved a memorial cut to Robert Johnson (1770–1796) [q. v.], from one of that artist's designs, and little more than a year later he published, for the benefit of Johnson's parents, a large block after a water-colour by Johnson, still preserved at Newcastle, representing a north view of St. Nicholas's Church. This, being fifteen inches by twelve, was, at the time of publication, one of the largest engravings on wood ‘ever attempted in the present mode.’ A copy of it was presented by the engraver to the Society of Arts, who awarded him their lesser silver palette. About 1799 Nesbit removed from Newcastle to London, and took up his abode in Fetter Lane. Among his earlier labours in the metropolis was a frontispiece, after Thurston, to Bloomfield's ‘Farmer's Boy,’ published by Vernor & Hood in 1800. To this followed in 1801 woodcuts for Grey's edition of Butler's ‘Hudibras.’ In 1802 the Society of Arts awarded Nesbit a silver medal. He was also employed on the ‘Scripture Illustrated,’ 1806, of William Marshall Craig [q. v.], and upon Wallis and Scholey's edition of Hume's ‘History of England,’ to the cuts in which latter his name is often affixed. With Branston and Clennell he engraved the head and tail pieces to an edition of Cowper's ‘Poems,’ in 2 vols. 1808. But his most am- bitious work is in Ackerman's ‘Religious Emblems,’ 1809, to which two more of Bewick's old pupils, Clennell and Hole, also contributed. ‘Hope Departing,’ ‘Joyful Retribution,’ ‘Sinners Hiding in the Grave,’ are among the best of these. Nesbit besides engraved a cut (‘Quack’) for Puckle's ‘Club,’ 1817; and a large specimen block (‘Rinaldo and Armida’) for Savage's ‘Practical Hints on Decorative Printing,’ 1818. The design, like those in the ‘Religious Emblems,’ was by John Thurston. He also executed a smaller block for Savage's book.

By this date, however, Nesbit had returned to his native place. He continued, nevertheless, to work as an engraver for the London and Newcastle booksellers. One of his best efforts is a likeness of Bewick, after Nicholson, which was prefixed to Emerson Charnley's ‘Select Fables’ of 1820, and he also executed some excellent reproductions of William Harvey's designs to the first series of Northcote's ‘Fables,’ 1828. In 1830 he went back to London, and worked upon the second series, 1833; upon Harvey's ‘Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green,’ 1832; White's ‘Selborne,’ 1836; and Latrobe's ‘Scripture Illustrations,’ 1838. Among others of his works not yet mentioned must be included a block for Rogers's ‘Pleasures of Memory,’ 1810, p. 30; cuts for Stevens's ‘Lecture on Heads;’ Somervile's ‘Chase,’ 1795, and ‘Rural Sports,’ 1813; and various head-pieces, &c., for the Lee Priory Press, all of which last are collected in Quillinan's ‘Woodcuts and Verses,’ 1820. Nesbit died at Queen's Elm, Brompton, on 11 Nov. 1838, aged 63. As a wood-engraver pure and simple, he was the best of Bewick's pupils.

[Robinson's Thomas Bewick, his Life and Times, 1887; Thomas Bewick and his Pupils, 1884, by the author of this article; Miss Boyd's Bewick Gleanings, 1886; Chatto's Treatise on Wood Engraving, 1839; Linton's Masters of Wood Engraving, 1889; Bewick's Memoir (Memorial Edition), 1887.]

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