Page:Life of William Blake, Gilchrist.djvu/51

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
ÆT. 16—21.]
21
ENGRAVER'S APPRENTICE.

A machine is not a man, nor a work of art: it is destructive of humanity and of art. Woollett, I know, did not know how to grind his graver. I know this. He has often proved his ignorance before me at Basire's by laughing at Basire's knife-tools, and ridiculing the forms of Basire's other gravers, till Basire was quite dashed and out of conceit with what he himself knew. But his impudence had a contrary effect on me.'—West, for whose reputation Woollett's graver did so much, 'asserted' continues Blake, 'that Woollett's prints were superior to Basire's, because they had more labour and care. Now this is contrary to the truth. Woollett did not know how to put so much labour into a hand or a foot as Basire did; he did not know how to draw the leaf of a tree. All his study was clean strokes and mossy tints. . . . Woollett's best works were etched by Jack Brown; Woollett etched very ill himself. The Cottagers, and Jocund Peasants, the Views in Kew Gardens, Foot's Cray, and Diana and Actæon, and, in short, all that are called Woollett's were etched by Jack Brown. And in Woollett's works the etching is all; though even in these a single leaf of a tree is never correct. Strange's prints were, when I knew him, all done by Aliamet and his French journeymen, whose names I forget. I also knew something of John Cooke, who engraved after Hogarth. Cooke wished to give Hogarth what he could take from Raffaelle; that is, outline, and mass, and colour; but he could not.' Again, in the same one-sided, trenchant strain:—'What is called the English style of engraving, such as proceeded from the toilettes of Woollett and Strange (for theirs were Fribble's toilettes) can never produce character and expression. Drawing—'firm, determinate outline'—is in Blake's eyes, all in all:—'Engraving is drawing on copper and nothing else. But, as Gravelot once said to my master, Basire "De English may be very clever in deir own opinions, but day do not draw!"'

Before taking leave of Basire we will have a look at the