Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rogers, Charles (1711-1784)

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ROGERS, CHARLES (1711–1784), art collector, born on 2 Aug. 1711, was second surviving son of William and Isabella Rogers of Dean Street, Soho, London. In May 1731 he was placed in the custom house under William Townson, from whom he acquired a taste for the fine arts and book-collecting. Townson and his two sisters left by will all their estate, real and personal, to Rogers, a bequest which included a house at 3 Laurence Pountney Lane, London, containing a choice museum of art treasures. Here Rogers in 1746 took up his residence, and, aided by several friends who lived abroad, made many valuable additions to the collection. In 1747 he became clerk of the certificates. Through the interest of his friend Arthur Pond [q. v.] he was elected fellow of the Society of Antiquaries on 23 Feb. 1752, and several times served on the council. He became fellow of the Royal Society on 17 Nov. 1757 (Thomson, Hist. of Royal Society, App. iv. p. xlviii). Among his friends were Sir Joshua Reynolds, Horace Walpole, Richard Gough, Paul Sandby, Cipriani, Romney, and Angelica Kauffmann. He died unmarried on 2 Jan. 1784, and was buried in Laurence Pountney churchyard.

Rogers's collections passed at his death into the hands of William Cotton (d. 1791), who married his sister and heiress, and from him descended to his son, William Cotton, F.S.A., of the custom house. The latter sold by auction in 1799 and 1801 a considerable portion of the collection; the sale occupied twenty-four days, and realised 3,886l. 10s. The remainder, on Cotton's death in 1816, became the property of his son, William Cotton, F.S.A. (d. 1863), of the Priory, Leatherhead, Surrey, and Highland House, Ivybridge, Devonshire, who, after making some additions to the collection, handed it over in two instalments, in 1852 and 1862, to the proprietors of the Plymouth Public (now Proprietary) Library. A handsome apartment was built for its reception at a cost of 1,500l., and was opened to the public on 1 June 1853 by the name of the Cottonian Library. The collection includes four portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, about five thousand prints, a few fine examples of early typography, illuminated manuscripts of the fifteenth century, carvings, models, casts, bronzes, and medals. A catalogue of the first part of the benefaction, compiled by Llewellynn Frederick William Jewitt [q. v.], was printed in 1853; the second part remains uncatalogued.

The chief work of Rogers's life was a series of carefully executed facsimiles of original drawings from the great masters, engraved in tint. The book was issued in 1778, with the title ‘A Collection of Prints in Imitation of Drawings … to which are annexed Lives of their Authors, with Explanatory and Critical Notes,’ 2 vols. imperial folio. The plates, which are 112 in number, were engraved chiefly by Bartolozzi, Ryland, Basire, and Simon Watts, from drawings some of which were in Rogers's own collection.

In 1782 Rogers printed in quarto an anonymous blank-verse translation of Dante's ‘Inferno.’ He also contributed to ‘Archæologia’ and the ‘Gentleman's Magazine.’

A portrait of Rogers was painted in 1777 by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and now hangs in the Cottonian Library. It was engraved in mezzotint by W. Wynne Ryland for Rogers's ‘Imitations,’ also by S. W. Reynolds and by J. Cook for the ‘Gentleman's Magazine.’

[Wilson's Hist. of the Parish of St. Laurence Pountney, London; Preface to Sale Cat. of Rogers's Collections, 1799; Introduction to Jewitt's Cat. of Cottonian Library, 1853; Gent. Mag. 1784 i. 159–61 (with portrait), 1801 ii. 692, 792, 1863 i. 520–1; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iii. 255; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. viii. 451; Correspondence in Western Morning News, 19 and 22 Sept., 3 and 16 Nov. 1893; Lowndes's Bibl. Manual (Bohn), pt. viii. p. 2116; Allibone's Dict. of Authors, ii. 1848; Monthly Review for May 1779.]

G. G.