Eaton, William Meriton (DNB12)

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EATON, WILLIAM MERITON, second Baron Cheylesmore (1843–1902), mezzotint collector, second son in a family of three sons and two daughters of Henry William Eaton, first Baron Cheylesmore (d. 1891), by his wife Charlotte Gorham (d. 1877), daughter of Thomas Leader Harman of New Orleans, was born at 9 Gloucester Place, Regent's Park, London, on 15 Jan. 1843. His father founded the prosperous firm of H. W. Eaton & Son, silk brokers, represented Coventry in parliament as a conservative from 1865 to 1880 and from 1881 to 1887, and was raised to the peerage at Queen Victoria's jubilee in 1887 as first Baron Cheylesmore. He was an authority on fine arts and an enthusiastic collector; among his treasures was Landseer's 'Monarch of the Glen,' which, at the sale of his collection at Christie's in April 1892, fetched 6900 guineas.

After education at Eton, William entered his father's firm and subsequently became partner. He took, however, little part in the business, and from 1866 onward devoted himself to politics in the conservative interest with little success. He failed in his attempts to enter parliament for Macclesfield in 1868, 1874, and 1880. He succeeded to the peerage on his father's death in 1891.

Like his father, Cheylesmore had artistic tastes. In 1869 he started a collection of English mezzotint engravings, by way of illustrating each item in the catalogue compiled by John Chaloner Smith [q. v.]. Eaton gave Chaloner Smith much assistance in preparing his work. Although his collection was fully representative, only a small percentage of it was in the choicest condition. The prints which crowded his residence at Prince's Gate formed the largest and best private mezzotint collection ever formed; it included, with the work of all the best practitioners, examples of Ludwig von Siegen (fl. 1650), the inventor of the art of mezzotint, and was especially rich in the engravings of James MacArdell (1729-1765) [q. v.]. Thirty-nine of Cheylesmore's mezzotints, including the valuable 'Miranda,' engraved by W. Ward, after Hoppner, which he had bought from Mr. Herbert Percy Home for 40l., were shown at the exhibition in 1902 of English mezzotint portraits (1750-1830) of the Burlington Fine Arts Club, of whose committee Cheylesmore was a member. Cheylesmore died unmarried at his residence, 16 Prince's Gate, on 10 July 1902, and was buried at Highgate cemetery. He was succeeded in the peerage by his younger brother, Herbert Francis (b. 25 Jan. 1848), to whom passed his collection of mezzo-tints other than portraits. The portraits—some 11,000— were bequeathed to the British Museum, where a small portion was exhibited from 1905 to 1910. The acquisition filled many gaps in the national collection.

[The Times, 11 and 12 July and 5 Aug. 1902; Daily Telegraph, 7 July 1905; Burke's Peerage; British Museum Guide to an Exhibition of Mezzotint Engravings, chiefly from the Cheylesmore Collection, compiled by Freeman M. O'Donoghue, with preface by Sidney Colvin, 1905; Cat. of Exhibition of English Mezzotint portraits, Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1902; Connoisseur, Jan. 1902, illustr. art. on Lord Cheylesmore's mezzotints (with portrait); private information.]

W. B. O.