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" I am. Sir,
" You most obedient humble servant,

" Melville Street, June «Oth, 1818.*'


" On the 28th of July a cast of Mr. Watt's
bust was sent to you by order of his son, and neither he

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1818. nor myself having received any acknowledgment of its
arrival, I beg to enquire whether it has come safe to

** I am, Sir,
" Your very obedient servant.

= Belgrave Place, 9th August, 1818.

At this time I made a faithful copy of the celebrated
Portland vase, in silver gilt, beautifully embossed.

In 1818, I was given the opportunity to examine the
celebrated Portland Cinery vase, which is at the British

The story of this vase was, that it was manufactured
before the Christian era, but at what period, and by
whom, it was unknown ; but it was said that it belonged
to the family of De Medicis, and at the sale of a portion
of the property of that house the Duchess of Portland
bought it at, or nearly, the enormous sum of £5000
out of her own property.

At the death of the Duchess (I believe about the year
1794) she had desired, by her will, that all her effects
should be sold by auction. At this sale the Duke
attended to buy in this celebrated vase, when, to his
Grace's surprise, some gentleman bid against him, run-
ning it up to 1000 guineas. The Duke hearing that the
person was Mr. Wedgwood, porcelain manufacturer, at
Etruria, in Staffordshire, became indignant, and sent
one of his friends to him across the auction room, to
inform him that he should purchase it at any price ; Mr.

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Wedgwood sent word that he attended for the same end. 1818.
This reply puzzled the Duke, but a friend near him said,
"All Wedgwood wants is to take copies of it on his ware.
If your Grace would permit me to tell him that you
would lend it him to take a certain number of copies, I
make no doubt he would stop bidding/* He did so, and
on condition that he might make six.

The vase is a most singular and extraordinary work
of art — the most so of any thing of the kind which I have
seen of its character and style.

In the first place, the artist at that period had the
aptitude first to blow in purple glass a beautiful form of
a vase, with handles attached ; even so far, this is con-
sidered in our day a masterpiece of skill at our best glass
houses. Secondly, with the oxide of tin, forming an
opaque white glass, the artist managed to cover the whole
of the purple vase with this white opaque glass, and at
least to the thickness of a quarter of an inch I The
artist then, in the manner of cutting a cameo upon the
onyx stone, cut the opaque glass away, leaving the white
figures and allegory embossed upon the purple.

This so much astonished me, and also Mr. Biddle, of
the Birmingham Heath Glass Works, that we made
many trials to accomplish this art, but all to no purpose.
The clever workmen did succeed in blowing the classical
vase in contour, and in attaching to it a pair of handles, but
we could not succeed in covering the vase with the white
opaque glass, the degree of temperature essential to form
the liquid white glass induced the white opaque, at the
instant an attempt was made to put it on or surround the
purple, to force the purple to give way from the heat,
and to crack it in endless striae, and crush it into a chaos

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1818. of confusion. The Portland Vase thus exhibits one
instance of superior skill by the ancients.

Much has been attempted to explain the allegory of
this cinery vase, respecting which there is a diversity of
opinion. I have heard much argument about the mean-
ing of the subject ; I confess myself to agree with the
following analyzation, which is said to be that of the
celebrated Dr. Darwin, M.D. : —

"The Mortality of the Body. — The central
figure appears emblematic of mortal life ; the inverted
torch, or rather the expiring torch, shews the figure to
be emblematic.

** The male and the female on each side of the dying
figure must be considered as emblems of human kind^
with their backs towards the dying %ure of mortal life^
unwilling to associate with her, yet turning attentively
their countenances towards her, and sorry to contemplate
their latter end.

" Second Compartment — Emblem of Immortality.
— The habitations of ghosts after death were supposed by
the ancients to be placed beneath the earth, where
Pluto reigned, and dispensed rewards or punishments.

**The first figure is a ghost, who, having passed
through an open portal, is descending into a gloomy
region with an unsteady step, feeling, as it were, his
way. The ghost ap'pears fearful, and wishes to drag
after him part of his mortal garment, which, however,
adheres to the side of the portal.

" The ghost is received by a beautiful female — a symbol
of immortal life, evinced by her fondling a playful ser-
pent, which, from its annually renewing its external skin,
has, firom great antiquity, been esteemed the emblem of
renovated youth. For a similar purpose a serpent was

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wrapt round the egg as an emblem of a renewal of life 1818.
from a state of death.

" The serpent shows this figure to be an emblem, as
the torch showed the central figure in the other com-
partment to be an emblem ; hence they correspond, the
one representing mortal life^ the other immortal life.

" This figure of immortal life sits down towards the
figure of Pluto, but turns her face towards the timid
ghost, and stretches forth her hand, taking hold of his
elbow, supports him and encourages him to advance ; at
the same time the ghost lays his hand upon her arm, as
one walking in the dark would naturally do ; while the
general part of the symbol of immortal life being
turned toward the figure of Pluto, shews that she is
leading the phantom to his realms. The God of Love
lights the ghost with his torch, and beckons him to
advance to the realms of Pluto/'

*• Dear Sir,

" I have given a letter of introduction
to the gentlemen composing the suite of his Imperial
Highness the Archduke Maximilian of Austria, who
wiU, I expect, be at Birmingham on Thursday or

** The Archduke travels incognito^ under the title of
Count Novellara, and I have assured him that he may
depend on you, not only to shew him everything in your
most valuable manufactory, but that you will assist him
in procuring admission to all others worth seeing, among
which I have specified the papier machSj the nail
manufactor}^ the whip ditto, the casting and colouring
brass ornaments, the proof house, &c.

"I have not forgotten your wishes respecting the

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1818. Russian Consulate, and I doubt not of arranging that
matter agreeably to your wishes,
" I am, Sir,

" Your most obedient servant.


" Carlton House, 12th Oct., 1818.

" E. Thomason, Esq., Birmingham.**

" Dear Sir,

" I am exceedingly obliged by your letter,
and by the trouble you have taken, and am anxious to
know when you are likely to be in town. The object
concerning which I have written to you is connected with
a great * national question^ in which I am convinced
you would not only feel a pride in lending your best aid,
but which might ultimately become advantageous to you.
" I am, dear Sir,

" Yours truly,

" 13, Cecil Street, f23d Nov., 1818."

At this period it was generally reported that the Bank
of England was much alarmed at the high price to which
the gold coin had risen comparatively to the Bank of
England one pound note. Sir William Congreve fre-

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quently met the Bank Directors to know if any substitute isis.
for the guinea could be managed — in fact, to make a gold
piece the size of a guinea, but only the weight of a half
one, to prevent the coin being either sent out of the
kingdom or melted down. He sent me the following
letter, containing some extraordinary ideas of perfecting

" 13, Cecil Street, 14th November, 1818.
" Dear Sir,

" I have conceived that a coin might be
struck in steel (heated for the purpose, and afterwards
hardened) having such complicated figures upon it that
if a precise coimter-part of it were sunk in the same way
on a pair of steel rollers in close contact, by passing the
steel coin through them when sufficiently heated, no
imitation or counterfeit of that coin could be made from
a different die that would pass through this counter im-
pression of the original die on the rollers, upon the
principle of a lock and key of the most complicated
wards ; the figures on the coin being made expressly for
this view, and the raised work of the coin being so fine
and small that it should be impossible to make anything
smaller or finer to pass, like a skeleton key, without
making the counterfeit so much thinner than the original
that would be visible when compared with the original ;
or that, at all events, when weighed the loss of weight
from this reduction of thickness must be manifest. In
other words, is it not possible to make two such coins
from difierent dies that shall be mathematically similar ;
or rather that there shall be such a difference between
them that it may be thus ascertained ?

** I know no person who can give me such accurate

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1818. information on this point as yourself, and you will very
much oblige me by giving me your opinion between this
and Thursday next.

" For my own part, I do conceive that it would not be
possible to imitate it so accurately as to avoid this mode
of detection.

" Yours very truly,


" I have received a letter from the Archduke Maxi-
milian, who speaks much of your attention to him.

" If there was any chance of your coming to London, I
should like much to converse with you on this subject."

I answered him that I could conceive no other plan to
come at what he required than to make a gold coin the
exact style of our present guinea, and the field of the
arms and letters cut out or pierced through the two sides
in such a way that exactly one half might be pierced out
with some fine piercing tools, &c., without disturbing the
allegory or letters ; and that I would set about the die
and tools, and send him one in a fortnight. I kept my
word. He (Sir William) was delighted with it. I, how-
ever, anticipated the result — " that John Bull would not
be duped." It so turned out, after much consideration by
the Bank Directors. Sir William, however, said that he
showed the piece to the Prince Regent, who laughed
most heartily, and remarked, " Sir William, you must
try again, for nothing will induce my subjects to fancy
that ten shillings and sixpence will look like a guinea,

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unless they are all simultaneously filled with Champagne 1818
and Burgundy I'*

" Carlton House, 12th October, 1818.

" Any attention you can shew the Archduke
Maximilian, of Austria, who travels incognito, under
the title of Count Novellara, will be acceptable to the
Government. I have, therefore, to request, that you
will not only have the goodness to show him every
thing in your admirable manufactory, but that you will
put his Imperial Highness in the way of seeing whatever
else may be curious at Birmingham, particularly the
nail manufactory, the japan ware, papier mach^e, the
whip manufactory, the grinding of musket barrels on
the stone, the proof house, the casting and colouring
ornamental brass work, and any other object you
would recommend.

"Your particular attention to his Highness will
exceedingly oblige me.

" I am Sir,

" Your most obedient servant,


M 2

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l«18. I was at this year the High Bailiff of the town of
Birmingham ; and on the lyth of November the virtuous
Queen Charlotte died. A general meeting was held by
the inhabitants upon an address of condolence to the
Prince Regent After the meeting I had to communicate
with our county M.P., Mr. D, S. Dugdale. See his reply.

"Merevale Hall, Dec. l6th, 1818.
" Dear Sir,

" I received the honour of your letter last
night, communicating the result of the meeting of the
town of Birmingham, upon an address of condolence.
As the post will have afforded Sir Charles Mordaunt a
much earlier opportunity of addressing Lord Sidmouth
upon the mode of presenting the address, I do not
attempt to trouble his Lordship, knowing that a dupli-
cate upon the subject cannot avail. I have therefore
written to Sir Charles Mordaunt, desiring he will in-
form me the result of his communication with Lord
Sidmouth, and I can assure you, it will give me the
greatest pleasure in attending you to the Levee, or in
any other manner which may be thought most desirable.

" I have the honour to be,

" Your obedient humble servant.

** To the High Bailiff of Birmingham,
Edward Thomason, Esq."

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27ieAtUhors Dwelling Ifouse, situ^c^^.^e on- iActi s'icle of
S^Thzlltps S^ica^re, ccMed C^l?rio?^ How.

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"London, Jan. 12th, 1819. l»^»-

presents his compliments to Mr. Thomason, and begs
leave to return his best thanks for the series of medals
which he has had the kindness to send to him."

" Dear Sir,

" I beg to present you with a copy of two
papers I have printed for the use of my lectures here,
and shall be much gratified if they prove in any degree
interesting to you. I beg my respectful compliments to
Mrs. Thomason, and remain

" Your obedient servant,

"Oxford, Jan. 16, 1819."

In November, on my road to Chester, I sent on a
letter to the Earl of Grosvenor, to ask permission to see
Eaton Hall. His Lordship's horses were at the door,
but he condescended to stop a few minutes, and point
out some works of art in the Hall, and was so kind as to
order his steward to show me the whole of the noble
gothic mansion ; and, as the steward informed me that
his Lordship seemed desirous that I should state my
opinion, should any improvement suggest itself to me, I
sent some designs which I thought would be appropriate
to one of the rooms, which brought the following letter :

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1819. "Grosvenor House, Feb. 2, 1819.


" I am much obliged to you for a view of your
designs, which are certainly handsome, I hope to be
able to call on you in the summer, at Birmingham, and
am. Sir,

** Your obedient servant,

Manchester Square, 20th March, 1819.

^^^^^t^ /^-T^^^kyi^^^"^^ presents his compli-
ments to the High Bailiff of Birmingham. He is honored
with their commands in regard to the Insolvent Act,
and will take care to present their petition before the
proposed new Act can reach the House of Lords.
" To Edward Thomason, Esq.,

High Bailiff of Birmingham.*'

^,yf^ flKci/fS^ requests the favour of Mr,

Thomason to permit Monsieur Hachette, of the Royal
Academie des Sciences at Paris, and his friend. Mens.
Acile, to see his show-rooms, and so much of his manu-
factory as may be agreeable to Mr. Thomason. These
gentlemen were recommended by Mr. Berthollet, and
Mr. De Prony.

" Heathfield, April 13th, 1819.*'

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In May, his Royal Highness the Grand Duke Michael 1819.
of Russia visited Birmingham. J accompanied him over
mine, and the principal establishments in Birmingham.
During the passing through my manufactory, my work-
men in the glass-cutting room were grinding an extra-
ordinary service of cut glass to be ornamented with silver
foliage, &c. His Imperial Highness requested that I
would manufacture for him a large service, adapted for
thirty-six persons, which was the cause of the following
letter from Count MoggruffiU, Secretary to Count de
Lieven : —

" London, the 25th of June, 1819.

" As a Russian frigate, which is expected to
arrive very shortly in England, will sail afterwards im-
mediately for St. Petersburgh, I have determined on
sending by this excellent opportunity his Imperial High-
ness the Grand Duke Michael's service. I must beg you,
therefore, to have it sent without the least loss of time,
and by the safest conveyance, to London, where I shall
inspect it, and pay the amount of it to such of your cor-
respondents here as you will point out to me.
" I remain,

"Yours, &c. &c.

Secretary to Count Lieven.
" Edward Thomason, Esq., Birmingham."

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1819. His Imperial Highness felt much interest in looking
over the establishments for the manufacture of guns and
swords, and implements of war, particularly the method
of proving one hundred and fifty gun-barrels at once,
and partly by mechanical contrivance, without the least
danger attending the process. At the sword manufac-
tory he expressed his wonder at the elasticity of our
sword blades, as the mode of proving them admitted of
no mistake, the point of the blade being fastened to one
end of a powerful steel roller, the movement of the winch
made two-thirds of the remaining part coil round the
roller, which, at a certain period, was instantly released,
when the blade recovered its straight horizontal posi-
tion i and all blades that did not stand this trial were
thrown aside.

Mr. John Mawe, author of the Mineralogy of Derby-
shire, and the only Englishman who had ever been per-
mitted to visit the gold and diamond districts in the
interior of the Brazils, paid me a visit this year, when I
accompanied him through the highest cast of the esta-
blishments. We had much conversation upon the dif-
ferent gems, their locality, their hardness, lustre, and
the polyhedral figures which they generally assumed.
He stated his great disappointment on visiting the dia-
mond mines of Serro do Frio. Although he brought let-
ters of introduction from the English Government, and
seconded by the strongest recommendations of Lord
Strangford, there appeared some jealousy in permitting
him to inspect the mines, and he was almost pinioned
between two gend'armes, who were appointed to accom-
pany and protect him on his journey. Although they
tried to shew every degree of courtesy, yet Mr. Mawe
said he could perceive that they had orders to keep him

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from looking right and left. He was shewn what was 1619.
called the treasury, where the diamonds were brought
from the different stations, and in the many drawers which
were opened for his rapid inspection, he said he did not
recognize scarce any exceeding in weight 5 carats \ and
he understood from the governor that the average
quantity was estimated at 25,000 carats. He said he
was much more gratified with the cubes of gold which
were shewn him j they were perfect. He contrived to
purchase a few specimens, but was unable to obtain one

On our inspecting the papier machSe establishment
of Messrs. Jennens and Betteridge, we had much conver-
sation on the mode by which the Japanese inserted pieces
of pearl in their japan, a process which had never been
done in England. We both agreed that, examining very
closely a real japan specimen, the art might surely be
discovered ; hence the cause of his presenting Mrs.
Thomason with a real japan basket, as his letter indi-
cates, and from this being placed in the hands of Jennens
and Betteridge for some time, the discovery of the mode
of inserting pearl shell in papier machSe was found out

« London, August 19th, 1819.
" Dear Sir,

" I arrived at home a few days ago, having
been into Cornwall. Permit me to take the earliest op-
portunity of returning you my best thanks for your kind
attention at Birmingham, and allow me to beg the favour
of your lady's acceptance of a piece of Japan ware from
that island, and brought to me by a friend in the Rus-
sian expedition ; the inlaying will please you.

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1819. ** Please to accept, yourself, two pieces of comindum ;
the brown is diamond spar.

" I have the honour to be. Sir,

" Your much obliged,


** Edward Thomason, Esq., Birmingham."

At this period I was honoured with an order from the
Duke of Northumberland, to manufieu^ture for his Grace
a silver plateau, thirty-three feet in length. The ele-
vated edge or border was of the highest classical taste,
and, as I was informed, designed by the Duchess ; it
was adapted for the long dining-room at Alnwick Castle,
and I was highly gratified on receiving the following
letter from the Duke : —

« Akwick Castle, 24th Aug., 1819.

"I have been prevented taking an earlier

opportunity of acknowledging the safe arrival of the
plateau, which has been very much admired for its ap-
pearance as well as for its execution.
" I am. Sir,

" Your obedient servant.

" E. Thomason, Esq., Church street, Birmingham."

At this period there was discovered at Paris a few
medals, the dies of which were secretly executed in the
year 1804, the period that the Emperor Bonaparte
ordered 2000 small vessels to be built at Bolougne, with
the intention, as he stated by a decree, of conveying his

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army to make a conquest of Englaad. On the obverse 1819.
of the medal was a fine head of Bonaparte. Signed


allegorical subject of the reverse — Antaeus vanquished
by Hercules. Antaeus, the enormous giant, called ^'Son
of the Earth/* wrestled with Hercules, and Hercules per-
ceiving, after thrice throwing down this giant, that he
derived new strength as oft as he touched the earth, lifts
him in his arms and prevents him from touching the
ground, keeping him ready to dispatch him. Hercules
represents France, and Antaeus, England. Legend,


FRAPPE. A. LONDRES. EN. 1804. Dcuon held these dies in
secret during the period the flotilla and the French army
were at Boulogne, ready, in the event of success in con-
quering this country, to strike off the medals at the royal
mint in France, and issue them as if struck off at the
royal mint in London.

This formidable and boasted expedition being aban-
doned, Denon secreted the dies and about half a dozen of
the medals in the wall of his house, the public being
ignorant of there ever having been such a medal extant,
until after Denon's death, when the discovery was made»
and three of them presented to the Spanish General
Alava, who always accompanied the Duke of Wellington
through Spain. The General presented one to the
Duke, who considered it an excellent opportunity to ex-
hibit the presumption of Bonaparte. Hence the letter
of Sir Neil Campbell to me. I succeeded in making an
exact copy of the original, so much so, that it was
difficult to discern the bronze medal from my dies from
the original French medal.

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1819. «' Birmingham, Sept., 1819.

" Sir,

" My address during a few weeks will be at Edin-
burgh. After that it will be in London, at the United
Service Club, (^harles-street, where I shall be happy to
hear from you in case you wish to have the medal which
is in my possession sent to you.

" I received it from Colonel Minnaci, A. D. C. to
General Alava, a Spanish officer, who has always accom-
panied the Duke of Wellington, and now Minister at the
Hague. Col. M. informed me that the mould from
which my medal was cast is in possession of a person
employed by the Government at Paris, and I think he
belongs to the mint In course of the different changes
it has been preserved with great secrecy. The medals
were to have been cast at Paris before the invasion, and,
in case of success, to have been immediately circulated.

" I regret much to have been able to command so little
time to profit by your attentions this day, and remain,

" Your most obedient servant,

** There is no doubt that Bonaparte was serious in the
intention of attempting to invade England in 1805, and
this medal corroborates it."

The Prince Regent was at this time on a visit to the
Earl of Warwick, at Warwick Castle ; a party of gen-
tlemen met at the Royal Hotel desirous that his Royal
Highness should inspect the principal establishments in
Birmingham. A letter was couched in respectful and

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The empti/ doast of Buonaparte . in the Yearlt^O'ir

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loyal terms to invite his Royal Highness, and, for dis- 1819.
patch, I sent my servant over with the letter, addressed

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Online LibraryQuébec (Province). LegislatureSessional papers → online text (page 11 of 25)