supreme in the homes of the upper and middle classes ; and it might reasonably have been imagined, as doubtless many did imagine and hope, that crudity and ugliness had been banished from them for ever, and that good taste had at last taken up its abode in our midst. But was it so ?
Furniture designers of a sort were, of course, not wanting, and while such as there were remained content to follow in the footsteps of their great forerunners all went well. Unfortunately, as we shall see, they, in their turn, became tired of prevailing styles, and on the part of the public the old Athenian cry for " some new thing " once more broke forth, and had to be answered. (I have advisedly used the word " unfortunately/' as will presently be seen.) That discontent with the slavish and persistent following of old familiar lines, and the consequent desire to improve upon them, are in any respect to be condemned I should be the very last to suggest; but when those who undertake the task of improvement are quite incapable of successfully carrying it through, nothing but disaster can ensue ; and, under such conditions, it is far better to let well alone. This was the state of affairs at the time of which I am now writing.
With Heppelwhite gone, Sheraton was practically the last of the " Old Guard " left to aid in sustaining the traditions which he had done so much to create ; but the task that now devolved upon him was far too heavy for the poor old master in his declining years. His brain was failing; his hand had quite lost its cunning ; and he himself, even, commenced to perpetrate absurdities, and produce designs which he would certainly never have dreamed of countenancing in his earlier days, and when in possession of all his faculties.
A crying and imperative need, then, existed for a worthy successor to these highly-gifted designers and craftsmen, but we may look for him in vain throughout the earlier years of the nineteenth century. The man was not forthcoming, and pigmies had stepped into the places that had the nineteenth century 315
been the vantage points, not so many years before, of veritable giants. What then occurred ?
With our English versions of the " Louis-Quinze" and "Louis-Seize" before them, these designers deemed it desirable to make a change of some kind ; at the same time, they were afraid to draw upon their own store of originality in order to bring the desired change about. If the truth must be told, so far as originality went the fund they did happen to possess was so infinitesimally small as to be practically non-existent. Whether they recognised that fact or not I am unable to say, but certain it is that they came to the conclusion that it would be as well for them to do as their predecessors had done, and continue to draw upon the French for inspiration, particularly as the li French " was still notably in favour in this country. But they failed to appreciate the fact that there is an art even in successful adaptation ; an art, moreover, which it is not given to every one to master. Still, to France they went boldly for their ideas.
Many changes had taken place in that country too. There, also, the spirit of unrest had been actively at work ; the li Louis-Seize " in politics and the " Louis-Seize " in art were already regarded as things of the past, and everything calculated to bring them back to mind was relegated, so far as possible, to the limbo of forgotten things. The chaste elegance by which the Monarchy had been surrounded until the very last, with its multitudinous suggestions of pastoral delights and amorous dalliance, was banished from the court, where, once again, emblems of military glory were furbished up by the French designer to win the approbation of the new ruler.
To the " Empire," therefore, the designers and manufacturers of English cabinet work of this epoch turned for inspiration, and in doing so they came sadly to grief. It is not at all necessary for me to recapitulate the leading characteristics of the " Empire," for to do so would occupy
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