WRIGHT, Joseph, of Derby.

A collection of ten quarto publications from the library of the painter,

two with his signature, all uncut and most in the original wrappers or sewn as issued.

Bath, Chichester, Derby, London: various printers and publishers, 1772-94 Stock Code: 128831

Ten pamphlets from the artist's own library

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Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797) is widely acclaimed as the first professional painter to express the spirit of the Industrial Revolution. His large candlelight painting An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, first exhibited in 1768, is today the best-known of all his works. Wright's commissions during the early 1760s were mostly for small portraits of sitters in Derby and nearby towns. From late 1768 to the autumn of 1771 he solidified his reputation as a portraitist in Liverpool. In 1773 he married, and with his wife and two companions embarked for Italy, rather older than most artists who went there to study. He travelled with George Romney at various points on the way to Rome. In 1775 he tried Bath, hoping for remunerative commissions in the wake of Thomas Gainsborough's departure the previous year, but in 1777 was back in Derby.

The collection casts light on Wright's central interests and friendships. In the absence of a significant surviving correspondence, the collection suggests several interesting avenues to be explored by future biographers.

Six Odes presented to Catharine Macaulay commemorates Wright's sojourn in Bath. One of the earliest works from his Bath period is his double portrait, "The Rev. Dr. Thomas Wilson and his adopted Daughter Miss Catherine", which he undertook for no pay to build his reputation. Dr Wilson was the elderly successor to Beau Brummell as the leader of Bath society; Miss Catherine was the daughter of the celebrated female historian by her first marriage. Dr Wilson hosted the historian's birthday party and published Six Odes as an act of homage.

Thomas Gisborne (1758-1846) was a close friend and patron of Wright: according to Nicolson, their friendship was "one of the bright spots in a melancholy life" (p. 133). Wright was commissioned to paint Gisborne in 1777; he later painted him and his wife Mary seated under a tree in Needwood Forest, nearby Gisborne's house, Yoxall Lodge, near Burton-on-Trent. Wright was drawn to Gisborne and to the quietness of the surroundings; on his frequent visits to Yoxall, he and Gisborne would draw together in the mornings and play the flute in the evenings. It is unsurprising that Wright should have possessed a copy of Gisborne's poem on the forest they both knew so well.

Gisborne was a central figure in the Clapham Sect, and through that circle also knew William Hayley (1745-1820), who is now remembered as much for his friendships with talented people, including George Romney, William Cowper, John Flaxman, and William Blake, as for his own work as poet and biographer. Hayley was another significant friend of Wright. He first met Wright in 1776, while visiting his old college friend Dr John Beridge in Derby. He became one of Wright's staunchest patrons and advisers, and he played a considerable role in the commissioning by Wedgwood of designs by Wright. His Ode to Mr. Wright of Derby, as Barker relates, was privately printed for circulation among friends. Wright wrote to Hayley on 31 August 1783: "Some little time ago I received one hundred copies of your charming Ode, some of which I distributed among my friends; but would it not be more advantageous to me, to spread abroad the rest when my picture is finished? Especially if I make an exhibition of it with some others." This, then, is the artist's last retained copy of the stock sent to him by Hayley.

Hayley's family seat, Eartham House, was situated midway between Chichester and the great Sussex house at Petworth, seat of the eccentric art-collecting George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont. The Guildford-born artist John Russell (1745-1806) painted Lord Egremont's portrait (still at Petworth House) and designed for him a magnificent 12-inch diameter brass Selenographia, or moon globe, fitted with Russell's patent apparatus for displaying the lunar libration. His treatise on painting with pastels would have been of particular interest to Wright.

Another Sussex connection is John Sargent (1748-1831). Originally from Kent, Sargent married Charlotte Bettesworth, the daughter and heiress of Richard Bettesworth of Lavington Park, West Sussex, the match made by William Hayley. In 1786 Hayley seems to have been the mover behind the project to have Wright illustrate Sargent's poem The Mine. The picture was intended for another of Wright's patrons, Sir Robert Wilmot, and it was presumably completed the same year - but nothing more is heard of it, and its present whereabouts (if it was ever finished) are not known. Here, however, is Wright's own copy of the poem, twice signed by him and dated to the year of publication.

Further connections remain to be teased out of these pamphlets. Wright surely knew the author of the locally-published Poetical Attempts, and if he did not know the author of The Final Farewell (or was not himself its author), he certainly shared the sentiment of wanting to be away from London. Through Gisborne he is also likely to have met William Mason - he painted a "Mr. Mason" in 1759-60. Mason, author of The English Garden (represented here by a defective copy), was a playwright, poet, and garden designer, as crucial a member of significant networks of artistic production and aesthetic appreciation as Gisborne and Hayley. He designed several English gardens, including the walled garden at Nuneham Park, south of Oxford, which was long considered one of the most beautiful in England. The grounds there, as at Petworth House, were landscaped by Capability Brown, whose epitaph Mason later wrote. He was the dedicatee of Gisborne's Walks in a Forest.

This is a fascinating and important collection, which sheds valuable light on the artistic and literary circles in which the great painter moved.

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Together 10 books, quarto, various sizes. Housed in black cloth flat-back folding case, red morocco label. The collection comprises:

a) (MACAULAY, Catharine.) Six Odes, presented to that justly-celebrated Historian, Mrs. Catharine Macaulay, on her birth-day, And publicly read to a polite and brilliant audience, assembled April the second, at Alfred-House, Bath, To congratulate that Lady on the happy Occasion. Bath: printed and sold by R. Cruttwell, Bath, for the benefit of a worthy clergyman, in distress; sold also by E. and C. Dilly; J. Walter; T. Cadell; and J. Almon, London, 1777. First edition. Contemporary comb-marbled wrappers, edges trimmed.

b) HAYLEY, William. Ode to Mr. Wright of Derby. Chichester: printed by Dennett Jaques, 1783. Uncut in original wrappers. Barker 31.

c) HAYLEY, William. Ode, Inscribed to John Howard, Esq. F.R.S. author of "The State of English and Foreign Prisons." London: printed for J. Dodsley, 1780. First edition. Uncut in original blue wrappers, stab-sewn.

d) [HAYLEY, William.] Epistle to a friend, on the death of John Thornton, Esq. By the author of "An Epistle to an Eminent Painter." London : printed for J. Dodsley, 1780. First edition. Half-title somewhat torn, but textually complete, uncut and unbound, stab-sewn.

e) (POETICAL ATTEMPTS.) Poetical Attempts. Consisting of An allegorical Poem in blank verse, entituled, the Sciences; an Ode to Pleasure; and Some other Pieces. Derby: printed for the author, by T. Trimer, and sold by J. Wallis, London: and all other Booksellers in Town and Country, 1783. Uncut, stab-sewn (outer leaves somewhat dusty, upper outer corner of title cut away to remove an inscription, text not affected).

f) RUSSELL, John. Elements of Painting with Crayons. London: printed for J. Wilkie, and J. Walter, 1772. First edition. Uncut in original wrappers, stab-sewn. "… excellent and detailed … purporting to explain the technique of Francis Cotes but in fact a handbook to the art of pastel painting. He revised and enlarged it in 1777, and it became popular throughout the nineteenth century" (ODNB). The Guildford-born Russell knew William Hayley.

g) [GISBORNE, Thomas.] Walks in a Forest: or, Poems descriptive of scenery and incidents characteristic of a forest, at different seasons of the year. Inscribed to the Reverend William Mason, of Aston, in Yorkshire. London: printed by J. Davis, for B. and J. White, 1794. Uncut in original blue wrappers, stab-sewn.

h) (FINAL FAREWELL.) The Final Farewell, a poem; written on retiring from London. London: printed for J. Debrett, 1787. First edition. Unbound and uncut, stab-sewn; outer leaves a little dusty. Dedicated to Mrs Crespigny, owner of a private theatre in Camberwell, and largely concerned with theatrical matters. The poem mentions "sweet Hayley".

i) SARGENT, John. The Mine: a dramatic poem. London: printed for T. Cadell, 1785. First edition. Uncut in original blue wrappers, printed spine label, signed on the front cover "Josh. Wright" and on the half-title "J. Wright 1785".

j) MASON, William. The English Garden, a poem. Book the First. Second edition. London printed: and sold by R. Horsefield, T. Cadell, G. Riley, and H. Denover; also by W. Tessyman, in York, 1782. Defective, lacking sigs. D-E (pp. 9¬-24), and with large portions cut from title and half-title, unbound, stab-sewn.


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