Woollett, William

, one of the most eminent of modern engravers in England, was born at Maidstone, in Kent, Aug. 27, 1735. Of his early history few particulars have been preserved, and those mostly traditionary. His father was a thread-maker, and long time a foreman to Mr. Robert Pope. The family is said to have come originally from Holland; and there is a tradition that Woollett’s great grandfather escaped from the battle fought by the parliamentary forces against the royalists near Maidstone. Our artist was educated at Maidstone under Mr. Simon Goodwin, who used to notice his graphic talents. Once having taken on a slate the likeness of a schoolfellow named Burtenshaw, who had a prominent nose, his master desired him to finish it on paper, and preserved the drawing. He was also in the habit of drawing the likenesses of his father’s acquaintances. His earliest production on copper was a portrait of a Mr. Scott, of Maidstone, with a pipe in his mouth. These are perhaps trifles, but they compose all that is now remembered of Woollett’s younger days. His first attempts having been seen by Mr. Tinney, an engraver, he took him as an apprentice at the same time with Mr. Anthony Walker and Mr. Brown. His rise in his profession was rapid, and much distinguished, for he brought the art of landscape engraving to great perfection. With respect to the grand and sublime, says Strutt, “if 1 may be allowed the term in landscapes, the whole world cannot produce his equal.” Woollett, however, did not confine | himself to landscapes, he engraved historical subjects and portraits with the greatest success. The world has done ample justice to his memory, and the highest prices still continue to be given for good impressions of all his prints, but particularly of his “Niobe” and its companion “Phaeton,? ' hisCeladon and Amelia,“and” Ceyx and Alcyone;“and” The Fishery,“all from Wilson, whose peculiar happiness it was that his best pictures were put into the hands of Woollett, who so perfectly well understood and expressed the very spirit of his ideas upon thecopper. To these we may add the portrait of Rubens, from Vandyke, and, what are in every collection of taste, his justly celebrated prints from the venerable president of the academy,” The Death of General Wolfe,“and The Battle of the Boyne.

Mr. Woollett died at his house, Upper Charlotte-street, Rathbone-place, May 23, 1785, aged fifty and the record of his death is given in these words “To say he was the first artist in his profession would be giving him his least praise, for he was a good nian. Naturally modest and amiable in his disposition, he never censured the works of others, or omitted pointing out their merits; his patience under the continual torments of a most dreadful disorder upwards of nine months was truly exemplary; and he died as he had lived, at peace with all the world, in vtfhich he never had an enemy. He has left his family inconsolable for his death, and the public to lament the loss of a man whose works (of which his unassuming temper never boasted) are an honour to his country.” An elegant monument was afterwards put up to his memory in the cloisters, Westminster abbey. 1


Strutt’s Dict. Some ms memorandums purchased at the late Mr. Alexander’s sale, by Mr. J. B. Nichols, and obligingly communicated to the editor.