day and practising drawing during the greater part of the night.
He pursued the latter art with so much assiduity, that when working late, to prevent his feet from freezing with the cold, he was accustomed to provide himself with a basket of shavings, in which he placed them to keep himself warm and enable him to proceed with his drawings. "Nor," says Vasari, "am I in the least astonished at this, since no man ever becomes distinguished in any art whatsoever who does not early begin to acquire the power of supporting heat, cold, hunger, thirst, and other discomforts; whereas those persons deceive themselves altogether who suppose that when taking their ease and surrounded by all the enjoyments of the world they may still attain to honourable distinction, - for it is not by sleeping, but by waking, watching, and labouring continually, that proficiency is attained and reputation acquired."
Probably he felt capable of better things than drudging in an employment so precarious as glass-painting; and hence he was induced to turn his attention to the kindred art of painting and enamelling earthenware. Yet on this subject he was wholly ignorant; for he had never seen earth baked before he began his operations. He had therefore everything to learn by himself, without any helper. But he was full of hope, eager to learn, of unbounded perseverance and inexhaustible patience. It was the sight of an elegant cup of Italian manufacture – most probably one of Luca della Robbia's make - which first set Palissy a-thinking about the new art. A circumstance so apparently insignificant would have produced no effect upon an ordinary mind, or even upon Palissy himself at an ordinary time; but occurring as it did when he was meditating a change of calling, he at once became inflamed with the desire of imitating it. The sight of this cup disturbed his whole existence; and the determination to discover the enamel with which it was glazed thenceforward possessed him like a passion. Had he been a single man he might have travelled into Italy in search of the secret; but he was bound to his wife and his children, and could not leave them; so he remained by their side groping in the dark in the hope of finding out the process of making and enamelling earthenware.
Yet she must needs submit; for Palissy had become thoroughly possessed by the determination to master the secret of the enamel, and would not leave it alone.
Palissy was employed to make this survey, and prepare the requisite map. The work occupied him some time, and he was doubtless well paid for it; but no sooner was it completed than he proceeded, with redoubled zeal, to follow up his old investigations "in the track of the enamels." He began by breaking three dozen new earthen pots, the pieces of which he covered with different materials which he had compounded, and then took them to a neighbouring glass- furnace to be baked. The results gave him a glimmer of hope. The greater heat of the glass-furnace had melted some of the compounds; but though Palissy searched diligently for the white enamel he could find none.
Four hours passed, during which he watched; and then the furnace was opened. The material on ONE only of the three hundred pieces of potsherd had melted, and it was taken out to cool. As it hardened, it grew white-white and polished! The piece of potsherd was covered with white enamel, described by Palissy as "singularly beautiful!" And beautiful it must no doubt have been in his eyes after all his weary waiting. He ran home with it to his wife, feeling himself, as he expressed it, quite a new creature. But the prize was not yet won - far from it. The partial success of this intended last effort merely had the effect of luring him on to a succession of further experiments and failures.
crucial experiment. Although his means were nearly exhausted, Palissy had been for some time accumulating a great store of fuel for the final effort; and he thought it was enough. At last the fire was lit, and the operation proceeded. All day he sat by the furnace, feeding it with fuel. He sat there watching and feeding all through the long night. But the enamel did not melt. The sun rose upon his labours. His wife brought him a portion of the scanty morning meal, - for he would not stir from the furnace, into which he continued from time to time to heave more fuel. The second day passed, and still the enamel did not melt. The sun set, and another night passed. The pale, haggard, unshorn, baffled yet not beaten Palissy sat by his furnace eagerly looking for the melting of the enamel. A third day and night passed - a fourth, a fifth, and even a sixth, - yes, for six long days and nights did the unconquerable Palissy watch and toil, fighting against hope; and still the enamel would not melt.
There were the garden palings: these would burn. They must be sacrificed rather than that the great experiment should fail. The garden palings were pulled up and cast into the furnace. They were burnt in vain! The enamel had not yet melted. Ten minutes more heat might do it. Fuel must be had at whatever cost. There remained the household furniture and shelving. A crashing noise was heard in the house; and amidst the screams of his wife and children, who now feared Palissy's reason was giving way, the tables were seized, broken up, and heaved into the furnace. The enamel had not melted yet! There remained the shelving. Another noise of the wrenching of timber was heard within the house; and the shelves were torn down and hurled after the furniture into the fire. Wife and children then rushed from the house, and went frantically through the town, calling out that poor Palissy had gone mad, and was breaking up his very furniture for firewood!
So he returned for a time to his former calling; and after about a year's diligent labour, during which he earned bread for his household and somewhat recovered his character among his neighbours, he again resumed his darling enterprise. But though he had already spent about ten years in the search for the enamel, it cost him nearly eight more years of experimental plodding before he perfected his invention. He gradually learnt dexterity and certainty of result by experience, gathering practical knowledge out of many failures. Every mishap was a fresh lesson to him, teaching him something new about the nature of enamels, the qualities of argillaceous earths, the tempering of clays, and the construction and management of furnaces.
These for the most part tended in one direction - the art of converting common on metals into gold. At the end of several years, Bottgher pretended to have discovered the universal solvent of the alchemists, and professed that he had made gold by its means. He exhibited its powers before his master, the apothecary Zorn, and by some trick or other succeeded in making him and several other witnesses believe that he had actually converted copper into gold.
Bottgher had already arrived in Dresden, where he was lodged in the Golden House, and treated with every consideration, though strictly watched and kept under guard.
absolution before beginning the second experiment.
The King himself visited him, and told him in a severe tone that if he did not at once proceed to make gold, he would be hung! ("THU MIR ZURECHT, BOTTGHER, SONST LASS ICH DICH HANGEN").
The principal supply of the better articles of earthenware came from
Two foreign potters, the brothers Elers from
There he began life, his working life, to use his own words, "at the lowest round of the ladder," when only eleven years old. He was shortly after seized by an attack of virulent smallpox, from the effects of which he suffered during the rest of his life, for it was followed by a disease in the right knee, which recurred at frequent intervals, and was only got rid of by the amputation of the limb many years later. Mr. Gladstone, in his eloquent Eloge on Wedgwood recently delivered at Burslem, well observed that the disease from which he suffered was not improbably the occasion of his subsequent excellence. "It prevented him from growing up to be the active, vigorous English workman, possessed of all his limbs, and knowing right well the use of them; but it put him upon considering whether, as he could not be that, he might not be something else, and something greater. It sent his mind inwards; it drove him to meditate upon the laws and secrets of his art. The result was, that he arrived at a perception and a grasp of them which might, perhaps, have been envied, certainly have been owned, by an Athenian potter." (18)
The Duchess of
When Wedgwood began his labours, the Staffordshire district was only in a half-civilized state. The people were poor, uncultivated, and few in number. When Wedgwood's manufacture was firmly established, there was found ample employment at good wages for three times the number of population; while their moral advancement had kept pace with their material improvement.