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The late Frederick Shoberl, Esq., who died in March, 1853, originated in 1823, in conjunction with the late Mr. Ackermann, the first of the English annuals, " The Forget-menot.” For several years he was the editor of it. The last of these annuals was the volume for 1834. This periodical paved the way for the numerous illustrated works that have since issued from the press.
These luxuries of literature were got up especially for the entertainment of ladies and gentlemen of fashionable circles, but not exclusively for the elite of English society. The tastes of belles and beaux of the boudoirs of all grades aspiring to distinction were to be catered for, and the contributors, in general, were sought for among the aristocracy, not in the republic of letters.
It was necessary, however, to enliven a little dullness of noble amateur authorship with the sparkling gems of genius, with more regard to brilliancy of talent than to advantages of ancestry, and these adventitious aids of professional literati were very largely paid for.
In 1828, Moore makes mention of the editor of “ The Keepsake” offering him £600 for 120 lines of either prose or poetry; which he declined.
Persons known as popular writers, had likewise to be employed as editors of those periodicals, and were largely paid in general ; some for their name alone, and others for their services.
In those palmy days of annual periodicals, when the name of a literary notability as editor was so important to success, we find “ The Scenic Annual,” for 1838, edited by Thomas Campbell
" The Keepsake,” for 1833, was edited by F. Mansel Resnolds. The contributors were--The Countess of Blessington
Lord Dover, Leitch Ritchie, Esq., John Carne, Esq., J. H. Louther, Esq., M. P., Hon. Grantley Berkley, Hon. W. Liddell, Ralph Bernal, Esq., M.P., Lord Morpeth, James Boaden, Esq., Lord Mahon, Mrs. C. Gore, Colley Grattan, Esq., Mrs Shelley, Hon. H, Craddock, author of " Hajji Baba ;" Archdeacon Spencer, Miss L. E. Landon, &c. &c.
“ The Court Journal,” for 1833, was edited by the Hon. Mrs. Norton.
“Heath's Book of Beauty,” for the same year, was edited by L. E. L.
“ Portraits of the Children of the Nobility,” was edited by Mrs. Fairlie, in 1838; and, in the same year, " The Picturesque Annual,” by Leitch Ritchie.
Fisher's “ Drawing-Room Scrap-Book," for 1838, was edited by L. E. L.
“ Flowers of Loveliness,” with poetical illustrations by L. E. L., also appeared in the same year.
Finden's “ Tableaux; or, Picturesque Scenes of National Character, Beauty, and Costume,” edited by Mary Russell Mitford, was published in 1838. The poetical contributions were by Mr. Kenyon, Mr. Chorley, and Barry Cornwall.
The greatest and first promoter, in his day, of illustrated annuals, was Mr. Charles Heath.
This eminent engraver was the son of Mr. James Heath, a distinguished artist also, whose' engravings have been the studies on which the two Findens are said to have employed days and nights.
The success of the Findens in working for the booksellers in the illustration of periodicals and popular publications did not satisfy themselves. They became the publishers of their own works, and the works of those whose productions, were illustrated by them. Their Byron Illustrations turned out advantageous, but in their other speculations they were less fortunate. Mr. William Finden's “ Gallery of British Art '
proved a ruinous undertaking; he died in very poor circumstances, Sept. 20, 1852, in his sixty-fifth year.
Mr. Charles Heath had, like the Findens, entered on the publication of periodicals illustrated by him, and with the same unfortunate result. He excelled in small plates, and in his hands that sort of artistic talent exhibited in the embellishment of annuals reached its greatest perfection.
Heath's “ Book of Beauty” for 1834, edited by the Countess of Blessington, contained nine pieces by her Ladyship.*
* The followiny are the contents of this volume, and the names or signatures of the authors :
1. The Choice of Phylias, a tale. Sir E. L. B.
H. L. Bulwer, Esq.
W. S. Landor. 19. The Coquette, a tale. The Countess of Blessington. 20. The Deserted Wife, lines. R. Bernal, Esq. M.P. 21. Farewell for ever, lines. J. H. Lowther, Esq. 22. The Bay of Naples in the summer of 1824, a sketch. The
Countess of Blessington. 23. To Matilda sketching, lines. The Countess of Blessington.
As one of the most favourable specimens of those illustrated works, the following notice of “the Book of Beauty for 1836, under the editorship of Lady Blessington, may not be out of place. The principal beautiful celebrities of whom engraved portraits are given in this volume, are, “ The Marchioness of Abercorn,” by E. Landseer ; Lucilla," by Parris ; “ Nourmahal,” by Meadows; Habiba,” by Chalon. The
gem of the volume is “ Juliet,” by Bostock. Among the contributors we find the distinguished literary names of Viscount Strangford, Sir William Gell, E. L. Bulwer, M.P., Lord Nugent, the Hon. K. R. Craven, Lady Emmeline S. Wortley, Lord Albert Conyngham, R. Bernal, M.P., Lady Charlotte Bury, Lord William Lennox, Miss Louisa H. Sheridan, H. L. Bulwer, M.P., Sir Aubrey de Vere, Bart., Hon. G. Berkley, Hon. J. Lester, Sir William Somerville, Bart., Hon. K. Talbot, Mr. Serjeant Talfourd, M.P., &c., &c.
The fair editress contributed a lively and graceful illustration of an excellent plate, named “ Felicité,” by M'Clise, re. presenting a pretty pert lady's maid trying on a fine dress before the glass, and looking perfectly satisfied with the result.
BY THE COUNTESS OF BLESSINGTON,
In costly silks to shine;
What figure match with mine?
“ Who'd rave about my mistress,
With her pale and languid face,
Edged round with Brussels' lace?
24. Rebecca, a tale. Anon. 25. To Lucy reading, lines. The Countess of Blessington. 26. What art thou, Life? stanzas. Idem.
“ How well her cap becomes me!
With what a jaunty air
To shew my shining hair !
" And I declare these ribands
Just suit me to a shade;
My fortune would be made.
Nay, look! her bracelets fit me,
Though just the least too tight;
Afford one great delight.
So bowed, and frill'd and laced,-
Though well it shows my waist.
“ I must run down one minute,
That Mr. John may see,
Set off a girl like me.
“ Yet all of these together,
Ay, pearls and diamonds too,
Another of these periodicals edited by her Ladyship from 1835 to 1840, was entitled “Gems of Beauty, designs by E. T. Parris, Esq., with fanciful illustrations in verse by the Countess of Blessington.”
Her Ladyship was gifted with a great facility for versification, but the gift of poetry of a high order was certainly not hers. She could throw great vivacity, much humour, and some pathos into her vers
de societé, and many of her small published picces in verse were quite equal to the ordinary run of" bouts