International studio — 15.1901/​1902(1902)

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Historic English Drinking Glasses

Historic English drinking


Man is a collecting animal, a dis-
tinction which he shares with the magpie,
the squirrel, and the caddis worm. But while
the two latter would not seem to collect for
the sake of the pleasure afforded them, but
rather for the benefit accruing in the way of
food or protection, the magpie certainly does
gather together its miscellaneous hoard from
sheer delight in its possession. Indeed, collecting
might have been described by Mr. Meredith, and
not so unjustly, as the magpie habit—in fact, in its
primitive and uncivilised forms, such as the pur-
chase and display of diamonds, the analogy with
the crudely unsophisticated taste of the bird is
complete; for diamonds are bought and worn for
the same reason that magpies assume unto them-
selves such things as bits of tin and broken mirror
glass, simply because they glitter, and glitter more
than any other substance. Men are getting fairly
civilised by now, and diamonds are discarded by
them, or by all except the vulgarian from whom
barbaric tastes have not been entirely eradicated ;
but as to women, one doubts if civilisation will ever
really take much hold on the race as a whole, for the
meretricious glitter of paste or diamonds (the same
thing to the cultured eye) has still an attraction

for them far beyond that of the highest art. Offer
to nine women out of ten a diamond bracelet,
or an intaglio by Pyrgoteles himself—there is no
doubt at all which they will choose.

But the acquisition of diamonds and similar
gew-gaws having been discarded by man, the taste
being recognised as a magpie taint, a relic of
savagery, the collecting impulse still remains, and
must be gratified ; whether the gratification take
the form of the hoarding of bank-notes or postage-
stamps, fossils or autographs. Of course those
who are impelled to collect because they possess
an artistic taste, and seek to acquire only that
which has aesthetic grace or beauty, claim that they
display the habit in its highest manifestation;
doubtless a disputable proposition, but one with
which I am not concerned at present, except in so
far as to explain that one of the attractions that
the English glasses of the eighteenth century
possessed for me was the frequent simplicity
and beauty of form to be found among them.
The other reasons that prompted me gradually to
accumulate these glasses were two, the first being
that they are not so expensive as to be without
the reach of the possessor of a slender purse;
while the second was the fact that at the time I
started my collection there was nothing in print to
act as a guide. One picked up one’s knowledge
en Passant, and found the history and sequence of





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