« السابقةمتابعة »
work of this sort was called for by the general voice of the district,
Hereupon I engaged in the compilation of the introductory and subsequent chapters, and several numbers were published in the name of Mr. Shaw, to which he contributed very little besides. I must not be understood to say that some pages were not introduced, whilst his name was prefixed to the covers, the contents whereof he might almost challenge as his own; but his style and mine did not at all harmonize, and the labour I experienced in adjusting the matter he supplied to my own philological standard was more than equal to that of original composition.
Thus the publication proceeded till Parts VII. and VIII. were issued (together), when, owing to circumstances which arose between Mr. Shaw and his Printers, the latter declined any longer to carry the Work forward on his account; and unless some friendly arm had interposed it must have ascended thither "where all things transitory and vain like aerial vapours flie;" or, possibly, might have descended to "the mighty mother's" empire
"The chaos dark and deep,
Where nameless somethings in their causes sleep."
As, however, I felt an increasing interest in securing the completion of a Work in which I had already bestowed much time and pains, and was aware that many of its Subscribers had particular reasons for wishing to see it carried forward, I offered to the Printers to continue the authorship so far, and as fast, as my other avocations might allow; and Mr. Shaw having signed an agreement to give up to them his whole right and property in the Work, to enable them to conduct and complete it in whatever way they might think proper, I thenceforth felt myself more closely identified with it, and determined to continue it to the end. My assistance had, from the first, been gratuitous and eleemosynary, and was to continue upon the same footing, only that I reserved to myself some copies for private distribution. Whatever profit might arise from the ultimate sale of the Work, after paying the Printers' and Publishers' accounts, was to belong to Mr. Shaw, the original
projector. It would neither be fair nor candid towards him or the public, that the merit or censure which the Work may obtain, should alight on any other head than that to which it belongs; I avow, therefore, that nothing contained in the Work beyond the tenth chapter is chargeable to any other account than my own; and very little, indeed, in any of the preceding portions (as I have already said).
I have sought to enliven the dry detail of topographical and statistical history, by the introduction of biographical notices, family memoirs and pedigrees, and various collateral subjects, as well of an antiquarian as a popular nature. The biography of the late Josiah Wedgwood, which has never before appeared in a connected form, and is now presented, after the manuscript had been first submitted to the perusal and correction of some members of the family of that eminent person, can hardly fail to be acceptable to the republics of science and literature at large.
Every writer has his particular opinions, and few are altogether exempt from prejudices; these, undoubtedly, ought to be kept as far as possible in the back-ground by an impartial historian, and such has been my anxious endeavour in the course of the present Work. I have not, however, shrunk from the narration of facts and the suggestion of inferences, on certain occasions, in which religion, morals, or matters of a public nature were concerned, from any over-fastidiousness lest such statements might be distasteful to some classes of the Subscribers.
If, on holding up the mirror to the unvarnished face of truth, an image is reflected less pleasing than the fondness of partial friends might have desired to behold, let not the faithful mirror, therefore, be assailed by the disappointed expectants, but rather let them re-model the beau-ideal of their over-weening fancy according to the correct lineaments which truth presents.
I have carefully avoided whatever was calculated to wound the feelings of families or individuals, and, though I have not sought to conciliate any one by flattery, I have not withheld commendation where it appeared to be deservedly called for.
Enough has been said respecting the origin, conduct, and design of the Work; it remains to say something of its intrinsic
The Work aims at the character of a copious General History of the District known as the Staffordshire Potteries, and now designated "THE BOROUGH OF STOKE-UPON-TRENT," a district of considerable importance among the manufacturing and commercial seats of British enterprize, and which, though it has received repeated notices in Gazetteers, and works of general reference, has never yet been the subject of any special or particular compilation possessing the least claim to public regard. The County of Stafford, at large, does not possess any General History, and it is hardly to be expected (however it may be desired) that any such will now see the light. The work of the late Rev. Stebbing Shaw being left unfinished at his death, any attempt to carry out his design, after a lapse of forty years, by a present history of such portions of the county (embracing all the northern parts) as he left untouched, would be quite preposterous. All that the literary public can reasonably expect is, that every commercial district, large parish, borough, or rural circle, should have its particular history, on the plan of Whittaker's History of the Parish of Whalley, his Hallamshire, and Hunter's admired History and Topography of the Deanery of Doncaster. If a combination of gentlemen having sufficient leisure and talent could be obtained throughout the county, to engage, each in his own sphere, upon one uniform plan, it might then be possible to see a collective County History, worthy of the honor, wealth, and commercial importance of Staffordshire; but this project seems hopeless.
Upon a similar plan to the works just referred to, the present history has been principally framed, and recourse has been had to all available sources for the purpose of obtaining for it that favour which only a really respectable work of this kind has any right to expect from the local and literary public. The published records of the county have been carefully examined, from Domesday downwards; Leland, Camden, Erdeswick, and Plot, have supplied each his modicum of matter; many ancient charters and documents, never before published or noticed, have been brought forward; parochial and other public documents have been sought for and freely contributed; and no reasonable pains have been spared to obtain correct historical matter proper for the pages of a local history.
The Work has been compiled amidst a multitude of avocations possessing stronger claims on my time and attention; and it having been published at intervals, some statements, which proved by means of further information to be incorrect, have been rectified in subsequent pages, or have stood over for emendation, along with divers errors of the press, or the pen, in the Supplementary Chapter.
Had I exercised a greater degree of vigilance over some of the earlier numbers, and had the Work been written entire, before any portions were printed off, its redundancies and other faults would have been less conspicuous.
I have in most instances acknowledged in the body of the Work the valuable aid I have received from many of its Subscribers and friends, and can do no less than thank every gentleman to whom I have applied for assistance or information, for the invariable courtesy and attention I have experienced.
It will appear, from some observations in the introductory chapters, that a History of the Potter's art and a Geological Essay were contemplated in the course of the Work. These have been necessarily abandoned, as subjects beyond the sphere of my proper cognizance.
The art of the Potter is one demanding a distinct treatise. A dissertation by Dr. Lardner, which forms part of the Cabinet Cyclopædia, is the best at present extant, but much more of the Egyptian, Etruscan, Grecian, Roman, and Chinese History of Pottery and Porcelain remains for a competent, scientific, and practical author to bring forward. In the last chapter I have availed myself of the communication of a friend, by introducing an extract from a very old and scarce book on this subject, to which I have reason to believe reference has not been before made.
The field for geological science in this part of the country is interesting and large; the subject will, no doubt, ere long engage the attention of a competent writer, and any dissertation I might have been enabled to introduce, by extraneous authorship, must have been brief and unsatisfactory.
If I have not succeeded in rendering the present Work altogether worthy of the district it refers to, and the highly-respectable patronage it has received, I shall, at least, have the satisfaction of
reflecting that I have contributed something to the stock of local history. Having engaged as a volunteer in an uncertain enterprize, I am prepared to meet its issue with perfect equanimity, and should it prove favourable, I shall principally rejoice that I have been instrumental to the relief of an unfortunate "man of letters."
Burslem, 31st December, 1842.
P.S. Of the Plates which the Work contains, the greater part have been contributed by its Subscribers and friends. Some have been executed at my own expense, and some at the expense of the Publishers, but they did not feel themselves called upon to go to the extent I could have wished in furnishing embellishments; and a fine portrait of the late Josiah Wedgwood, which must be deemed an essential accompaniment to his biography, and will form a most appropriate Frontispiece to this History, has been executed at the engraver's risk, and is charged extra by the booksellers, as well as some views of the new churches engraved for the latter portion of the Work.
A small Lithograph Map of the Borough, published by Michael Scott, Hanley, of a size to bind up with this Work, will form an appropriate prefix to Chap. II.