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Potter, Susanna, 1802–1872

Susanna Potter commonplace book : with contributions from the family of Frederick Christian Lewis.

1823-circa 1860.
Physical Description:
1 volume (108 leaves) : illustrations ; 28 cm
Rare Books and Manuscripts
PN6245 .P68 1823+ Oversize
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
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Copyright Status:
Copyright Not Evaluated
Archives & Manuscripts
Bound in contemporary 19th-century gilt-tooled morocco; rebacked.
Commonplace book compiled by Susanna Potter, liberally illustrated with drawings in graphite or ink, watercolors, engravings, and printed ephemera, together with original and copied verse. The album illustrates a friendship between the Lewis family of painters and engravers and the Potter family, who both lived at Enfield, then something of a rural backwater some 11 miles north of London. The compiler, Susanna Potter (1802-1872), was the eldest daughter of John Dell and Martha Potter of Ponders End, Enfield. Her father John was originally a corn and coal merchant but changed career sometime early in the century to become a stockbroker at 6 Throgmorton Street in the City of London. The Potter family lived about a mile away from the Lewis family of engravers and painters. Frederick Christian Lewis senior (1779-1856) and his wife Elizabeth moved in 1808 from central London to the Dower House, Forty Hill, Enfield. Here they lived with their children John Frederick Lewis (1804-1876); Charles George Lewis (1808-1880); Frederick Christian Lewis, junior (1813-1875), Elizabeth Lewis (b. 1810), and Mary Lewis. By 1814 the Lewis family moved back to central London but evidence from the album clearly indicates that the Potter and Lewis families kept up their friendship.
The leaves are watermarked "1822," a date that suggests the album was gifted to Susanna Potter on her 21st birthday during February 1823. There is a title leaf containing designs in watercolor emblematic of Art and Music, to which Susanna has added her name within a cartouche. The next leaf has a watercolor of jolly cherub amidst rosy bowers, signed "Eliza"--doubtless Susanna's younger sibling, Elizabeth (1804-1884). Following that is a leaf including affectionate verse, addressed "To Susanna," and initialled J.D.P (presumably Susanna's father). Soon after are a number of leaves contributed by Frederick Christian Lewis senior. A few items are pulled from sketchbooks, and although unsigned, are of obviously of skill. These include a view of a cottage in a landscape (probably Devon) [10] and a seascape "Wisten [Dorset] Augt. 24th from the Window" [54]. One of the sketches [46] is of "Mary Tavy nr. Tavistock" and this would have been taken probably from an unused sketch for Frederick's 1823 publication The Scenery o the Rivers Tamar and Tavy. Other signed work has been contributed by Charles George Lewis, one of a rather plump Elizabethan lady dated 1824. Like his brothers and sisters, he was taught drawing and engraving by his father. His sketches in the album include "Tiverton Church & Castle." There is a sketch of a ruined church signed "Susan Lewis" [104]. Another outline in the German romantic style is signed "E. Bird 1811"; the artist is likely the mother of Elizabeth Bird Andrews, who married Frederick Christian Lewis in 1841. Many of the leaves have poetical fragments both original and extracted from popular poets of the day, including Byron, Moore, Pope and Shakespeare. Also present are Biblical texts. Original verse is mostly initialed.
The Cass name family also make an appearance towards the end of the album. They were the family of Susanna's mother, from Little Grove, Hertfordshire.
On a preliminary leaf, a previous owner (Stanley Scott, 1971) suggests that the album once belonged to the Lewis family. There is, however, no record of marriage between the Potter and Lewis families.
Subject Terms:
English poetry -- 18th century.
English poetry -- 19th century.
Potter, Susanna, 1802-1872.
Women in natural history.
Commonplace books.
Graphite drawings.
Ink drawings.
Botanical illustrations.
Bird, Elizabeth.
Lewis, Frederick Christian, 1779-1856.
Lewis, Charles George, 1808-1880.
Potter, Elizabeth, 1804-1884.
Potter, John Dell.
Byron, George Gordon Byron, Baron, 1788-1824.
Moore, Thomas, 1779-1852.
Pope, Alexander, 1688-1744.
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.

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