William Hone to Alfred Hone [son], 7 March, 1829

[1780-1818] - [1818-1824] - [1825-1832] - [1832-1842] - Hone Correspondence

William Hone to Alfred Hone [son], 7 March, 1829. 1-TEI-

Newington Green
7 March 1829.
My dear Alfred

This accompanies 38 Prints which, in one way or other, I think will be useful to you. With about 20 of them I have been accustomed to recreate as favorites, but I yield them to you from a conviction that the knowledge you will derive from studying them will be beneficially applied. Take them to your own room and keep them there, and make that room your home, by rendering it the deposit of every thing you get connected with your Art, and doing every thing in it that may any way assist your progress. Put every thing in such places, and arrange all in such order, that you may know where to find any article at any moment. Begin to do this at once, with the little you have, and you will acquire the habit of doing it always, and you will find your memory strengthened, and your advancement in study will increase to your astonishment.

That you may have something of a Portfolio, I have arranged with Matilda that you shall be at liberty to look out and take to yourself as many Prints from her stock as she marks at £3_15_0; and I would recommend you to make a selection of thoroughly good subjects. Go for quality rather than quantity. You had better have a dozen of thought-breeding designs by great Masters, than a hundred pretty show-things that tend to nothing but display. Yet do not mistake me, (and yet I think I hardly need give you the caution, for your judgment on most occasions has afforded me a gratification that I have not expressed till now) there is gold sometimes in dirt: and in Masters of small note, & therefore in engravings of small price, there may be found powerful efforts; while, I am sure, you must have looked in vain for the merit which is sometimes accorded indiscriminantly to all that has been done by a man of great name. After all you must not look so much at what Artists have done as what Nature does. You have heard me say a thousand times that the greatest artists are those that are truest to Nature. Look at works of art — study Nature. However if I run on thus I shall get into a dissertation, instead of simply, being as I purposed, telling you that I shall be unspeakably happy in finding you soon settled in your room — at study & at work. Talk little about what you do, or intend to do, and you will do a great deal. I never knew one talking man among the artists whose works were worth [one word illegible]. Northcote2 is an Artist & one of the first talkers about art of the age — what has he done worth preserving? Since Haydon3 talked what has he done. After a man has attained to eminence, and secured independence, he may safely talk — not before. I say this, my boy, to warn you against the pribble prabble, and skimble skamble habits of the young men whom you will fall in with bye and bye — there is not a class of greater gossips, and tale bearers, and scandal-mongers, than your third & fourth rate artists. The spirits they should reserve for their pencils & chisels, they suffer to evaporate through their lips — the donkeys!

You know well, my dear Alfred, how little I can aid you; & but I have sometimes thought that you may have imagined me indifferent to your wants, because I have not done a little that may have seemed to you to be in my power. Notwithstanding all that has happened to the family,4 it is true that it is still in my power to get into debt — but I want the will, or rather I am fortifying myself into the resolution of not incurring debt to the extent of a single shilling. The misery of debt is the greatest misery I ever experiencednever while I live will I, if possible, owe a shilling to a human being. But be assured, my dear boy, that I am not unmindful of your colt-like appearance — you shall have a good coat before I get breeches for myself, & your mother denounces my best pair as being neither mendable nor vendible

Your most affectionate father
W Hone

I also send you Hogarth's Analysis of Beauty. Get everything you have at Mr. Behnes's to Russell Court.5

Mr. Alfred Hone
29 Russell Court

Hone Collection, Adelphi University, Series 1A, Bx 1, f. 3.[return]
The artist and writer James Northcote (1746-1831). [return]
Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846). [return]
The reference here is likely to the combined disasters of the 1826 bankruptcy, the unexpected death in 1827 of the younger William Hone, and Alfred's near-fatal accident (also in 1827). At this point in 1829, Hone was just beginning to extricate himself from the crippling financial obligations that, since April of 1826, had left him living with his family within the Rules of Kings Bench prison. [return]
William Behnes. As the contents of the letter suggest, Alfred Hone was — at the age of 19 — just setting himself up as an independent artist. Apparently, during the Hone family's distresses, he had stored some things with Behnes, a family friend, fellow artist, and mentor. [return]
William Hone. Date: 2014-12-02