Private energy has, however, done much towards a reform in ceramic art. The names of Wedgwood in the last century, and that of Minton in our own time, are well known as those of men who have worked with a definite purpose to that end; and if their efforts have not resulted in a permanent revolution of public taste, we may at least be grateful to them for much of the improvement which has taken place during the last fifty years in the design of English crockery. Some excellent specimens of Minton's ware are to be found at the establishments of their London agents, Messrs. Mortlock, of Park Street and Oxford Street. Among these examples, the larger objects, such as vases, flower-dishes and figure pieces, in imitation of majolica, are the most tasteful and effective in form and colour. Some of the table-china is also very good in what may be called the motive of its design, but as a rule our dinner and tea services are marred by an over-neatness in the execution of their patterns, and by a tendency towards mere prettiness in the tints employed to enrich them. Half the interest of Oriental, and indeed of all old china, depends on the artistic freedom with which it was decorated by actual handiwork; and though in this branch of manufacture, as in many others, mechanical aid has supplanted manual labour, there can be no reason why arabesques and other surface ornament should be printed with that mathematical precision of line which delights in representing opposite edges of a leaf as they never are in nature - identical in contour.

The quality of colour applied in the decoration of modern china is generally bad. Your pinks, mauves, magentas, and other hues of the same kind, however charming they may appear in the eyes of a court-milliner, are ignoble and offensive to the taste of a real artist, and are rendered more so in our porcelain by the fact of their being laid on in perfectly flat and even tints. All truly noble colour, whether in pictorial or decorative art, will be found gradated, and on this point Nature herself may be quoted as a supreme authority.

The practice of gilding china, as it is at present carried out, is a most objectionable one. It may be fairly questioned whether the application of gilding at all, looking to the nature of the material and the conditions of its manufacture, is satisfactory. But the fashion of gilding the edges of cups and plates, and touching up, as it were, the relieved ornament on lids and handles with streaks of gold, is a monstrous piece of vulgarity.

I have often wondered how it happens that some of the most beautiful modern dinner-services we see are so frequently spoilt by the clumsy and utterly incongruous shape of the handles with which the vegetable dishes, soup tureens, etc, are crowned. It seems, however, that, in accordance with the true spirit of modern British manufacture, the designer of the mould in which these vessels are shaped knows nothing of the surface pattern which they are subsequently to receive. The consequence is that, as the mould represents an expensive item in the manufacture, and has often, when once executed, to serve for a dozen different patterns, the pattern designer has to take the shape of his dishes just as he finds it, however ugly it may be. Surely grace of form is too important an element of beauty to be thus neglected ! If it is desirable for economy's sake that one mould should suffice for many surface patterns, then it is all the more necessary that that form should be in every respect a graceful one. A simple ring or round knob would be an infinitely better handle for dish-covers, etc, than the twisted stalks, gilt acorns, sea-shells, and other silly inventions which we find so constantly repeated on them, and which, while they are contemptible in a poor design, are destructive to the effect of a good one. There has been a great improvement of late years in the design of ordinary water-jugs. I bought a very good one for four shillings some time ago in the Strand, under the trade name of 'antique.' It is introduced in the sketch of bedroom drawers, p. 193. The lower portion was bulbous; the neck straight but not narrow, and covered with a metal top; the handle long and of a simple loop form. The material was a cream-coloured stone ware. Round the bowl and neck were scarlet bands, enriched with round and diamond-shaped lozenges placed alternately. These lozenges contained quatrefoil panels of enamelled colour (dark blue and rose-pink). My jug was about eight inches high, but I believe the same pattern might have been had in various sizes. I say 'might have been' had, for I fear a good design rarely keeps its place in the market. So long as it is new it sells well enough, but next season it is thrust aside to make room for some fresh novelty. All that the British public seems to care for is to get the 'last thing out': taste is a secondary consideration. No doubt some of my readers may have recently noticed in the shop-windows a little flower-vase of 'biscuit,' or Parian ware, in the shape of a human hand modelled, au naturel, holding a narrow cup. A more commonplace and silly notion of a vase can scarcely be imagined, and yet so delighted were the public with this new conceit that it sold everywhere by hundreds. In one establishment alone twelve men were constantly employed in producing relays of this article. I suppose by-and-by everybody will discover that everybody has bought it, and from that moment its value will be gone.