To return, however, to the more ordinary articles of table use, there seems but little, from a practical point of view, that could be suggested by way of improvement for modern cutlery. Yet the shape of an English dinner-knife, with its flat bone handle and straight round-topped blade, is one of the most uninteresting that could be devised for the purpose. The old-fashioned knife-handle was gently curved, so that it might be grasped with more convenience, as in the an* nexed example (of damascened steel) from the South Kensington Museum, and it is a remarkable evidence of the inappropriateness of modern manufacture that, while we have bent the sterns of our spoons, which are intended to be held lightly between the fingers, we have reduced the outline of the knife-handle, which requires a firmer hold, to a simple parallelogram. Again, as regards material, a white bone handle looks well enough while new and clean, but the yellowish colour whch it acquires by constant use is not pleasant. It might be difficult and expensive to revive the manufacture of 'shagreen' for knife handles; but if made of bone, there seems no reason why they should not be stained, as was once the fashion. Dark wooden handles, studded with flat steel ornaments, were much used, I believe, in the last century, and certainly surpassed those of our own day in design. I find that the old system of pinning the steel shank of the knife through the side of its handle has been renewed of late years - and with good reason, for in no other way can the two be properly secured together. A very slight curve in the length of the blade might be introduced with advantage, and this, for practical reasons, should be on the upper rather than on the lower edge. Foreign table-knives often have an angular end to the blade. The principal objection to this form lies in the danger which might ensue if a knife accidentally fell with its point downwards. It was perhaps on this account that the blades of some old-fashioned table-knives terminated with a round wafer-shaped tops, like the butter-knife which may still be seen in use. A more probable reason, however, for that particular form lies in the fact that, down to the period of the last century, the table-knife was sometimes allowed to do duty for a spoon. Happily, that custom is extinct in our own day.

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In the accompanying woodcut are given specimens of a small knife and fork, with carved wooden handles, from the South Kensington Museum. The style of execution is somewhat rude, but the nature and general proportions of the design are admirably adapted for the purpose. The illustration is about one-third less than the real size.

Mother-of-pearl handled knives and forks for dessert may now be bought at a very reasonable price, and are far more agreeable to the touch, as well as in appearance, than those made entirely of silver or plated metal, which are generally of very poor design. Mother-of-pearl, moreover, does not discolour with age, like bone or ivory.

A slight improvement may be noticed in the recent design of some small articles of table service, as mustard-pots, salt-cellars, and cruet-stands, but as a rule they are far inferior, both as regards taste and execution, to those which were manufactured not only at the best time, but early in the last century. Indeed, if I might venture to offer any direct advice of the kind which one constantly sees associated with catchpenny advertisements, and addressed to 'persons about to furnish,' I should suggest their buying plate, not at the magnificent emporium of Messrs.

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So-and-so - where the eye is perplexed by a hundred and fifty pretentious vulgarities fresh from Sheffield or Birmingham - but rather at some of the old jewellery-shops in Hanway Street or Wardour Street, in which articles of old silver are still sold, far better in design, and at a cost rarely exceeding that which is paid for modern plate of the same intrinsic value. Some of the mediaeval metal-workers have, it is true, attempted to revive the ancient taste and dignity of the silversmith's art; but while they charge for their goods a price which is at least treble that of the ordinary trade, we can hardly expect them to be patronised by the public at large. A good simple design ought not to involve more labour in execution than a bad elaborate design, supposing both to be equally well executed; and the execution of ordinary ware is at least good enough for all practical purposes.

The future success of art-manufacture in England must, of course, depend in a great measure on the taste of the public for which it is supplied; but I do not see how that taste is to be thoroughly and popularly reformed until manufacturers begin to educate it, by the production and display of goods which will bear the test of sound criticism. Museums and exhibitions of art treasures are useful in familiarising the eye with the appearance of objects which illustrate excellence of ancient skill. But it must be remembered that such objects are usually articles of luxury, which at any period would lie beyond the reach of ordinary means, and which in many instances were applied to some purpose that has long since fallen into disuse. In examining them, we are apt to forget that our forefathers were not all people of unlimited wealth, who could afford jewelled caskets, costly embroidery, richly carved cabinet work and plate, which would fetch ten times its weight in gold and silver.

In those early days there were, as now, households in which economy was an object. Pots and pans, wooden trenchers and three-legged stools - articles, in short, far more humble in make and material than those which increased commercial prosperity has given to our present homes - were then required, produced, and sold at a moderate price. But it was not because they were cheap that they were necessarily ugly or ill-fashioned. That contemptible kind of workmanship which is at once slovenly and tasteless because it may be showy and cheap, was not then in demand. The rich, indeed, spent more money, both on dress and objects of general luxury, than at the present day; but such furniture as befitted the habits of ordinary citizens and country gentle folks of that date was found in the homes of the middle classes more than two hundred years ago; and wherever it existed, we may be sure it was deftly and honestly made. Those examples of ancient handicraft which have reached our own may well put to shame the efforts of modern smiths and cabinet-makers who work like machines, while their ancestors worked like artists and practical men.

It would be absurd, however, to suppose that English brains have deteriorated in the same proportion as English taste. Our artisans have as much intelligence as ever; it only wants proper direction and employment. At present both master and man are so accustomed, from their youth up, to false principles of design and execution, that it requires some stern teaching and no little patience to lead them back to their proper groove of work. Meanwhile, the public must do their part. If they will insist on the perpetuation of pretentious shams - if they will prefer a cheap and tawdry effect to legitimate and straightforward manufacture - no reform can possibly be expected. But if they encourage that sound and healthy taste which alone is found allied with conscientious labour, whether in the workshop or the factory, then we may hope to see revived the ancient glory of those industrial arts which, while they derive a certain interest from tradition, should owe their highest perfection to civilised skill.

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