May 282017

I have always liked eighteenth century prints featuring eighteenth century print shops – and here is one of my favourites.

It appears on the excellent Lewis Walpole site here and as today marks the anniversary of its publication (28 May 1793) I thought that I would dust it off and give it an outing. It was published by SW Fores and therefore, not surprisingly, shows the scene outside one of his premises ( No. 57 St. Pauls Church Yard, the other being at No. 3 Piccadilly) on a windy day.

It has got it all, really: the cleric on the left using his quizzing glass to admire the naked rump of the lady bending over to pick up her hat, unaware that his own hat, trimmed with  the cleric’s wig, has blown into the air; the two smart young things battling against the wind, which billows up the front of their skirts to reveal their stocking tops; the fish-wife sprawled on the roadway with her basket overturned and the fish flapping in the dirt; the elderly man trying to hold on to his hat and wig while having a good ogle; the young blade in what I think is called a Jean de Bray jacket.

In the background we have a porter carrying a bale on his head, and a couple who appear to have fallen against each other for support, hat to hat. And a sign above the bow-fronted shop window reminding us that Fores did not just sell individual prints but also supplied them wholesale to other print shops, as well as “for exportation”.

Samuel William Fores, to give him his full moniker, was born in 1761, the son of a cloth merchant. He went into the business of selling prints when he was 22, from premises at City Arms, 3 Piccadilly, near the Haymarket. From there he expanded and operated also from addresses at 50 Piccadilly and 312 Oxford Street. After he died in 1838 the business was carried on under the style of ‘Messrs Fores’ by his sons George Thomas Fores (1806-58) and Arthur Blücher Fores (1814-83). They moved the business away  from satirical towards sporting prints. Indeed the Fores name continued well into the 20th Century.

So, 224 years after it first appeared, many happy returns to a High Wind in St Pauls Churchyard!

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