Thomas Bewick

Bewick’s family house at Cherryburn, drawn by John Bewick
Bewick’s family house at Cherryburn, drawn by John Bewick
Mr Bewick was a man of warm attachments, particularly to the younger branches of his family. It is known that, during his apprenticeship, he seldom failed to visit his parents once a week at Cherryburn, distant about fourteen miles from Newcastle; and when the Tyne was so swelled with rain and land floods, that he could not get across, it was his practice to shout over to them, and, having made inquiries after the state of their health, to return home.

In 1825, in a letter to an old crony in London, after describing with a kind of enthusiastic pleasure the domestic comforts which he daily enjoyed, he says, I might fill you a sheet in dwelling on the merits of my young folks, without being a bit afraid of any remarks that might be made upon me, such as ‘look at the old fool, he thinks there’s nobody has sic bairns as he has.’ In short, my son and three daughters do all in their power to make their parents happy.

Final tailpiece of Select Fables
Final tailpiece of “Select Fables
Mr Bewick was naturally of the most persevering and industrious habits. The number of blocks he has engraved is almost incredible. At his bench he worked and whistled with the most perfect good humour, from morn to night, and ever and anon thought the day too short for the extension of his labours. He did not mix much with the world, for he possessed a singular and most independent mind. In the evening, indeed, when the work of the day was finished, he generally retired to a neighbouring public house, to smoke his pipe, and drink his glass of porter with an old friend or two, who knew his haunt, and enjoyed the naïveté and originality of his remarks. But he luxuriated in the bosom of his family; and no pleasures he could enjoy in the latter stage of his life, were equal in his esteem to the sterling comforts of his own fireside. He died, as he had lived, an upright and truly honest man; and breathed his last after a short illness, in the midst of his affectionate and disconsolate offspring, at his residence in West Street, Gateshead, on Saturday November 8. 1828 in the 76th year of his age. His remains were accompanied by a numerous train of friends, to the family burial place at Ovingham, and deposited along with his parents, his wife (who had died February 1. 1826, aged 72), and his brother previously mentioned[1].

    1. ^ There is an affecting tail-piece (the final one in his Fables, 1820), in which he describes The End of All, representing his own funeral, with a view of the west end of Ovingham church, and the two family monuments fixed in the wall. And it may be interesting also to notice, as a proof of that family-attachment mentioned in p. 36, that the tail-piece in p. 162 of his Fables bears the date of his mother’s, and that in p. 176 of his father’s death.
  • Image source:
    (1) Bewick, Thomas. A Memoir of Thomas Bewick Written by Himself. Newcastle-on-Tyne: 1862.
  • (2) Bewick, Thomas; Bewick, John. Select Fables. Newcastle: 1820.