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SHERBET-SHERBORNE

Some of the designs in this volume show the earlier stages of the tendency to the tortured and the bizarre which disfigured so much of Sheraton's later work. This debased taste reached its culmination in The Cabinet Maker, Upholsterer and General Artists' Encyclopedia, the publication of which began in 1804. It was to consist of 125 numbers, but when the author died two years later only a few had been issued. The plates are in colour. The scope of this work was much wider than the title suggests. It dealt not only with furniture and decoration, but with history, geography, biography, astronomy, botany and other sciences. This fragmentary undertaking makes it clear that Sheraton ruined his style, once so graceful and so delicate, by an over-anxious following of the pseudo-classical taste which in France marked the period of the Consulate and the Empire. The harmonious marquetry, the dainty painting of flowers in wreaths and festoons, the lightness and finish were replaced by pieces of furniture which at the best were clumsy and at the worst were hideous. Some of the chairs especially which he designed in this last period are amazingly grotesque, their backs formed of fabulous animals, their “ knees ” and legs of the heads and claws of crowned beasts. Many charming little work-tables bear Sheraton's attribution, but even these graceful trifles in his later forms lose their delicacy and become squat and heavy. He designed many beautiful sideboards and bookcases, but he finished by drawing pieces that were ruined by insistence upon the characteristics, and often the worst characteristics, of the Empire manner. Sheraton's inventive ingenuity had led him to devise many of the ingenious pieces of combination or “ harlequin ” furniture which the later 18th century loved. Thus a library table would conceal a step-ladder for reaching the top shelves of bookcases, a dressing table would be also a washstand and an escritoire—but this he admitted that he did not introduce—looking-glasses would enclose dressing-cases, writing tables or work-tables. But his most astonishing fancy was an ottoman with “ heating urns ” beneath, “ that the seat may be kept in a proper temperature in cold weather.” How far he was responsible for the introduction of the hideous hall chair, made of mahogany, with the owner's crest painted on the back, which was common for three-quarters of a century after he died, is not clear; but he describes and illustrates it. That Sheraton can have been personally popular is incredible. His books make it evident that his character was tart, angular and self-assertive, and that he was little disposed to be generous towards the work of predecessors or rivals. Such an attitude towards the world would suffice to explain his lack of substantial success. He appears to have preached occasionally to the end, and even in his furniture books he sometimes falls into improving remarks of a religious character. As we have seen, his first publication was a religious work, and when in 1794 his friend Adam Callender, the landscape painter, wrote a pamphlet entitled Thoughts on the Peaceable and Spiritual Nature of Christ's Kingdom, Sheraton contributed to it an exhortation upon Spiritual Subjection to Civil Government, which was reprinted separately with additions a year later. In 1805 he issued A Discourse on the Character of God as Love. He died on Oct. 22nd, 1806, at No. 8 Broad Street, Golden Square, aged about 55, from, it is said, over-work. An obituary notice of him appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine of the following month, which stated that he had been for many years “ a journeyman cabinet-maker, but since 1793 supported a wife and two children by authorship.” He was described as “ a well-disposed man, of an acute and enterprising disposition.” The writer added that he had “ left his family, it is feared, in distressed circumstances,” and that he had travelled to Ireland to obtain subscribers for the Encyclopedia, of which at the time of his death nearly 1000 copies had been sold. In 1812 there appeared a folio volume, Designs for Household Furniture exhibiting a Variety of Elegant and Useful Patterns in the Cabinet, Chair and Upholstery Branches on eighty-four Plates. By the late T. Sheraton, Cabinetmaker. This was in the main, if not entirely, a collection of plates from the Cabinet Dictionary and the Encyclopedia.

Thomas Sheraton is unquestionably the most remarkable man in the history of English furniture. His genius was less sane and less balanced than that of Chippendale, but despite his excursions into the Chinese and Louis Quinze manners, Chippendale always produced an impression of English work. Sheraton's greater adaptability, his readiness to receive foreign impressions, his adaptations of Louis Seize ideas, the lightness of his form s and the grace of his conceptions had about them a touch of the exotic which was heightened by his lavish employment of satin-wood and other beautifully grained woods susceptible of a high polish. There are no more charming things outside French furniture than some of the creations of Sheraton in his great period. The severe and balanced forms, the delicate inlay, the occasional slight carving in low relief, the painted enrichment's, the variety of the backs and legs of his chairs produce an impression of lightness and grace that has never been surpassed; whether he designed a little knife-case or the body of a long clock, harmony, proportion and a delicate fancy were ever present. It is true that he adapted and even copied extensively, but so did every one else, and it is impossible to be sure that a given conception is rightly attributed to the particular man whose name has become associated with it. Indeed “ Sheraton,” like “ Chippendale,” has come to indicate a style rather than a personal attribution. But the volume and the beauty of the designs in his books is such that, when every allowance has been made for adaptation, there remains a mass of beautiful work which cannot be denied to him. In later life his very adaptability was his undoing. The public, always ready to take its mobiliary fashions from France, demanded Empire furniture, and Sheraton may have been, or have believed himself to be, compelled to give them what they wanted. His extravagant creations in that sphere—far worse than anything that was designed in France—had much to do with the development of a fashion of English Empire which finally ruined British furniture design. He rioted in sphinxes and lions and fabulous beasts, he evolved forms that were dull and cumbrous, and added to their heaviness by brass mounts atonce massive and uninspired. After his death the eccentricity may have been less, but the heaviness and dullness were greater, and with the disappearance of Sheraton the brief but splendid summer of English furniture ended in gloom. It had lasted little more than half a century, but it was a half-century which only France ever could, or did, rival. It is one of the strangest ironies in the history of art that the last and almost the greatest exponent of the English genius in the sphere of furniture was in the end mainly responsible for a decay from which there has as yet been no renaissance. (J. P.-B.)


SHERBET (the Turkish form of the Arabic sherbet, drink, shariba, he drank, cf. “ shrub,” an English derivative), properly the name of an Oriental beverage, consisting of the juice of such fruits as the lemon, citron, &c., dropped upon a cake of sugar and partially frozen with snow or otherwise cooled. The word, and also the French form sorbet, are applied in Western usage to a water-ice not frozen as hard as the ordinary ice, and flavoured with fruit juice, spirit, &c. A cheap sweetened effervescing drink is also so styled.


SHERBORNE, a market town in the northern parliamentary division of Dorsetshire, England, 118 m. W.S.W. from London by the London & South=Western railway. Pop. of urban district (Igor), 5760. It lies near the border of Somersetshire, on the southern slope of a hill overlooking the river Yeo, in a fertile, well-wooded district. The abbey church of St Mary the Virgin is a stately cruciform building with central tower, the nave and choir having aisles and clerestory. Some pre-Norman work appears in the western Wall, the tower arches and south porch are Norman, and there are an Early English chapel and some Decorated windows. The church, however, was almost wholly reconstructed in the Perpendicular period, and is a fine example of that style, the interior gaining in beauty from the scheme. of colour-decoration in the choir, while the magnificent stone-vaulted roof with fan tracery, extending throughout the church eavcenting the south transept, is unsurpassed. The parish church of Ah Hallows adjoined the abbey church on the