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'Cultivated Capital': 19th century patronage in northern England

'Where's there's muck, there's money'...but there was also culture and patronage of the arts in nineteenth-century Manchester and Leeds. By Janet Wolff And Caroline Arscott.

'What in the world do you want with Art in Manchester'? Why can't you stick to your cotton spinning?' This remark was made by a nobleman, on being asked to lend pictures from his collection to the Art Treasures Exhibition held in Manchester in 1857. This belief in the incompatibility of culture and industry, and in the fundamental philistinism of the northern middle class, was one which was widely held, and which went back to earlier decades. A reviewer of a book of poems published in Manchester claimed to be 'absolutely astounded' by this phenomenon, saying of that city:

There is something in the very name itself which puts to flight all poetical associations. Only couple, for instance, in your mind the ideas of Manchester and Wordsworth, and see if, by any mental process, you can introduce them into any sort of union. The genius of that great man would have been absolutely clouded for ever by one week's residence in the fogs of Manchester.

Moreover, this image of the new industrial cities and of their inhabitants has persisted to the present day. Contemporary historians refer to the supposed ignorance of the industrialists and manufacturers with regard to the arts, and their tendency to buy forgeries on the assumption that they were Old Masters. Although it is well known and accepted that many of these people were important patrons of the Pre-Raphaelites in the mid- nineteenth century, Quentin Bell has recently explained this exercise in taste as one based precisely on lack of knowledge:

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