Biographical sketch of Samuel Cousins

Date Created

c. 1884


Frederick George Stephens (1828-1907), author and editor


F. G. Stephens, Artists at Home, photographed by J. P. Mayall and reproduced in facsimile by photoengraving on copper plates; edited, with biographical notes and descriptions, by Frederick George Stephens (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington; New York: Appleton & Co., 1884), pp. 19-21.


Cousins, Samuel (1801-1887), English engraver

Date Issued

April 1884


The text provides a short biography of Samuel Cousins until the year 1884. Stephens speaks of Cousins’s momentous rise to prominence as a gifted young artist, very skilled in the making of portraits. The text mentions the important patronage of Thomas Dyke Acland (though accounts of Cousins’ early patron differ). Stephens provides a long list of what Cousins himself deemed the most important of his works, and identifies three of the four reproductions visible in Mayall's studio portrait.

Is Referenced By

“Short Notices.” The Derby Mercury (Derby, England), issue 8831, April 16, 1884. "The photo-engravings (representing Messrs. J. E. Millais, S. Cousins, G. A. Lawson, and Marcus Stone in their studios) are very graphic and agreeable, and the accompanying biographical sketches are informing and well written."


Pycroft, George. Memoir of Samuel Cousins, R.A., member of the Legion of honour. Exeter: Daily Gazette, 1887.
Ward, Thomas Humphry. Notes on the Engraved Works of Mr. Samuel Cousins, etc. London: Fine Art Society: Catalogues of exhibitions, 1883.


The online edition of this work in the public domain, i.e., not protected by copyright, has been produced by the National Gallery of Art.




Stuart A. Rose Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University, Atlanta, GA

Omeka record contributed by Ekaterina Koposova

Date Submitted

September 30, 2016

Date Modified

October 1, 2016
January 20, 2017, by LM



ALTHOUGH Mr. Cousins, who was born on the 9th of May, 1801, being sixteen months younger than Mr. Doo, is not the Doyen of the English engravers, he is, having been elected in 1835, in the place of James Fittler, an Associate Engraver of the Royal Academy, the oldest member of that body. Of the members of fifty years ago he is the sole survivor. Mr. Webster, who was admitted a Student of the Academy in 1821, is the oldest artist associated with the body in any degree, and therefore its veritable Doyen. Although Mr. Cousins was elected at this date, he had not previously contributed to the exhibitions; his first appearance on the walls was in 1837, when he sent proofs from the famous plates after Wilkie’s “Maid of Saragossa,” and Landseer’s “Bolton Abbey in the Olden Time.” Mr. Cousins having, as above stated, been an A.E.R.A., was elected an Associate Engraver in the New Class in 1854, the first of that category, and a Royal Academician Engraver, February 10, 1855. Mr. Doo followed him in this grade, and they remained in it till 1867, when it was dissolved, and Mr. Cousins became an R.A. proper, and Mr. Doo entered the ranks of the Honorary Retired R.A.’s. In this respect Mr. Cousins followed his colleague in 1880. In 1855 he received a French Medal of the Second Class as a Graveur Étranger.
He was born at, and had his schooling in Exeter. His first artistic practice seems to have been copying engravings in pencil; by diligence and natural gifts he attained such skill in this mode of draughtsmanship that at thirteen years of age his reputation as a taker of portraits in pencil was secured in his native city. When eleven years old he received the silver palette of the Society of Arts for a pencil copy of “The Good Shepherd” by Murillo, after an engraving by James Heath, and, a year later, he won the society’s silver medal for a drawing in black and white. By means of Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, who generously helped the lad, Cousins was sent to London and, September, 1814, articled for seven years to S. W. Reynolds, one of the best engravers and most successful teachers of his time, who is famous for his mezzotint reproductions of Sir Joshuas. Cousins remained with this master a full term of seven years, and, as an assistant in the workshop, four years {20} longer. Some of Reynolds’s plates were much indebted to my subject, as four of them bear the names of both engravers.
The master had an affectionate pride in his pupil, and, in order to display the skill of the lad of thirteen, took him to Ashburnham House in Sussex, when he went to work there for the Earl of Ashburnham, and introduced the boy to the peer’s family in order that he might draw their likenesses in pencil, according to the above-named mode of his, which he was accustomed to exercise at the rate of five shillings a portrait. Lady Jane Swinburne, one of the earl’s daughters, who survives and is the mother of Mr. Algernon Swinburne, preserves a number of capital drawings of her family made by Cousins on this occasion, and displaying amazing spirit, solidity, and veracity. Photographic copies of these drawings were lately exhibited in the gallery of the Fine Art Society, New Bond Street.
According to Mr. Cousin’s memoranda, imparted to Mr. C. Pycroft, Mr. T. H. Ward (to whose biographical sketches of the engraver I am much indebted), and myself, the plates bearing the master’s and pupil’s names conjointly are “Sir J. Banks,” after Phillips, the “Rev. T. Lupton,” after Allan, “Viscount Sidmouth,” after Thompson, and the “Rev. J. Mitchell,” after John Graham, of the Trustees’ Academy, Edinburgh.
It was Sir T. Dyke Acland who enabled Cousins to start independently by giving him a commission to engrave Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of “Lady Acland and Children.” This was in 1826, and the result was so successful that Lawrence desired to secure the skill of the engraver to himself alone. Not agreeing to this honourable, but somewhat restricting invitation, Cousins next, with even greater success than before, reproduced the much-admired picture of “Master Lambton,” which is at Lambton Castle, the property of the Earl of Durham, and one of the best and most typical of Lawrence’s portraits. The picture owes a great deal to the print.
When Messrs. Thomas Agnew and Sons formed a large collection of prints engraved by Cousins, and exhibited the whole in London and Manchester in 1877, the total number of works was 180. Mr. Pycroft, in his “Art in Devonshire,” added twelve more prints to this reckoning of a life’s work. The Exhibition of the Fine Art Society, 1883, comprised in a total of eighty-six examples, a few not included in the greater number. No doubt, therefore, the engraver has produced not fewer than 200 plates. I have to thank him for the following chronological list of what he considers the more important examples of his stupendous labour. “Lady Acland and Children,” “Master Lambton,” “Prince Metternich” (1826), “Pius VII,” (1827), “Duke of Wellington,” three-quarters length, by Lawrence (1838), “Sir Astley Cooper,” “Lady Grey and Children,” “Lawrence,” by himself, “Lady Dover and Child” (1830), “Lady Gower and Child,” “Lady Peel” “Early of Aberdeen” (1831), “Miss Peel,” “Lady Grosvenor” (1832), “W. Wilberforce,” “Statue of Canning,” after Chantrey (1833), “Maid of Saragossa” (1836), “Bolton Abbey,” “Abercorn Family” (1837), “The Queen,” whole-length, “Return from Hawking,” “Lady {21} Clive” (1839), “Lady Evelyn Gower,” “The Queen receiving the Sacrament,” after Leslie (1840), “The Queen and two Children” (1844), “Christ weeping over Jerusalem,” “Beauty’s Bath,” or “Miss Eliza Pell” (1846), “The Duke of Wellington,” “Prince of Wales as a Sailor Boy,” “Group of the Royal Family,” “Shakespeare,” from the Chandos portrait, “Mrs. Fry” (1849), “Sir R. Peel,” “Viscount Palmerston,” “Mr. Adams,” the astronomer (1851), “The Order of Release,” “The First of May, 1851” (baptism of Prince Arthur), “Duke of Connaught,” and “Duke of Wellington” (1854), “Infant Samuel,” after Mr. F. Sant (1853), “Empress of the French,” “Princess Royal of England” (1856), “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1857), “Mdlle. R. Bonheur,” “Sir B. Frere,” “Saved!” (1858), “Mitherless Bairn,” “Mr. F. Huth” (1859), “Duke of Northumberland,” “Mrs. Bradyll,” “Sir H. Rawlinson,” “Marie Antoinette,” after E. M. Ward (1861), “Lord Clyde,” “Maid and the Magpie” (1861), “From Dawn to Sunset” (1863), “Piper and Pair of Nutcrackers” (1865), “Lady Mary Hamilton,” “My First Minuet,” “Connoisseurs,” “Earl Spencer,” “Sir T. Watson,” “The Queen” (1870), “The Strawberry Girl,” and “Yes or No!” (1873).
Between 1870 and 1873 Mr. Cousins, thinking his share of work in the world was done, and remembering that he had passed the later extremity of “three score and ten” years, determined to leave off work, and did nothing in the interval. Nevertheless, so strong is energy in a healthy frame that, in due time, he took up the graver and plate again, and set to work with something like the zeal of youth. Wonderful to relate, he produced some masterpieces including “The Age of Innocence,” “Penelope Boothby,” “Simplicity,” and “Miss Bowles,” after Reynolds, in 1874, “Lady C. Montagu,” “Sylvia,” “No!” “Moretta,” “Countess Spencer,” “Hon. Ann Bingham,” “Lavinia,” “Lady Spencer and her Sons,” “Miss Rich,” “Yes!” “Princess Sophia of Gloucester,” “Head of an Italian Girl,” “Cherry Ripe,” “Duchess of Rutland,” “Ninette,” “Muscipula,” and “Pomona.” The painters of these pictures are Sir T. Lawrence, Sir D. Wilkie, Sir E. Landseer, C. R. Leslie, Sir J. Reynolds, E. M. Ward, J. E. Millais, and Sir F. Leighton.
Among other kindly things of Mr. Cousins’s doing was the unostentatious gift of £15,000 to the Royal Academy in trust for the benefit of deserving and poor artists, seven of whom now receive £80 a year a-piece.
The photograph gives a view of Mr. Cousins’s sitting-room; the prints on the walls are those of his own works, being “The Calling of Samuel,” after Mr. Sant; “Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. in the Prison of the Temple,” after E. M. Ward; and “A Mother and Child,” after C. R. Leslie.

Original Format

Book Pages





Frederick George Stephens (1828-1907), author and editor, S. COUSINS, R.A.

Cite As

Frederick George Stephens (1828-1907), author and editor, “S. COUSINS, R.A.,” Victorian Artists at Home, accessed May 26, 2024, https://artistsathome.emorydomains.org/items/show/36.

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