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The Genius of Josiah Wedgewood

Fri Apr 19, 9-10pm, BBC2

There’s something about the eighteenth century that brings out the very worst in a certain kind Englishman, and AN Wilson is that kind of Englishman. Which is not to say that this isn’t a fine documentary in its way, or that Wedgwood isn’t a fitting subject for an hour of the BBC’s and your time.

A relentless and restless pioneer in the arts, chemistry and middle-class tastemaking, and a reformer in slavery and industrial working conditions, Wedgwood is presented as a kind of ceramic superman, whose own personal skill at the wheel held people in thrall even as an old man. But Wilson the aesthete dominates proceedings.

Himself the product of ten generations of pottery workers (‘Though I… had a different destiny,’ he simpers), he clearly identifies with the Wedgwood blueprint to a hilarious degree, and quite possibly fancies himself in a powdered bagwig and nankeen britches, cowing all Stoke-on-Trent with his intellectual stylings. Could be the new Meades if he put his mind to it.