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wrote a warm, indignant letter, resigning his station as President, and bidding a final farewell to the Academy: he thought a little-and burned it—and then wrote a cold and courteous one to the same effect. The Academy were overwhelmed with consternation, and endeavoured to sooth his pride by submissions little short of prostration. Sir William Chambers was the bearer too of a royal wish, saying how happy his majesty would be if Sir Joshua would continue President. Thus assailed, he relented, and resumed the seat which his good sense should have prevented him from vacating.
He resumed it, however, only to resign it, which he performed in kindness, not in anger, after an occupation of twenty-one years. During all that period he had continued absolute in the realms of art, and maintained the dignity of his profession both in the Academy and in society. He had encountered i indeed the rough hostility of Barry, and the opposi. tion of Gainsborough; but these were transient and ineffectual, and save these and some uncivil bickerings respecting twopenny-halfpenny plans of eco. nomy, his reign had been one of prosperity and peace. The other thirty-nine members, indeed, seem to have regarded him with a degree of submission amounting to servile fear; and, generally speaking, in the little senate of the Academy he had all his time sat sole dictator.
The last time that Reynolds made his appearance in the Academy was in the year 1790 : he addressed a speech to the students on the delivery of the medals, and concluded by expatiating upon the genius of his favourite master, in such words as a credulous Catholic may use in praise of a benevolent saint. “I feel," said he, “ a self-congratulation in knowing myself capable of such sensations as he intended to excite. I reflect, not without vanity, that these discourses bear testimony of my admiration of that truly divine man; and I should desire that the last
words which I should pronounce in this Academy, and from this place, might be the name of Michael Angelo."
His last visit to the Academy seemed once on the point of ending tragically. There were present, besides members and students, a number of persons of rank and importance. The multitude was large, the weight great, and just as the President was commencing his discourse, a beam in the floor gave way with a loud crash. The audience rushed to the door, or to the sides of the room ; lord tumbled over student, student over lord, and academicians over both. Sir Joshua sat silent and unmoved in his chair; and as the floor only sunk a little, it was soon supported, the company resumed their seats
and he recommenced his discourse, all with perfect composure. He afterward remarked, that if the floor had fallen, the whole company must have been killed, and the arts in Britain thrown two hundred years back in consequence. He considered art as an inheritance descending from father to son; he believed that each succeeding generation would grow wiser and better, and that future academicians had only to add the knowledge of the dead to the genius of the living, and rise higher and higher; painting history till it became divine, and portraits wortlıy of the gods. That this wild notion was fixed within him there can be no dispute. “ So much will painting improve," said he, “ that the best we can now achieve will appear like the work of children."
That examples of excellence in art might not be wanting, Sir Joshua offered to the Royal Academy his valuable collection of pictures by the great masters at a very low price, on the condition that they should purchase a good gallery for their reception. It was his fortune to meet with many mortifications towards the close of his career, and this was one : the Academy, with a parsimony which is left unex
plained, declined the purchase. They could not want money-for the President knew their circumstances; but they wanted a proper enthusiasm for art. Among forty men some two or three sordid souls are sure to be mixed, whose chief delight is the accumulation of money ; who damp a generous enthusiasm by their parsimonious calculations, and delight in tying up the public gains of an institution at a satisfactory per-centage. Disappointed in this, Sir Joshua made an exhibition of them in the Haymarket, for the advantage of his faithful servant Ralph Kirkley; but our painter's well-known love of gain excited public suspicion; he was considered by many as a partaker in the profits, and reproached by the application of two lines from Hudibras
“A squire he had whose name was Ralph,
Who in the adventure went his half.” But he was soon to be removed from the ingratitude of friends, and the malevolence of enemies. He had been on a visit to Mr. Burke in Buckinghamshire. On his return, he alighted at the inn at Hayes, and walked five miles on the road, in company with Mr. Malone, without stopping, and without complaint. He had then, though sixty-eight years old the looks of a man of fifty, and seemed, said Malone, as likely to live ten or fifteen years as any of his younger friends. Soon after his return home his spirits became much depressed; a tumour, which baffled the skill of the surgeons, began to gather over his left eye, and, feeling the oppression of infirmities, he at length resigned for ever the situation of President of the Royal Academy.
A concealed and fatal malady was invading the functions of life, and sapping his spirits. This was an enlargement of the liver, which expanded to twice its natural dimensions, defied human skill, and deprived him of all cheerfulness. His friends were ever with him, and sought to sooth him with hopes
of recovery and with visions of long life; but he felt, in the simple language of the old bard,
“That death was with him dealing,”
refused to be comforted, and prepared for dissolution. “I have been fortunate," he said, “in long good health and constant success, and I ought not to complain. I know that all things on earth must have an end, and now I am come to mine." Sir Joshua expired, without any visible symptoms of pain, on the 23d of February, 1792, in ihe sixty-ninth year of his age.
“ His illness," says Burke, “was long, but borne with a mild and cheerful fortitude, without the least mixture of any thing irritable or querulous: agreeably to the placid and even tenor of his whole life. He had, from the beginning of his malady, a distinct view of his dissolution; and he contemplated it with that entire composure, which nothing but the innocence, integrity, and usefulness of his life, and an unaffected submission to the will of Providence, could bestow.”
He was interred in one of the crypts of St. Paul's cathedral, and accompanied to the grave by many of the most illustrious men of the land-forty-two coaches conveyed the mourners, and forty-nine empty carriages of the nobility and gentry added their encumbrance to the procession. He lies by the side of Sir Christopher Wren, architect of the edifice; and a statue to his memory by Flaxman has since been placed in the body of the cathedral.
In stature Sir Joshua Reynolds was somewhat below the middle size ;-his complexion was florid, his features blunt and round, liis aspect lively and intelligent, and his manners calm, simple, and unassuming. He was an early mover-a man whom application could not tire, nor constant labour subdue. In his economy he was close and saving; while he poured out his wines, and spread out his tables to the titled or the learned, he stinted his domestics to the commonest fare, and rewarded their faithfulness by very moderate wages. One of his servants, who survived till lately, described him as a master who exacted obedience in trifles-was prudent in the matter of pins-a saver of bits of thread -a man hard and parsimonious, wlio never thought he had enough of labour out of his dependants, and always suspected that he overpaid them. To this may be added the public opinion, which pictured him close, cold, cautious, and sordid; and-on the other side, we have the open testiinony of Burke, Malone, Boswell, and Johnson, who all represent him as generous, open-hearted, and humane. The servants and the friends both spoke, I doubt not, according to their own experience of the man. Privations in early life rendered strict economy necessary; and, in spite of many acts of kindness, his mind on the whole failed to expand with his fortune; he continued the same system of saving when he was master of sixty thousand pounds, as when he owned but sixpence. He loved reputation dearly, and it would have been well for his fame, if, over and above leav. ing legacies to such friends as Burke and Malone, he had opened his heart to humbler people. A little would have gone a long way-a kindly word and a guinea prudently given!
Sir Joshua has a threefold claim upon posterityfor his Discourses, his historical and poetical paintings, and his portraits. Of all these I have already spoken at some length. The Discourses were de livered when the annual distribution of medals took place among the most promising students of the Royal Academy. Their object was to impress upon the minds of his audience a sense of the dignity, and a knowledge of the character and importance of art-to stimulate them to study and labour—to point out the way to excellence; unfold the princi.