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nightmare who, under pretence of caressing, seemed disposed to suffocate him.
The dissolution of their friendship was the work of years. In the mean while, Gainsborough gave all his time to portrait, to landscape, and to music. Pore trait-painting, like the poet with the two mistresses, had his visits, but landscape and music had his heart. His price for a head rose from five guineas to eight, and as his fame increased, the charge augmented till he had forty guineas for a half, and a hundred for a whole length. Riches now flowed in, for his hand was ready and diligent; his wife was relieved from her fears in the matter of money; and he was enabled to indulge himself after his own fashion. Books he admired little : in one of his letters he says that he was well read in the volume of nature, and that was learning sufficient for him; the intercourse of literary men he avoided as carefully as Reynolds courted it; but he was fond of company and passionately so of music. He considered a good musician as one of the first of men, and a good instrument as one of the noblest works of human skill. All the hours of intermission in his profession he gave to fiddles and rebecs. To this period the following characteristic story has been ascribed, and though strange, it seems true.
“Gainsborough's profession," says his friend Jackson, “ was painting, and music was his amusement; yet there were times when music seemed to be his employment, and painting his diversion. As his skill in music has been celebrated, I shall mention what degree of merit he possessed as a musician. He happened on a time to see a theorbo in a picture of Vandyke's, and concluded, because, perhaps, it was finely painted, that the theorbo must be a fine instrument. He recollected to have heard of a German professor, and ascending to his garret found him dining on roasted apples, and smoking his pipe with his theorbo beside him. I am come to buy
your lutem name your price, and here's your money.' *] cannot sell my lute.' 'No, not for a guinea or two--but you must sell it, I tell you.' 'My lute is worth much money, it is worth ten guineas.' 'Ay! that it is-see, here's the money. So saying, he took up the instrument, laid down the price, went half-way down the stairs, and returned. “I have done but half my errand; what is your lute worth if I have not your book ? What book, Master Gainsborough ? "Why, the book of airs you have composed for the lute. "Ah, sir, I can never part with my book! Poh! you can make another at any time—this is the book I mean--there's ten guineas for it-so once more good day. He went down a few steps, and returned again. "What use is your book to me if I do n't understand it? and your lute, you may take it again if you won't teach me to play on it. Come home with me, and give me the first lesson.' 'I will come to-morrow.' 'You must come now.' 'I must dress myself.' For what? You are the best figure I have seen to-day.' 'I must shave, sir.' 'I honour your beard ! 'I must, however, put on my wig.'' • Damn your wig! your cap and beard become you! Do you think if Vandyke was to paint you, he'd let you be shaved ? In this manner he frittered away his musical talents, and though possessed of ear, taste, and genius, he never had application enough to learn his notes. He seemed to take the first step, the second was of course out of his reach, and the summit became unattainable."
He was so passionately attached to music that he filled his house with all manner of instruments, and allowed his table to be infested with all sorts of professors save bagpipers. He loved Giardini and his violin; he admired Abel and his viol-di-gamba; he patronised Fischer and his hautboy; and was in raptures with a strolling harper, who descended from the Welch mountains into Bath. When he dined, he talked of music; when he painted, he dis
coursed with his visiters and sitters on its merits, and when he had leisure he practised by fits and starts on his numerous instruments, and notwithstanding Jackson's opinion, his performance was worthy of praise.
One of his acquaintances in Bath was Wiltshere, the public carrier, a kind and worthy man, who loved Gainsborough, and admired his works. In one of his landscapes, he wished to introduce a horse, and as the carrier had a very handsome one, he requested the loan of it for a day or two, and named his purpose ; his generous neighbour bridled it and saddled it, and sent it as a present. The painter was not a man to be outdone in acts of generosity; he painted the wagon and horses of his friend, put his whole family and himself into it, and sent it well-framed to Wiltshere, with his kind respects. It is considered a very capital performance. From 1761, when Gainsborough began to exhibit his paintings at the Academy, till his removal from Bath in 1774, Wiltshere was annually employed to carry his pictures to and from London; he took great care of them, and constantly refused to accept money, saying, “No-no--I admire painting too much,” and plunged his hands in his pockets to secure them against the temptation of the offered payment. Perceiving, however, that this was not acceptable to the proud artist, the honest carrier hit upon a scheme which pleased both. “ When you think,” said he, “that I have carried to the value of a little painting, I beg you will let me have one, sir; and I shall be more than paid.” In this coin the painter paid Wiltshere and overpaid him. His son is still in possession of several of these pictures, and appreciates their value many of Gainsborough's productions were not so worthily disposed of.
Of his works during his residence at Bath I am not enabled to give any particular account. They were no doubt numerous, since he could live in the
style of a gentleman, and entertain company. His brothers were made sensible of his change of fortune, and it must be related to his honour that all his kindred and connexions speak of him as a kind and generous man, who anticipated wants, and bore his fortunes meekly. Nor was the governor of Landguard Fort himself without a small share in these showers of good fortune. The artist appears to have discovered that money would not be unwelcome in the household of his friend, and to have taken a singular and delicate mode of lending his assistance. I must first, however, relate this story as Thicknesse himself has told it.
Among the instruments of music which Gains. borough loved, I have named the viol-di-gamba, and Mrs. Thicknesse had one, made in the year 1612, on which she played with much skill and effect. He appeared one evening to be exceedingly charmed with the instrument, and said, “I love it so much that I will willingly give a hundred guineas for it." She desired him to stay to supper; she placed the viol-di-gamba beside him, he took it up, and played in a manner so masterly that Mrs. Thicknesse said, 6 You deserve an instrument on which you play so well; and I beg your acceptance of it, on the condition that you will give me my husband's picture to hang beside the one which you painted of me.” The artist acquiesced; the viol-di-gamba was sent to him next morning; he stretched a canvass, took one sit. ting of some fifteen minutes' duration, and then laid it aside for other works. The lady was incensed, and the husband remonstrated; Gainsborough returned the viol-di-gamba, and never touched the picture more.
Such is the story of Thicknesse : the family version, communicated to me by a lady who had it from Mrs. Gainsborough herself, is somewhat different. The painter (according to this account) put a hundred guineas privately into the hands of Mrs. Thick. nesse for the viol-di-gamba; her husband, who might not be aware of what passed, renewed his wish for his portrait; and obtained what he conceived to be a promise that it should be painted. This double benefaction was, however, more than Gainsborough had contemplated : he commenced the portrait, but there it stopped ; and after a time, resenting some injurious expressions from the lips of the governor, he artist sent him the picture, rough and unfinished as it was, and returned also the viol-di-gamba.
“ This,” said Thicknesse, “ was a deadly blow to me; but I knew, though it seemed his act, it did not originate with him: he had been told, that I said openly in the public coffee-house at Bath, that when I first knew him at Ipswich, his children were running about the streets there without shoes or stock. ings; but the rascal who told him so, was the villain who robbed the poor from the plate he held at the church door for alms.” Such words as these were likely to sink deep into the proud heart of Gains. borough; and though Thicknesse denied them, as well he might, for they were untrue, they aided him in the resolution which he probably had long formed of making his escape from such crushing patronage and ungentle company. Even this necessary step was precipitated by Thicknesse himself. He sent back his portrait with a note, requesting him to take his brush, and first rub out the countenance of the truest and warmest friend he ever had; and so done, then blot him for ever from his memory.
Gainsborough now removed to London, took a house in Pall-Mall, which was built by Duke Schomberg, and removing all his paintings and drawings, and flutes and fiddles, bade farewell to Bath for ever.
Even to London the harassing protection of Thick. nesse pursued him. “I was much alarmed," said that most prudent of patrons, “lest, with all his merit and genius, he might be in London a long time before he was properly known to that class of people