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then included in the articles of daily demand in Pennsylvania. A carpenter, whose name is forgotten, gave him three broad and beautiful poplar boards, and planed them smoothly; these, when covered with groups in ink, chalk, and charcoal, were purchased for a dollar each by a neighbour of the name of Wayne; and Dr. Morris at the same time gave him money to buy panels and pencils for .future compositions. "These were the first public patrons of the artist," says Galt, " and it is at his own request '.hat their names are thus particularly inserted."
That a boy who had some skill in painting lived at Springfield, began to be spoken of; and Mr. Flower, a justice of Chester, looked at his works, and obtained leave from his parents to take him for a few weeks to his house. A young English lady was governess to his daughters; she was well acquainted with art, and was also intimate with the Greek and Latin poets, and loved to point out to the young artist the most picturesque passages. He had never before heard of Greece or of Rome, or ol the heroes, philosophers, poets, painters, and historians, whom they had produced, and he listened, while the lady spoke of them, with an enthusiasm which, after an experience of near seventy years in the world, he loved to live over again. His residence here introduced him to Ross, a lawyer of some note, who lived in the neighbouring town of Lancaster; and Mrs. Ross, who was eminently beautiful, desired to sit to West for her portrait. The people of Lancaster had taste and intelligence; they saw him perform his task with much ability, and came in such crowds to sit to the boy, that he had some trouble in meeting their demands. Those citizens were kindly persons, and easily pleased. A gunsmith of Lancaster, who had a classical turn, proposed a painting of the death of Socrates. West had heard of Socrates, and forthwith made a sketch which his employer called clever: but he had now begun to feel his deficiencies and see his difficulties. "I have hitherto painted faces," said West, "and people clothed; what am I to do with the slave who presents the poison—he ought, I think, to be naked." Henry, the gunsmith, went to his shop, and returned with one of his workmen, a handsome man, and half-naked, saying, "There is your model." He introduced him accordingly into the picture—which excited some attention.
'West was now fifteen years old; and though the school ha3 been more than once spoken of, his education up to this period had been sadly neglected: indeed, at no period of his life had he any claim to be called an educated man. He was the first and last, president of our academy who found spelling a difficulty.
Dr. Smith, a gentleman of considerable classical attainments, perceived his deficiency, and generously undertook the part of instructer; but the Cherokee Indians seem to have been the only preceptors who went wisely to work with him. This new master pursued a strange enough method. "He regarded him," says Galt, "as destined to be a painter, and on this account did not impose upon him those grammatical exercises of language which are usually required from the young student of the classics, but directed his attention to those incidents which were likely to interest his fancy, and furnish him, at some future period, with subjects for the easel." This might have done well with a fairer scholar—with West, if it was desired that his imagination should catch the life and spirit of antiquity, he ought to have begun nearer the beginning. It is needless to expect a strong crop, when we have only scratched the surface of the soil.
While picking up those classical crumbs, the youth was attacked by a fever. Every fresh aspect of his early life had something in it remarkable and romantic. When good medicine and good nursing began to remove his complaint, another adversary invaded lus repose. This was a shadowy illusion, which, like an image in a dream, was ever unstable, and changing shape as well as hue. It became first visible in the form of a white cow, which, entering at one side of the house, walked over his bed, and vanished A sow and a litter of pigs succeeded. His sistei thought him delirious, and sent for a physician: but his pulse had a recovering beat in it; his skin was moist and cool; his thirst was gone, and every thiftg betokened convalescence. While the doctor stood puzzled about a disease which had such healthy symptoms, he was alarmed by West assuring him that he saw the figures of several friends passing at that moment across the roof. Conceiving these to be the professional visions of a raving artist, he prescribed a draught which would have brought sleep to all the eyes of Argus, and departed. As he went, up rose West, and discovered that all those visitations came through a knot hole in the shutters, which threw into the darkened room whatever forms were passing along the street at the time. He called in his sister, showed her the apparitions gliding along the ceiling, then laid his hand on the aperture, and all vanished. On recovering he made various experiments, which he communicated to Williams; who found it to be what Butler calls "a new-found old invention." He produced a London camera obscura; and West contented himself with the praise due to collateral ingenuity.
On returning to Springfield, his future career became the subject of anxious deliberation. Some of his best friends were in favour of his making art his profession; his mother was desirous of distinction for her youngest child, and the father, influenced by the prophecy of Peckover, at length resolved on submitting the matter to the wisdom of the Society to which he belonged.
The spirit of speech first descended on one John Williamson. "To John West and Sarah Pearson," said this western luminary, "a man-child hath been born, on whom God hath conferred some re markable gifts of mind; and you have all heard that, by something amounting to inspiration, the youth has been induced to study the art of painting. It is true that our tenets refuse to own the utility of that art to mankind, but it seemeth to me that we have considered the matter too nicely. God has bestowed on this youth a genius for art,—shall we question his wisdom? Can we believe that he gives such rare gifts but for a wise and a good purpose % I see the Divine hand in this ; we shall do well to sanction the art and encourage this youth." The Quakers, persuaded by this sagacious enthusiast, or moved by the belief that the worldly fame which accompanies genius would shed a new halo on their sect, acknowledged the boy's powers upon the principle of implicit faith—gave their unanimous consent, like the " Brethren" in the Alchymist, to have their lead turned into gold, and forthwith summoned the youth, in whom so many hopes centred, before them.
He came and took his station in the middle of the room—his father on his right hand, his mother on his left, while around him flocked the whole Quaker community. It was one of the women that spake first; but the words of Williamson are alone remembered. "Painting," said he, "has been hitherto employed to embellish life, to preserve voluptuous images, and add to the sensual gratifications of man. For this we classed it among vain and merely ornamental things, and excluded it from among us. But this is not the principle, but the misemployment of painting. In wise and in pure hands it rises in the scale of moral excellence, and displays a loftiness of sentiment and a devout dignity worthy of the contemplation of Christians. I think genius is
'ven by God for some high purpose. What the purpose is, let us not inquire—it will be manifest in his own good time and way. He hath in this remote wilderness endowed with the rich gifts of a superior spirit this youth who has now our consent to cultivate his talents for art—may it be demonstrated in his life and works that the gifts of God have not been bestowed in vain, nor the motives of the beneficent inspiration, which induces us to suspend the strict operation of our tenets, prove barren of religious or moral effect!" "At the conclusion of this address," says Galt, "the women rose and kissed the young artist, and the men, one by one, laid their hands on his head."
That this scene made a strong impression on the mind of West, we have his own assurance; he looked upon himself as expressly dedicated to art— and considered this release from the strict tenet? of his religious community as implying a covenant on his part to employ his powers on subjects holy and pure. The grave simplicity of the Quaker continued to the last in the looks and manners of the artist, and the moral rectitude and internal purity of the man were diffused through all his produc tions.
Being now left more to the freedom of his own will, West deviated into a course not at all professional, but for which the accommodating eloquence of a John Williamson might have conceived a ready apology. He became a soldier. The Friends had not included this among those pure and pious pursuits, which they ascribed to the future painter of history; they expressed, however, neither surprise nor sorrow for this backsliding in Benjamin, nor did they either admonish or remonstrate. He took up a musket—inspired withhis enthusiasm young Wayne, afterward a distinguished officer—and joining the troops of General Forbes, proceeded in search of the relics of that gallant army lost in the desert by the unfortunate General Braddock.