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Somerset House, the picture of the Royal Duke was placed at the foot of his bed. A fit of delirium had subsided: he lifted his head, and said, " There is not colour enough on the back ground." More colour was added: Opie looked at it with great satisfaction, and, said with a smile," Thomson, it will do now—it will do now: if you could not do it, nobody could." The delirium returned, and took its hue from the picture he had just looked at. He imagined himself employed in his favourite pursuit, and continued painting in idea till death interposed, on Thursday, the 9th of April, 1807. On dissection, the lower part of the spinal marrow and its investing membrane were found slightly inflamed, and the brain surcharged with blood. On Monday, April 20, he was interred in St. Paul's Cathedral, near Sir Joshua Reynolds.
In person Opie looked like an inspired peasant: even in his most courtly days there was a country air about him, and ho was abrupt in his language and careless in his dress, without being conscious of either. His looks savoured of melancholy; some have said of moroseness: the portrait which he has left of himself shows a noble forehead and an intellectual eye. There are few who cannot feel his talents, and all must admire his fortitude. He came coarse and uneducated from the country into the polished circles of London; was caressed, invited, praised, and patronised for one little year or so, and then the giddy tide of fashion receded; but he was not left a wreck. He had that strength of mind which triumphs over despair. He estimated the patronage of fickle ignorance at what it was worth, and lived to invest his name with a brighter as weD as steadier halo than that of fashionable wonder.
His literary productions have, I think, been overrated; yet they are respectable; I will even allow them to be wonderful for one in his condition, who had a laborious profession to follow. The gieat defect is what one would least have expected—the want of vigour and energy.
What he thus failed to work into his writings he poured largely into his paintings. There is a freshness of look, and a rude, homely strength in his piclures which belong to the wide academy of nature, and came upon him in Cornwall. He is not a leader, perhaps, but neither is he the servile follower of any man or any school. His original deficiency of imagination no labour could strengthen and no study raise. His model mastered him; and he seemed to want the power of elevating what Was mean, and of substituting the elegant for the vulgar. Opie saw the common but not the poetic nature of his subjects; he had no visions of the grand and the heroic. His pencil could strike out a rough and manly Cromwell, but was unfit to cope with the dark, subtle spirit of a Vane, or the princely eye and bearing of a Falkland or a Montrose. His strength lay in boldness of effect, simplicity of composition, in artless attitudes, and in the vivid portraiture of individual nature.
George Morland, the eldest son of Henry Robert Morland, was born in the Haymarket, London, on the 26th of June, 1763. He came of a race of painters. He was lineally descended from Sir Samuel Morland, an eminent mathematician and artist; his grandfather was a painter, and lived in the lower side of St. James's Square; and his father, after the failure of some extensive speculations, which all Ms biographers have alluded to, but left undescribed, followed the same profession, and painted, drew, and dealt in pictures with such indifferent success, that
his family of three sons and two daughters in indigence and obscurity.
It is said that the elder Morland sought to repair his broken fortunes by the talents of his son George —who, almost as soon as he escaped from the cradle, took to the pencil a^d crayon, and showed that he inherited art the natural way. The indications of early talent in others are nothing compared to his. At four, five, and six years of age, he made drawings worthy of ranking him among the common race of students; the praise bestowed on these by the Society of Artists, to whom they were exhibited, and the money which collectors were willing to pay for the works of this new wonder, induced his father to urge him onward in his studies—and his progress was rapid. But it is a dangerous thing to overtask either the mind or the body at these years, and there is every reason to believe that young Morland suffered both of these evils. His father stimulated him by praise and by indulgences at the table, and to ensure
he became bankrupt, and
lelled to bring up his continuance at his allotted tasks, shut him up in a garret, and excluded him from free air, which strengthens the body, and from education—that free air which nourishes the mind. His stated work for a time was making drawings from pictures and from plaster casts, which his father carried out and sold; but as he increased in skill, he chose his subjects from popular songs and ballads, such as "Young Roger came tapping at Dolly's window," "My name it is Jack Hall," "I am a bold shoemaker, from Belfast town I came," and other productions of the mendicant muse. The copies of pictures and casts were commonly sold for three half-crowns each; the original sketches—some of them a little free in posture, and not over delicately handled, were framed and disposed of for any sum from two to five guineas, according to the cleverness of the piece, or the generosity of the purchaser. Though far inferior to the productions of his manhood, they were much admired; engravers found it profitable to copy them, and before he was sixteen years old, his name had flown far and wide.
But long before he was sixteen, he had begun to form those unfortunate habits by which the story of his life is to be darkened. From ten years of age, he appears to have led the life of a prisoner and a slave under the roof of his father, hearing in this seclusion the merry din of the schoolboys in the street, without hope of partaking in their sports. By-and-by he managed to obtain an hour's relaxation at the twilight, and then associated with such idle and profligate boys as chance threw in his way, and learned from them a love of coarse enjoyment, and the knowledge that it could not well be obtained without money. Oppression keeps the school of Cunning; young Morland resolved not only to share in the profits of his own talents, but also to snatch an hour or so of amusement, without consulting his father. When he made three drawings for his father. II.—P
he made one secretly for himself, and giving a signal from his window, lowered it by a string to two or three knowing boys, who found a purchaser at a reduced price, and spent the money with the young artist. A common tap-room was an indifferent school of manners, whatever it might be for painting, and there this gifted lad was now often to be found late in the evening, carousing with hostlers and potboys, handing round the quart pot, and singing his song or cracking his joke.
His father, having found out the contrivance by which he raised money for this kind of revelry, adopted, in his own imagination, a wiser course. He resolved to make his studies as pleasant to him as he could; and as George was daily increasing in fame and his works in price, this could be done without any loss. He indulged his son, now some sixteen years old, with wine, pampered his appetite with richer food, and moreover allowed him a little pocket-money to spend among his companions, and purchase acquaintance with what the vulgar call life. He dressed him, too, in a style of ultra-dandyism, and exhibited him at his easel to his customers, attired in a green coat with very long skirts, and immense yellow buttons, buckskin breeches, and top-boots with spurs. He permitted him too to sing wild songs, swear grossly, and talk about any tiling he liked with such freedom as makes anxious parents tremble. With all these indulgences the boy was not happy; he aspired but the more eagerly after full liberty and the unrestrained enjoyment of the profits of his pencil.
During this feverish period he was introduced to Reynolds, obtained permission to copy some of his works, and began to be very generally noticed as an artist of no common promise. His father was his constant companion when he went out a-copying: more, it is said, though it can scarcely be believed, with the intention of seizing upon his productions,