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also came for their likenesses; he tried again and again, without success, and dismissed them in despair.'-pp. 335, 336.
Garrick related to Reynolds an account of his sitting to Gainsborough.
• Every time the artist turned his back the actor put on a change of countenance, till the former in a passion dashed his pencils on the floor, and cried, " I believe I am painting from the devil rather than from a man."?_vol. i.
251. The circumstances which attended the death of this admirable artist are singular. He made one of a select company which dined with Sir George Beaumont, on one occasion, when he was observed to be unusually depressed :
• At length he took Sheridan by the hand, led him out of the room, and said, “Now don't laugh, but listen. I shall die soon-I know it I feel it-1 have less time to live than my looks infer—but for this I care not. What oppresses my mind is this I have many acquaintances and few friends; and as I wish to have one worthy man to accompany me to the grave, I am desirous of bespeaking you-will you come-aye or no?" Sheridan could scarcely repress a smile, as he made the required promise ; the looks of Gainsborough cleared up like the sunshine of one of his own landscapes; throughout the rest of the evening his wit flowed, and his humour ran over, and the minutes, like those of the poets, winged their way with pleasure.'—vol. i. pp. 337, 338.
* About a year after the promise obtained from Sheridan to attend his funeral, he went to hear the impeachment of Warren Hastings, and sitting with his back to an open window, suddenly felt something inconceivably cold touch his neck above the shirt collar. It was accompanied with stiffness and pain. On returning home, he mentioned what he felt to his wife and niece; and, on looking, they saw a mark, about the size of a shilling, which was harder to the touch than the surrounding skin, and which he said still felt cold. The application of flannel did not remove it, and the artist, becoming alarmed, consulted, one after the other, the most eminent surgeons of London-John Hunter himself the last. They all declared there was no danger; but there was that presentiment upon Gainsborough, from which none, perhaps, escape. He laid his hand repeatedly on his neck, and said to his sister, who had hastened to London to see him, “ If this be a cancer, I am a dead man. And a cancer it proved to be.'-vol. i.
He died 2d August, 1783, in the 61st year of his age.
We come now to the life of the most singular artist of all the collection,-Benjamin West,-composed of too many details to allow us to do justice to its curious and instructive course. His infancy and youth were influenced by the strongest impressions, received from the peculiar people amongst whom he was born in America, that he was a special commissioner sent by God to perform some mighty project, through means of his pencil. When he went to Italy, to study his art, the most extraordinary condescension was shewn to him by all ranks. Mr. Galt, who has completely antici
pated our author in the whole of the interesting part of West's life, tells us-
• “ Thirty of the most magnificent equipages in the capital of Christendom, and filled with some of the most erudite characters in Europe,” conducted the young Quaker to view the master-pieces of art.'-vol. ii. p. 20.
This notion of his high destiny remained in West's mind throughout the whole of his career; and the patronage which he so extensively obtained when he started as an artist, as well as the friendship of George the Third, made very little change in the feelings of a man, who had been prepared by prophecy to expect such good things. Occasionally, his cool and solemn vanity broke out in a most ludicrous manner. During the short peace he went to Paris, where he outshone even the First Consul himself as an object of popular attraction.
«Wherever I went,” he said, men looked at me, and ministers and people of influence in the state were constantly in my company. I was one day in the Louvre-all eyes were upon me; and I could not help observing to Charles Fox, who happened to be walking with me, how strong was the love of art, and admiration of its professors in France.” ?—vol. ii.
pp. 51, 52.
West was introduced by Dr. Drummond to the King, his Majesty having received a very favourable account of the young man, previously.
* The King received West with easy frankness, assisted him to place the Agrippiva in a favourable light, removed the attendants, and brought in the Queen, to whom he presented our Quaker. He related to her Majesty the history of the picture, and bade her notice the simplicity of the design and the beauty of the colouring. “There is another noble Roman subject,” observed bis Majesty, “ the departure of Regulus from Rome—would it not make a fine picture?" "It is a magnificent subject," said the painter. “Then,” said the King, "you shall paint it for me.” He turned with a smile to the Queen, and said, “ The Archbishop made one of his sons read Tacitus to Mr. West, but I will read Livy to him myselfthat part where he describes the departure of Regulus." So saying, he read the passage very gracefully, and then repeated his command that the picture should be painted.'—vol. ii. pp. 31, 32.
But of one whose history has recently attracted so much attention, it is not necessary that we should prolong our account. As illustrating the secret history of painting, as a national art, there is a great deal in West's life that is highly important. We conclude with a description of his person, which, as far as we remember, is accurate.
• Benjamin West was in person above the middle size, of a fair complexion, and firmly and compactly built. His serene brow betokened command of temper, whilst his eyes, sparkling and vivacious, promised lively remarks and pointed sayings, in which he by no means abounded.—Intercourse with courts and with the world, which changes so many, made no change in his sedate sobriety of sentiment and happy propriety of manner, the results of a devout domestic education. His kindness to young artists was great-his liberality seriously impaired his income-he never seemed weary of giving advice-intrusion never disturbed his temper—nor could the tediousness of the dull ever render him either impatient or peevish. Whatever he knew in art he readily imparted—he was always happy to think that art was advancing, and no mean jealousy of other men's good fortune ever invaded bis repose. His vanity was amusing and amiableand his belief-prominent in every page of the narrative which he dictated to his friend Mr. Galt—that preaching and prophecy had predestined him to play a great part before mankind, and be an example to all prosperity, did no one any harm, and himself some good.'—vol. ii. p.
56. What a fantastic combination was Barry, or rather, “ Poor Barry,”—all the feelings which his history excites in the mind being concentrated in these two words,“ Poor Barry." How wayward in pursuing his art, how enthusiastic his devotion to it; how frugal, how indigent; and, as if to complete the antithetic climax, folly was his guide, and the great Burke his tutor. Barry, a man of undoubtedly splendid genius, though of humble origin, was blessed with all the advantages of professional education which wealth could procure. Burke's kindness enabled him to go to Italy, to sojourn there, and, when he came to England, to avail himself of all the benefits of the best society. In no part of his most useful life does Burke appear to us so amiable, and at the same time so grand, as a philosopher, as in his familiar letters to Barry. Indeed, an exact summary of Barry's varied career was drawn up in the prophetic eloquence of his friend, long before Barry came to England.
• You will come here: you will observe what the artists are doing: and you will sometimes speak disapprobation in plain words, and sometimes in no less expressive silence : by degrees you will produce some of your own works. They will be variously criticized: you will defend them; you will abuse those who have attacked you: expostulations, discussions, letters, possibly challenges, will go forward-you will shun your brethren—they will shup you. In the mean time gentlemen will avoid your friendship, for fear of being engaged in your quarrels : you will fall into distress, which will only aggravate your disposition for further quarrels; you will be obliged, for maintenance, to do any thing for any body: your very talents will depart for want of hope and encouragement, and will go out of the world fretted, disappointed, and ruined. Nothing but my real regard for you could induce me to set these considerations in this light before you. Remember, we are born to serve and to adorn our country, and not to contend with our fellow citizens—and that in particular, your business is to paint and not to dispute.”—vol. ii. p. 81, 82.
Barry, unlike Reynolds, or Hogarth, who properly yielded to the taste for portrait painting in their day, obstinately persisted in occupying himself with grand and abstract subjects. The consequence was, that he lived poor; poverty edged his naturally irascible temper, and even Burke was estranged from him, nearly for ever, in consequence of his intolerable conduct. He had an unfortunate art in multiplying enemies, and always contrived to keep himself in hot water with them. He at length became neglectful of his person, which is the most undoubted presage of a great mental 'decadence; he lived in wretched lodgings, and contented himself with miserable accommodation. The following picture is calculated to excite the most mournful feelings:
“ His residence in Castle-street, though wearing a decent exterior, when he took possession, soon corresponded in look with tbe outward man of its master. The worst inn's worst room, in which the poet places the expiring Villiers, was equalled, if not surpassed, by that in which Barry slept, ate, and meditated, in perfect satisfaction and security. His own character, and whole system of in-door economy, were exhibited in a dinner he gave Mr. Burke.' No one was better acquainted with the singular manners of this very singular man than the great statesman; he wished, however, to have occular demonstration how he managed his household concerns in the absence of wife or servant, and requested to be asked to dinner. “Sir," said Barry, with much cheerfulness, “ you know I live alone; but if you will come and help me to eat a steak, I shall have it tender and hot, and from the most classic market in London—that of Oxford.” The day and the hour came, and Burke, arriving at No. 36, Castle-street, found Barry ready to receive him; he was conducted into the painting-room, which had undergone no change since it was a carpenter's shop. On one of the walls hung his large picture of Pandora, and round it were placed the studies of the Six Pictures of the Adelphi. There were, likewise, old straining frames, old sketches, a printing-press, in which he printed his plates with his own hand; the labours, too, of the spider abounded, and rivalled, in extent and colour, pieces of old tapestry.
• Burke saw all this, yet wisely seemed to see it not. He observed, too, that most of the windows were broken or cracked, that the roof, which had no ceiling, admitted the light through many crevices in the tiling, and that two old chairs and a deal table composed the whole of the furniture. The fire was burning brightly; the steaks were put on to broil, and Barry, having spread a clean cloth on the table, put a pair of tongs in the hands of Burke, saying, “ Be useful, my dear friend, and look to the steaks till 1 fetch the porter.” Burke did as he was desired: the painter soon returned with the porter in his hand, exclaiming, “ What a misfortune! the wind carried away the fine foaming top, as I crossed Tichfield-street." They sat down together; the steak was tender and done to a moment ; the artist was full of anecdote, and Burke often declared, that he never spent a happier evening in his life. Such is the story which has been often written and often repeated, and always with variations. Something like the scene thus disclosed to Mr. Burke was exhibited some time afterwards to another eminent person, whose friendship has enabled me to enrich my narrative with the following graphic account:
• “I wish (says Mr. Southey) I could tell you anything which might be found useful in your succeeding volumes. i knew Barry, and have been admitted into his den in his worst (that is to say, his maddest) days, when he was employed upon the Pandora. He wore at that time an old coat of green baize; but from which time had taken all the green that incrustations of paint and dirt had not covered. His wig was one which you might suppose he had borrowed from a scare-crow; all round it there projected a fringe of his own gray hair. He lived alone, in a house which was never cleaned; and he slept on a bedstead, with no other furniture than a blanket nailed on the one side. I wanted him to visit me. No, he said, he could not go out by day, because he could not spare time from his great picture; and if he went out in the evening, the Academicians would waylay him, and murder him. In this solitary, sullen life he continued till he fell ill, very probably from want of food sufficiently nourishing; and after lying two or three days under his blanket, he had just strength enough to crawl to his own door, open it, and lay himself down, with a paper in his hand, on which he had written his wish to be carried to the house of Mr. Carlyle, (Sir Anthony,) in Soho-square. There he was taken care of; and the danger from which he had ihus escaped seems to have cured his mental hallucinations. He cast his slough afterwards ; appeared decently dressed in his own gray hair, and mixed in such society as he liked.
"" I should have told you, that a little before his illness, he had, with much persuasion, been induced to pass a night at some person's house in the country. When he came down to breakfast the next morning, and one asked how he had rested, he said, remarkably well; he had not slept in sheets for many years, and really he thought it was a very comfortable thing. He interlarded his conversations with oaths, as expletives; but it was pleasant to converse with him : there was a frankness and animation about him, which won good-will, as much as his vigorous intellect commanded respect. There is a story of his having refused to paint portraits, and saying, in answer to applications, that there was a man in Leicestersquare who did it. But this, he said, was false : for that he would, at any time, have painted portraits, and have been glad 10 paint them." '.-vol. ii. pp. 123–126.
Barry expired in poverty in the year 1806, being then nearly 65 years of age.
From Barry we turn to William Blake, an extraordinary lunatic; his whole time, and a genius of no common cast, were devoted to the embodying of those wild and absurd visions, in which the poor man constantly indulged to the hour of his death. A due estimate of his excesses can be formed alone by a perusal of his very singular histories. He has published some works.
“He informs us, that certain painters were demons, let loose on earth to confound the “sharp wiry outline,” and fill men's minds with fears and perturbations. He signifies that he himself was, for some time, a miserable instrument in the hands of Chiaro-Scuro demons, who employed him in making
experiment pictures in oil." “ These pictures,” says he,“ were the result of temptations and perturbations labouring to destroy imaginative power by means of that infernal machine, called Chiaro-Scuro, in the hands of Venetian and Flemish demons, who hate the Roman and Venetian schools. They cause that every thing in art shall become a machine ; they cause that the execution shall be all blocked up with brown shadows; they put the artist in fear and doubt of his own original conception. The spirit of Titian was particularly active in raising doubts concerning the possibility of executing without a model. Rubens is a most outrageous demon, and