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when Bird was in his thirty-fifth year. His sketchbooks, says Mr. Murphy, were at that time filled with subjects fit to expand into paintings, and contained scenes of all kind, serious and comic. They were marked by an original spirit, and showed a natural skill in grouping. The Interior of a Volunteer's Cottage was the subject of one of his works; and Clowns dancing in an Ale-house another. The threats of a French invasion had
"Brought the freeman's arm to aid the freeman's laws,"
and Bird had the bayonet of a volunteer at that time in his hands. He was surrounded by a growing family. Fame and money were both desirable, and they were both obtained. Art cannot be followed without incurring expense; and the very reputation which genius acquires is a tax upon the pocket by bringing friends and strangers. Our painter's heart opened with his fortune: he was never a profuse, but always a very liberal man.
His first successful work, if we measure success by the applause of the world, was called "Good News." Some of his earlier pictures, [ have heard good judges say, were of higher merit—and this is not unlikely; it seldom happens that the first original work which genius produces seizes the attention of mankind; it is considered by many as the lucky hit of an ordinary mind, and passed by till it is recalled to notice by a continuation of works from the same hand. "The Choristers Rehearsing" and "The Will" followed, and received equal praise, and, what was not less fortunate, obtained purchasers of high distinction: his present Majesty bought the first, and added judicious commendation to liberal payment; and the other was purchased by the late Marquis of Hastings. The Royal Academy soon afterward conferred honoar on themselves by enrolling our self-taught artist among their number.
His next work was his most poetical, and decidedly his best one. This is a representation of the Field of Chevy Chase on the day after the battle. It is painted in the mournful spirit with which the glorious old ballad concludes, and cannot well be looked on without tears. These are the words imbodied:
"Of fifteen hundred Englishmen
Next day did many widows come
Their husbands to bewayle;
But ail would not prevayle.
Theyr bodyes bathed in purple blood
They bare with them away;
Ere they were cladd in clay.
Of this heroic ballad, which Sir Philip Sydney said roused him like the sound of a trumpet, and which Ben Johnson affirmed was well worth all his dramas, the people of England are great admirers, and among the peasantry of the south it is almost the only one known. When they saw a painting which gave a life-like and touching image of a scene often present to the fancy, they were loud in its praise. Lady Percy is, with perfect propriety, made a visiter of the fatal field: she appears in deep agony beside the body of her lord. The old Minstrel thought proper to slay Percy by the spear of Sir Hugh Montgomery, and \ye appeal to history in vain against the poet's decision. The gentle Kate of Shakspeare, who said to Hotspur, in his interview with Glendower, "Lie still, thou thief, and hear the Welch lady sing," had that sorrowful duty to perform at the battle of Shrewsbury, stricken many years after Otterbourne. This exquisite piece, which should have been purchased by some wealthy Douglas or Percy, was bought for 300 guineas by the Marquis of Stafford; while Mr. (now Sir Walter) Scott acquired the original sketch. The same munificent nobleman purchased Bird's next picture, the Death of Eli, for 500 guineas; and the British Institution added their testimony to its merits, by presenting the painter with their premium, amounting to £315.
Concerning the picture of the Deathof Eli a curious story was circulated. Bristol long endured the reproach of parsimony both in prose and verse. Two English poets have expressed themselves with no measured bitterness of spirit concerning the sordid spirit of its merchants. Thus sings Savage—
"Upstarts and mushrooms; proud, relentless hearts,
rVhd Robert Lovell is equally severe—
u No mild urbanity attracts the sight,
If such reproaches were ever due, they are so no longer: Bristol has now her literary and scientific institutions, and can point to many individuals of the most refined manners as well as the most generous liberality among her citizens. Touched somewhat, however, with the spirit described in Lovell's verses, three gentlemen of that city subscribed 100 pounds each, and commissioned, as it is called, a picture from the pencil of Bird. He painted the Death of Eli. The lucky proprietors sold it for 500 guineas; and, inspired with this, perhaps, unexpected profit, clubbed their hundreds again, and waited on he painter with a fresh commission. But he had no wish to have his brains sucked at that rate, and declined their proposal. The meaning of these citizens in their first offer was kindly; they wished to inspire the artist with a proper confidence, and made remuneration certain; but they could not resist the temptation of gain. They ought to have paid Bird the whole sum which they received, and not sought to enrich themselves under pretence of friendship. But neither the satire of poets nor individual parsimony must conceal the fact that Bristol took an affectionate interest in his prosperity, and that he found many friends and patrons among her citizens.
Business about this time took Bird to his native town. He was personally recognised by many, and received with an enthusiasm which would have been creditable to a place of higher pretensions. His early companions gathered about him, and he made them cordially welcome. Many of those persons survive, and they all, and of their own accord, when his name is mentioned, speak first of the active kindness of his heart, and then of the early indications of his talents. "I knew Ned Bird, sir," said one of those humble friends, " when he was a boy at school; he never thought of himself; he would give the one-half of his dinner to a beggar-woman and the other to a lame soldier, and fast upon his lesson." Nor had increase of years hardened his heart. One night, as he was on his way to his lodging, a woman ran wildly out of a door, crying, "My child! my child!" Bird went into her house and finding one of her children in strong convulsions, instantly brought a physician. "Look to the boy," said Bird, " and look also to the mother; she seems to need it much: I will pay for all." He returned next day, gave the poor widow a present of money, and when the child, which recovered only for a short time, died, he buried it at his own expense.
On his return to Bristol he recommenced his studies. His chief merit as an artist lay in natural and touching representations of homely and social thing's: history, either profane or sacred, required a spirit more in unison with the magnificent and the majestic, and an imagination of a more heroic order. He had seen the living nature which the former requires, and had taken frequent sittings: he had to conceive the nature which belongs to the latter, and in that rare quality he was found deficient.
His picture of " Good News" is a happy performance. The group which he assembled in the little ale-house has no doubt recalled similar scenes to all who have observed it. "The Blacksmith's Shop," an early painting of much promise, was touched with the same spirit of social glee; and the " Country Auction" is ranked by many as one of his cleverest pictures. The sound of the auctioneer's hammer has called together a motley crowd, all anxious to bid for articles, and all bidding in character. An old gray-headed peasant has bought a large Bible; his son-in-law hesitates between a punch-bowl and a cradle; and his daughter sees nothing but the glitter of a tea-table service. A cautious gamekeeper and a bustling butcher are contending' for a fowling-piece. A little girl has placed a burnished cullender above her curls, and eyes a minor with much satisfaction; while a gaping crowd of rustic connoisseurs are examining, with all the empty sagacity of a committee of taste, into the merits of an old daubing about to be exposed for sale. The colouring of the whole is mellow and harmonious.
Nor was he less skilful in subjects where the interest was confined to a single figure with little action. When he happened to meet an original-looking personage, young or old, his practice was to make a rude sketch on the spot—return to his study—assign to the figure some characteristic employment—expand it upon the canvass, and give" it all the charm of colouring. He painted such works with astonishing rapidity; the picture existed complete in his mind, and an effort of art and memory reproduced