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it. During the stormy season of 1812 he was in London—found a famishing match-girl in the street —painted her in character in three days, and sold the work for thirty guineas. An old man seeking alms came across his way; of him too he took a characteristic likeness—half real and half imaginative, and with equal success. Accurate copies of nature he disliked: he took a poetic license with his subjects; he had a happy knack in combination, and formed clever and consistent groups out of very discordant materials. "He could," said one of his admirers," extract delight and joy out of any thing: I mean personally ag well as with his pencil." "The Gipsy Boy," " The Young Recruit," " Meg Merrilies," a Game at Put," and various other paintings, are all instances of his skill in adapting living life to the. purposes of art. In this respect he resembled Opie. When one of his friends congratulated him upon the rapidity with which he dashed off his lesser, but his happier works, Bird said, "Yes, I can do them quickly; but it will not do to tell the world how soon I can paint such things." They who believe that what is done well cannot have been done quickly, are often mistaken.
The reputation of these paintings recalled public attention to his earlier productions, and " The Village Politicians," a cabinet picture, and "The Poacher," in six scenes, came out of obscurity. In these six pictures he conducts a peasants from his happy fireside through the varied fortunes of a poacher's life: seeking fpr game with his companion; f carrying it home to his wife and children; selling it by lamp-light to the guard of a coach; betrayed by his comrade; admonished by a clergyman in prison; and restored to his family an amended man with a resolution to be wise in future. I fear the poacher's career seldom terminates in a manner so pleasant to contemplate.
Sometime during the year 1813, Bird obtained the notice of the Princess Charlotte, who, young as she was, perceived the true native excellence of his works, and expressed a wish to see the artist. He was introduced, accordingly, at Warwick House, and was charmed, as all were, by the grace and kindly dignity of her manners. Encouraged by her courtesy, which had no chilling stateliness about it, he spoke readily and well, and acquitted himself so cleverly that her Royal Highness took an opportunity of saying to Mr. Murphy, who introduced him, " Mr. Bird is a very well-bred man—he has a natural politeness about him." The Princess promised him her support, and appointed him her painter, on which he made her a present of a work he had lately finished—" The Surrender of Calais." This was a favourite production, and he desired, very properly, to place it in the best company: alas I in that enviable situation it was not long to remain. That sad event happened which brought tears to all eyes, and of which one of our best poets has so mournfully sung.
"In its summer pride arrayed
On the death of our painter, his widow wished to exhibit his works, and applied to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg for the loan of "The Surrender of Calais:" the Prince did more than was asked, or expected, or indeed wished—he presented the painting to Mrs. Bird, accompanied by a donation of a hundred pounds.
During one Qf his visits to London, Bird sat for
bis bust to Chantrey; and the writer of this very imperfect account had thus many opportunities of conversing with him. He said he had no regular system of study; he painted or sketched just as it suited him, and when once he had sat resolutely down to his easel, it was no easy thing to make him quit it. The subject once settled, he generally painted fast, and when fastest, best. He wrought much by candlelight, and in this manner he painted his Death of Eli. At this time Mr. Chantrey was •busied with one of his cleverest works—the figure of Lady Louisa Russell—a child fondling a bird in her bosom, and standing on tiptoe with delight. As the sculptor was anxious to have it ready for the approaching Exhibition, he stuck a candle in the front of his hat, took a chisel in his hand, and laboured at the statue during the evenings. On one or more of those occasions, Bird was his companion. The light in the sculptor's hat glimmered as he moved his head among busts, and groups, and statues—some emerging from the block, some rough-hewn, and others fully finished. The singular scene took the painter's fancy, and he resolved to make a picture of it. I wish he had finished this very original design: he left it sketched in oil. Chantrey appears in the act of carving one of the feet of the figure, surrounded by his other works, over which there is shed a partial illumination. When the bust of Bird was finished, Skirving of Edinburgh, an artist of some talent and more eccentricity, paid the gallery of the sculptor a visit. He fixed his eye on the bust of the painter and said to the person who showed it, "Well—and who is that?" "It is Bird—Bird of Bristol." "Bird! what strange bird is he?" "He is an eminent painter." "Painter! and what does he paint 1" "Ludicrous subjects, sir." "Ludicrous subjects! have you sat?" Upon this the other answered, "Yes, he has had one sitting; but when he heard that a gentleman with a white hat, and who wore no neckcloth, had arrived from the North, he said,' Go, go—I know of a subject more ludicrous still: Mr. Skirving is come.'"
These visits to London, and his admiration of the historical pictures of the great painters, wrought a sore change on Bird: he forsook that style of art natural to his feelings, and dedicated his pencil to far other aspirations. He became affected with a kind of Scripture mania. He thought only of sublime passages in the Bible, and scenes of religious tragedy which the Reformation furnished. The fortitude of Job, the Death of Saphira, the Crucifixion, and the burning of Ridley and Latimer, are among his latter works: they found admirers and purchasers. There is considerable talent in these paintings and some pathos; but they are deficient in that regal loftiness of look which the subjects require, and without which merely clever works are but processions of puppets. Our Redeemer's Atonement had already been painted by higher hands, and the Martyrdom of the Bishops is a subject too horrible for any genius to render acceptable.
Those works having failed to yield fame to the artist in proportion to the toil they cost him, he filled up the measure of his sorrow by attempting what I may call the political style of art. The times in which Bird lived teemed with events of vast importance: kings and thrones appeared and disappeared like figures in a disturbed dream; and the splendid sun of Napoleon was setting as it rose, in blood. We all remember, and many of us witnessed, the departure of Louis XVIII. from his English exile for Paris. The painter had awakened a deep interest by his Surrender of Calais: he probably imagined that the farther he came down the stream of national story, the interest of the subject would increase; and in an evil hour for his own happiness, he resolved to paint the Embarkation of the French Kin? and his attendants.
Of this work—which proved to be his last —Bird soon made the sketch, and all that he wanted was the likenesses of certain important personages. From Louis himself and his courtiers—men who, having suffered from oppression, had learned to be merciful—he received polite and kind attention. The old King praised the generous English, and the Dutchess of Angouleme spoke highly to the honoin of our ladies. But some of the nobles of his native land, whom he wished to introduce, were by no means so tractable to our artist; who seems indeed to have been little skilled in the arts of courtly conciliation. They answered his applications very civilly, but day after day neglected to bestow on him the necessary sittings. His patience and at length his health failed him, after a sore trial of many months. The death of a son and a daughter, whom he tenderly loved, pressed grievously about the same period upon his feelings; he grew peevish and dejected, and a drooping look and unsteady step began to give notice that his days were numbered.
It is painful to think that the sensitive feelings of a man of genius should have been at the mercy of people thus unconscious or neglectful of its claims; but it is still more painful to think that he dedicated his time to processions and pageants, in which the likenesses of such ephemeral personages were necessary to his purpose. Bird slowly sunk under the pressing misery of hope deferred, diplomatic excuses and courtly delays; and on the 2d day of November, 1819, felt no longer the insolence of office. He died in the forty-eighth year of his age, and was buried in the cloisters of Bristol Cathedral.
Three hundred gentlemen of Bristol joined in the funeral procession of their favourite painter, and