Abbildungen der Seite

pock-fritted hard-featured little fellow as I am: .... so that I shall be surprised if you have not been frightened with the terrible accounts given of me." The answer of Mr. Burks to all this is marked by his uncommon qualities of head and heart—it shows intimate knowledge of the world and its ways, and a perfect appreciation of the failings and excellences of the singular person to whom it is addressed. The date is London, 16th September, 1769.

"As to reports, my dear Barry, concerning your conduct and behaviour, you may be very sure they would have no kind of influence here; for none of us are of such a make as to trust to any one's report for the character of a person whom we ourselves know. Until very lately I have never heard any thing of your proceedings from others; and when I did, it was much less than I had known from myself —that you had been upon ill terms with the artists and virtuosi of Rome, without much mention of cause or consequence. If you have improved these unfortunate quarrels to your advancement in your art, you have turned a very disagreeable circumstance to a very capital advantage. However you may have succeeded in this uncommon attempt^ permit me to suggest to you with that friendly liberty which you have always had the goodness to bear from me, that you cannot possibly always have the same success, either with regard to your fortune or your reputation. Depend upon it that you will find the same competitions, the same jealousies, the same arts and cabals, the emulations of interest and of fame, and the same agitations and passions here that you have experienced in Italy; and if they have the same effect on your temper, they will have just the same effects on your interest; and be your merit what it will, you will never be allowed to paint a picture. It will be the same at London as at Rome, and the same in Paris as in London : for the world is pretty nearly alike in all its parts: nay, though erhaps it would be a little inconvenient to me. 1 ad a thousand times rather you should fix your residence in Rome than here, as I should not then have the mortification of seeing with my own eyes, a genius of the first rank, lost to the world, himself and his friends, as I certainly must if you do not assume a manner of acting and thinking here totally different from what your letters from Rome have described to me. That you had just subjects of indignation always, and of anger often, I do noways doubt; -who can live in the world without some trial of his patience? But believe me, my dear Barry, that the arms with which the ill-dispositions of the world are to be combated, and the qualities by which it is to be reconciled to us, and we reconciled to it, are moderation, gentleness, a little indulgence to others, and a great deal of distrust of ourselves; which are not qualities of a mean spirit, as some may possibly think them, but virtues of a great and noble kind, and such as dignify our nature as much as they contribute to our repose and fortune; for nothing can be so unworthy of a well-composed soul as to pass away life in bickerings and litigations; in snarling and scuffling with pvery one about lis. Again and again, my dear Barry, we must be at peace with our species, if not for their sakes, yet very much for own."

The conclusion of this memorable letter seems dictated by a species of inspiration, which, looking mournfully and prophetically forwards, expressed in a few, clear, and eloquent words, the disastrous | career of the object of all this solicitude.

"Think what my feelings must be, from my un feigned regard for you, and from my wishes that your talents might be of use, when I see what the inevitable consequences must be of your persevering in what has hitherto been your course ever since I knew yon, and which you will permit me to tracf out to you beforehand. 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 criticised: you will defend them: you will abuse those who have attacked you: expostulations, discussions, letters, possibly challengis, will go forward—you will shun your brethren—they will shun 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 farther 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 you 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 wi'it our fellow-citizens—and that in particular, your business is to paint and not to dispute."

It really appears that Barry imagined himself all this while one of the meekest beings that ever studied the antique. The fear of some and the hatred of others he imputed to any cause save his own headlong impetuosity of temper; nay, he actually seems to have supposed that his scornful sallies and sarcastic criticisms would be received with thankfulness, since they sprung from nothingbut zeal for the benefit of art. From the first day of his appearance in Rome, he took the station of a judge, and delivered opinions with the intrepidity of one grown gray in study and in fame. All this in a young man of three or four and twenty, who could not as yet appeal to the excellence of his own works as his warrant, was not likely to be received with gratitude, particularly by a proverbially thin skinned and irritable tribe. Yet he never con

Vol. Ii.—a

ceived he was to blame, and wrote down art as largely his debtor for candour and boldness. He defied the world, but he defended himself to Burke. "Your friendship is, I think, as visible in the warm picture you have drawn of my contentious disposition, as in any other part of your generous conduct towards me; but then shall i assure you tha^I am not that censorious inspector and publisher of the defects of other artists? No; you know me better, notwithstanding what you have said, and I know, whether from my vanity or my virtue, if I have any, you will never meet with an artist more warm and just to the merit of his brethren, or more inclined to overlook their deficiencies than I am."

A charge of a graver nature than infirmity of temper, after having long been whispered about in professional coteries, has lately been set forth in Mr. Smith's Life of Nollekens. "Barry, the historical painter," says this writer, "who was extremely intimate with Nollekens at Rome, took the liberty one night, when they were about to leave the English Coffee-house, to exchange hats with him. Barry's hat was edged with lace, and Nollekens' was a very shabby plain one. Upon his returning the hat next morning, he was requested by Nollekens to let him know why he left him his goldlaced hat. 'Why, to tell you the truth, my dear Joey,' answered Barry, • 1 fully expected assassination last night, and I was to have been known by my gold laced hat.' This villanous transaction, which might have proved fatal to Nollekens, I have often heard him relate, and he generally added, 'It's what the Old Bailly people would call a true bill against Jem.'"

Such is Smith's story; and it is well known to many that Nollekens often related it—but nevertheless we must receive it with distrust and suspicion. Barry was fierce, sullen, and sarcastic, but I cannot believe him capable of an atrocity. At all events he was not a foo.—and that he should put the life of an innocent man in jeopardy at night to save his own, and in the morning acknowledge his guilt so gayly to his intended victim, appears incredible. The story must have originated in some practical joke—some betting speculation, perhaps, upon the well-known weakness of Nollekens. No one who knew Barry could believe him guilty of conduct at once so base and so absurd; and Indeed the Sculptor appears to have sufficiently refuted the serious interpretation of his own story, by promoting the interests and defending the cause of Barry in the Koyal Academy, when all others had forsaken him.

Barry had now remained five years in Rome. He had examined, and studied, and copied those works on which the world had set the seal of approbation. Nor had he laboured for subsistence, for the munificence of Burke and his brothers had placed him. above want; he was requested to draw upon them for such sums as he might require beyond his stated allowance of fifty pounds a year. He had, in short, laid in an ample stock of knowledge; and was now about to return to England, to carry his acquirements into practice. Something like misgivings from time to time came across his mind; he had doubts of final success, and even fears, now and then, that he might have after all mistaken the proper course of study, and bowed to false gods. "Oh, I could be happy," he very movingly says, "on my going home, to find some corner where I could sit down in the middle of my studies, books, and casts after the antique, to paint this work and others, where I might have models of nature when necessary, bread and soup, and a coat to cover me! I should care not what became of my work when it was done, but I reflect with horror upon such a fellow as I am. and with such a kind of art in London, with house rent to pay, duns to follow me, and

« ZurückWeiter »