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models for him to follow, as far as execution was concerned. He saw
however that these masters were probably right even in this respect,
when the dignity and purity of their aim, and when subject, place, and
dimensions are duly considered. His imitation of them therefore began
when he endeavoured to define the end and object of the particular style
of art which he himself professed; and although he soon concluded that
it required a widely different treatment, he failed not to translate, if
we may so say, the causes of the grandeur he admired into the language
which belonged to his own department. What he considered the distinctive
and desirable requisites of portrait painting to consist in, may be best
learnt from his own works. In the first place, the more delicate
refinements of colouring and chiaro-scuro, by no means essential in the
grander and more abstract department of the art, are indispensable where
the imitation is confined to a single and generally a defective person.
It is thus that Rembrandt made up the _sum_ of beauty by the
fascinations of gradation and contrast, while the forms he had to deal
with were often of the most ordinary description. The just imitation of
the colour of flesh, the most beautiful and at the same time the most
nameless hue in nature, has ever been considered the triumph of
imitative art, and confers value and dignity on the _work_ wherever it
is fully accomplished. Again, it must be remembered that the domain of
expression begins with the accidents of form; that it belongs to and
often recommends individuality and redeems deformity; and that its vivid
interest is to be sought less in the abstract personifications of
Michael Angelo, far less in the higher region of beauty which the Greeks
justly placed above the atmosphere of the passions, than in the
varieties of accidental nature. Reynolds seized on the delicacies of
expression as strictly harmonizing with the individual forms he had to
copy: and, while thus adding a charm to his class of art, he became at
the same time the abler portrait painter; for the character and
expression of the individual are the chief points which are demanded.
Lastly, the conduct and execution of his pictures were in strict
conformity with the same principles, and may be said to have been
dictated by the largest view of the nature and means of the art.

In his works the attention is always attracted by the important objects,
or diverted from them, when diverted, only to conceal the artifice which
thus commands the eye of the spectator. It is evident that the general
degree of completeness will depend on that of the principal object; and
assuming that Reynolds’s style of painting a head was sufficiently
elaborate (it is generally less so than Vandyck’s), the _unfinish_ of
the accessories could hardly be otherwise than it is, consistently with
due subordination. The truth of this consistency of style was ultimately
acknowledged, and although so opposite from what had before been in
fashion, and so different in many respects from what the vulgar admire,
the pictures of Reynolds soon won the favour of the public. If the
admiration of his works had any ill effect, it was that it tended to
produce an imitation of the same mode rather than of the same
consistency.

On his return to England in 1752, which has been somewhat anticipated in
the foregoing remarks on his style, Reynolds repaired to his native
county, and painted one or two pictures at Plymouth: perhaps the
earliest of the fine portraits of Mr. Zachary Mudge, Vicar of St.
Andrews, was one of these. He returned to London accompanied by his
sister Frances. For a short time he again occupied lodgings in St.
Martin’s Lane, and produced there the portrait of Giuseppe Marchi, an
Italian whom he had brought home as an assistant. This picture, which
was in the style of Rembrandt, attracted general admiration; and when
his former master Hudson saw it, he exclaimed, stung with jealousy,
“Reynolds, you don’t paint so well as when you left England!” Soon after
this, in consequence of his increased fame and employment, Reynolds took
a house in Great Newport Street, where he resided for some years. The
whole length portrait of Admiral Keppel was the next work of importance
which he produced: it exhibited such powers that it completely
established the fame of the artist, and he was generally acknowledged to
be the greatest painter England had seen since the time of Vandyck. From
this period his career was one of uninterrupted success and improvement;
for his reputation was never greater than at the close of his laborious
life. The detraction which such extraordinary merit soon excited was
compelled to vent itself in attempting to undervalue the department of
art in which he excelled: in consequence of these insinuations, a
defence of portrait painting, from the pen of Dr. Johnson, appeared in
the forty-fifth number of the Idler. Johnson in that essay, after all,
only proved that portrait painting is interesting to a _few_—that in the
hands of Reynolds it was “employed in diffusing friendship, in renewing
tenderness, in quickening the affections of the absent, and continuing
the presence of the dead.” Reynolds himself, however, without forgetting
these important prerogatives, evidently took a more extended view of the
matter; he seems early to have felt that the chief difficulty of
portrait painting (a difficulty perhaps greater than any in the other
branches of art) is to make the representation _generally_ interesting.
It is quite obvious that this end can only be attained (especially as
beauty of form is not always at command) by a high degree of perfection
in all that constitutes the charm of art; for no interest that attaches
itself to the individual pourtrayed, however celebrated, can be so
universal or so independently intelligible as that which arises from a
large and true imitation of nature, to which all are more or less alive.
The perfection of art as applicable to portrait painting, was therefore
Reynolds’s great object, and it was only in subservience to this that he
ventured to introduce what in his hands might be considered a novelty in
this department. That novelty was the historic air he often gave his
portraits, by happy allusions to some important circumstance in the life
of the individual. His consummate knowledge of effect enabled him to do
this by means which never interfere with the mere portrait, a difficulty
which had been in a great measure evaded by preceding painters. It will
be remembered that in most of the portraits even of Titian and Vandyck
the attention is literally confined to the individual pourtrayed (after
all, the subject of the picture), and it was not lightly or
inconsiderately that Reynolds occasionally departed from this judicious
practice. If ever a painter could depend on the mere character and
expression of his heads, to say nothing of the charm of their execution,
Reynolds undoubtedly would have been secure of the public approbation on
those grounds alone; and it was only where historic interest happened to
coincide or to interfere but little with picturesque effect, that he
ventured on the additions alluded to. A better instance perhaps cannot
be given than the portrait of Lord Heathfield (celebrated for his
defence of Gibraltar), in the National Gallery; in the background of
which a cannon pointed downwards indicates, by its angle of depression,
the elevation of the spot where the veteran stands, grasping the keys of
the fortress which he defended so bravely. In his allegorical portraits,
such as Garrick between Tragedy and Comedy, Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic
Muse, &c., Reynolds encountered a much greater difficulty, and it may be
questioned whether any painter who has yet appeared would have succeeded
better. The mixture of real and imaginary beings, of individual and
abstract personifications, the treatment of which would seem to require
so different a style, was so managed by Reynolds as to satisfy, in this
respect, the most fastidious taste. The secret of the greatness of his
style in these subjects, and indeed in most of his portraits, is to be
sought in his colouring, the idea of which is large and general; and
under its dignified influence the individuality of forms and locality of
dress are rendered with all sufficient fidelity without offending. It is
thus we find in many Venetian, Flemish, and Dutch pictures, where the
subject and forms are most homely, an air of refined taste, and even of
grandeur, which seems unaccountable, till we discover that the colouring
is true to the largest idea of nature; and thus, to a certain extent,
the art is raised by raising its characteristic quality. In short, to
return to the question of his imitation of Michael Angelo, we should
find that, keeping the main requisites and attainable excellences of
portrait painting in view, Reynolds contrived to infuse into it as much
elevation as was calculated to improve it without injuring its
character; and when we find that he applied this even to execution, and
that his breadth of manner, his disdain of non-essentials, is evidently
inspired by the same feeling, we shall no longer wonder at his
admiration of the highest style of art, or doubt the sincerity of his
recorded professions on the subject. The very _indirectness_ of his
imitation, in which the whole mystery lies, so sure a proof of his
having penetrated the principle of the great master, establishes his
claim to originality as well as to consummate judgment and taste.

In 1768 the Royal Academy was instituted, and Mr. Reynolds, holding
unquestionably the first rank in his profession, was elected President.
On his elevation to this office he received the honour of knighthood. As
President he delivered to the students and professors those celebrated
discourses, which have reflected so much lustre on his name. Their
excellence in a theoretical point of view, the elegance of their
composition, and on the other hand the apparent contradictions they
sometimes contain, have been the theme of frequent observation and
discussion. The other writings of Sir Joshua are the ‘Tour to Flanders
and Holland,’ consisting of notes on the paintings seen by him in those
countries in the year 1781; ‘Notes on Du Fresnoy’s Poem;’ and three
papers in the Idler. Among the last, the Essay on Beauty was not so
original as is generally supposed, the same theory having been
previously promulgated by the Père Buffier in his ‘Cours des Sciences
par des principes nouveaux. Paris, 1732.’ Among the historical and
mythological pictures produced by Sir Joshua, that of the Infant
Hercules strangling the Serpents, executed in 1786 for the Empress of
Russia, is one of the most considerable: it is pretty closely copied, as
to invention and composition, from a description of an antique painting
of the same subject in Philostratus. This work, so different from the
taste of the Russian painters and connoisseurs, was long treated with
neglect; but in consequence of the enquiries of English travellers it
has lately been cleaned, and placed in the gallery of the Hermitage. It
is said to be in a fine state of preservation, and one of the best works
of Reynolds. The celebrated picture of Ugolino was produced by an
accidental circumstance. The subject was suggested to Sir Joshua by
Goldsmith, or, according to others, by Burke, who was struck with the
expression of an old emaciated head, among the unfinished studies of the
painter, and observed that it corresponded exactly with Dante’s
description of Count Ugolino. The head was inserted in a larger canvas,
and the rest of the composition added. For the Shakspeare Gallery Sir
Joshua painted three pictures,—the Death of Cardinal Beaufort, the
Cauldron Scene in Macbeth, and Puck from Midsummer Night’s Dream. The
designs for the window of the New College Chapel in Oxford are among the
finest of his sacred compositions.

In 1789, finding his eyesight begin to fail, Sir Joshua was compelled to
give up the practice of his art. In December, 1790, he pronounced his
farewell Address at the Royal Academy, and on that occasion repeated and
confirmed, as with his dying voice, his admiration of Michael Angelo.
His infirmities confined him much during the short remaining portion of
his life, and he died at his house in Leicester Fields, February 23,
1792. He was buried in the crypt of the cathedral of St. Paul, near the
tomb of Sir Christopher Wren. The honours of his funeral, as may be
imagined, corresponded with his justly-earned fame; and the day after
his death a well-known eulogium by Burke appeared in the public papers,
so characteristic both of the writer and the great artist to whose
memory it was dedicated, that it was called the panegyric of Apelles,
pronounced by Pericles. It concludes thus:—“His talents of every kind,
powerful from nature, and not meanly cultivated by letters, his social
virtues in all the relations and all the habitudes of life, rendered him
the centre of a very great and unparalleled variety of agreeable
societies, which will be dissipated by his death. He had too much merit
not to excite some jealousy, too much innocence to provoke any enmity.
The loss of no man of his time can be felt with more sincere, general,
and unmixed sorrow.”

For a list of the pictures of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and ample details of
his life, the memoir of him by Northcote, who had been his scholar, may
be consulted; as well as the accounts prefixed to the various editions
of his literary works; and that by Allan Cunningham, in his Lives of the
most eminent British Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.

[Illustration: [Sketch for the picture of Mr. Eliot and his family.]]

[Illustration:

_Engraved by B. Holl._

SWIFT.

_From the Picture in the Bodleian Library, Oxford._

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful
Knowledge.

_London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street._
]




[Illustration]

SWIFT.


Jonathan Swift, by an account in his own handwriting, was the son of an
attorney in the city of Dublin. He was born in 1667. Some doubt has been
felt concerning his origin, in consequence of his own angry or
capricious declaration, when out of humour with Ireland,—“I am not of
this vile country; I am an Englishman;” and Sir William Temple has been
said to be his real father. This piece of scandal, however, is disproved
by circumstances of time and place. Swift was placed at Trinity College,
Dublin, at the age of fourteen. Whether through idleness, or contempt of
the prescribed studies, at the end of four years he could only obtain
his Bachelor’s degree _speciali gratiâ_; a term denoting want of merit.
This disgrace so affected him, that for the following seven years he
studied eight hours a day. In 1688 Sir William Temple, whose lady was
related to Swift’s mother, took him under his protection, and paid the
expenses of his residence at Oxford for a Master’s degree. On quitting
that University, Swift lived with Temple as his domestic companion. To a
long illness contracted during this period in consequence of a surfeit
he ascribed that frequently recurring giddiness which annoyed him
through life, and sent him to the grave deprived of reason.

While under Sir William Temple’s roof, Swift rendered material
assistance in the revision of his patron’s works, and corrected and
improved his own ‘Tale of a Tub,’ which had been sketched out previously
to his quitting Dublin. It was published in 1704. He never avowed
himself its author; but he did not deny it when Archbishop Sharpe and
the Duchess of Somerset, according to some accounts, showed it to Queen
Anne, and thereby debarred him from a bishopric. From Temple’s
conversation Swift much increased his political knowledge; and his early
impressions were naturally in favour of the Whigs: but he suspected his
patron of neglecting to provide for him, from a desire of retaining his
services. This produced a quarrel, and the friends parted in 1694. Swift
took orders, and obtained a prebend in the north of Ireland; but at
Temple’s earnest request he soon resigned that preferment, and returned
to England. A sincere reconciliation took place, and they lived together
in the utmost harmony till Sir William’s death in 1699. Swift, in
testimony of his esteem, wrote ‘The Battle of the Books,’ of which his
friend is the hero; and Temple by his will left him a legacy in money,
and the profit as well as care of his posthumous works. Swift had
indulged hopes, not without good reason, of being well provided for in
the English church, through Temple’s interest. Failing in these hopes,
he accepted the post of private secretary and chaplain to the Earl of
Berkeley, on the appointment of that nobleman to be one of the Lords
Justices of Ireland. By this new patron he seems to have been ill used.
He was soon displaced from his post, on the plea of its unfitness for a
clergyman. He was then promised the rich deanery of Derry; but that
preferment was bestowed on another person, and Swift could only procure
the livings of Laracor and Rathbeggin, which together did not amount to
more than half the value of the deanery. During his residence at
Laracor, he performed the duties of a parish priest with punctuality and
devotion, notwithstanding some occasional sallies of no very decorous or
well-timed humour, which coupled with the suspicions founded on the
anonymous ‘Tale of a Tub,’ fixed on him an imputation of insincerity in
his Christian profession, from which the opinion of posterity seems to
have absolved him.

During his incumbency at Laracor, he invited to Ireland a lady with whom
he became acquainted while with Sir William Temple. She was the daughter
of Temple’s steward, whose name was Johnson. About the year 1701, at the
age of eighteen, she went to Ireland, to reside near Swift, accompanied
by Mrs. Dingley, a lady fifteen years older than herself. Miss Johnson
was Swift’s celebrated Stella. Whether Swift’s first impulse in giving
this invitation had a view to marriage, or the cultivation of friendship
only, is uncertain. His whole conduct with respect to women was most
mysterious: apparently highly capricious, and, whatever might be its
secret motive, utterly unwarrantable. The reason assigned by the two
ladies for transferring their residence to Ireland was, “that the
interest of money was higher than in England, and provisions cheap.”
Every possible precaution was taken to prevent scandal: Swift and Miss
Johnson did not live together, nor were they ever known to meet except
in presence of a third person. Owing to this scrupulous prudence, the
lady’s fame, during fifteen years, was never questioned, nor was her
society avoided by the most scrupulous. In 1716 they were privately
married, but with no change in their mode of life: she never lodged in
the Deanery, except during those fits of giddiness and approaching
mental aberration, during which a woman, then of middle age, might
venture without breach of decorum to nurse an elderly man.

In 1701 Swift had published his ‘Dissensions in Athens and Rome;’ his
first political work, in behalf of King William and his ministers,
against the violent proceedings of the House of Commons. According to
Lord Orrery, from that year to 1708 he did not write any political
pamphlet; but he made frequent journeys to England during the whole of
Queen Anne’s reign. Between 1708 and 1710 he changed his politics,
worked hard against the Whigs among whom he had been educated, and
plunged into political controversy, with a view to open the road to
power for the Tories. The year 1710 produced the ‘Examiner,’ of which he
wrote thirty-three papers. In that year commenced his acquaintance with
Harley, who introduced him to St. John and the rest of the ministers. At
this period he dined every Saturday at Harley’s, with the Lord Keeper,
Mr. Secretary St. John, and Lord Rivers, to the exclusion of all other
persons. He may, therefore, be considered at this time as the
confidential friend of the ministry, and almost a member of their
cabinet. The company was afterwards enlarged to sixteen, including
Swift; all men of the first class in society. He now put forth all his
strength in support of the Tory party, in pamphlets, periodical papers,
and political poems. Amidst all this political agitation, he wrote down
the occurrences of every day, whether consisting of conferences with
ministers, or quarrels with his own servant, in a regular journal to
Stella.

In 1712, ten days before the meeting of parliament, he published a
pamphlet, entitled ‘The Conduct of the Allies,’ to facilitate peace, on
which the stability, almost the personal safety of the ministers, seemed
to depend. He professes that this piece cost him much pains, and no
writer was ever more successful. A sale of eleven thousand copies in two
months was in those days unprecedented: the Tory members in both houses
drew their arguments from it, and the resolutions of parliament were
little more than a string of quotations. During that year and the next
he continued to exert himself with unwearied diligence. In 1713 he
carried to the then latest date the first sketch of the ‘History of the
last four Years of Queen Anne.’ Lord Bolingbroke, when called on for his
opinion, was sincere enough to speak of it as “a seasonable pamphlet for
the administration, but a dishonour to just history.” Swift himself was
proud of it, but professed his willingness to sacrifice it to his
friend’s opinion. It was, however, published, but with no addition to
the author’s fame.

The Queen is said to have intended to promote him to a bishopric; but
the story is involved in obscurity. That Archbishop Sharpe had dissuaded
her from so doing by representing his belief in Christianity as
questionable, is not ascertained by any satisfactory evidence; but
whether that were so or not, Johnson’s suggestion seems probable, that
the difficulty arose from those clerical supporters of the ministry,
“who were not yet reconciled to the author of the ‘Tale of a Tub,’ and
would not, without much discontent and indignation, have borne to see
him installed in an English cathedral.” The deanery of St. Patrick, in
Dublin, was therefore offered to him, and he accepted it. With high
pretensions to independent equality with the ministers, and a
disinterested support of their measures, it cannot be doubted that he
viewed this Irish preferment as a sentence of exile, and was bitterly
disappointed. But his temper was too intractable to submit to play the
part of a courtier; and it is probable that his English friends were not
ill pleased to promote him to competence and dignity at a distance. His
feelings are characteristically expressed in one of his letters: “I use
the ministry like dogs, because I expect they will use me so. I never
knew a ministry do anything for those whom they made companions of their
pleasures; but I care not.”

He had indeed little reason to rejoice at first in the land where his
lot had fallen: on his arrival in Ireland to take possession of his
deanery, he found the country under the strongest excitement of party
violence. The populace looked on him as a Jacobite, and threw stones at
him as he walked the streets. His chapter received him with reluctance,
and thwarted him in whatever he proposed. Ordinary talents and firmness
must have sunk under such general hostility. But the revolutions of the
Dean’s life were strange; and he, who began with the hatred of the Irish
mob, lived to govern them with the authority of a despot.

He had not been in Ireland more than a fortnight when he returned to
England for the purpose of attempting, but in vain, a reconciliation
between the Lords Oxford and Bolingbroke. While in England, he wrote his
‘Free Thoughts on the Present State of Affairs.’ He was probably still
watching the issues of time or chance; but the Queen’s death sealed his
political and clerical doom, and he returned to Ireland. To the interval
between 1714 and 1720 Lord Orrery ascribes ‘Gulliver’s Travels.’ His
mind was at this time much engrossed by a remarkable circumstance. He
had formed an intimacy in England with the family of a Dutch merchant,
named Vanhomrigh. The eldest daughter, strangely enough, became
enamoured of Swift’s mind, for it could not be of a most homely person,
nearly fifty years of age. She proposed marriage: this he declined, and


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