Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

This offer was not made for the purpose of gaining the favor of the Minister. Barry, as we have seen, was neither a flunkey nor a time-server, and believing that art, like literature, required but genius and integrity in its possessor to render it noble, and himself respected, could fully agree with those who feel no shame in the motto

"Tenui musam meditamur avena.”

Thus thought Spenser-thus thought Shakespeare—thus thought Horace-thus thought Homer-thus all whose minds were their wealth, and but their only wealthnever whined at the want of patronage, the want of appreciation, or the envious malice of their time. Barry possessed as noble a mind as these; but, in his pride-racked soul, peace and forbearance found no resting-place; even religion in his old age, became a subject of fierce dispute; and, in the rage of his wild dogmatism, he too often forgot the wise maxim of a great exemplar in his church, St. Francis de Sales-" A good Christian is never outdone in good manners."

His services to art in these kingdoms are very considerable; his Letter to the Dilettanti Society was the chief cause of the collection and opening of the Gallery of Orleans pictures to the world, from which exhibition we may date the improved taste for art amongst our people. But his contempt of portrait painting was in the highest degree absurd. Had he considered the subject with the unbiased mind of a painter, of a poet, of a philospher, or of a philanthropist, he would have felt as Robert Southey when he wrote thus playfully, but thoughtfully:

*Helen in her old age, looking at herself in a mirror, is a subject which old sonnetteers were fond of borrowing from the Greek Anthology. Young Ladies! you who have sat to Sir Thomas, or any artist of his school, I will tell you how your portraits may be rendered more useful monitors to you in your progress through life than the mirror was to Helen, and how you may derive more satisfaction from them when you are grown old. Without supposing that you actually 'called up a look' for the painter's use, I may be certain that none of you during the times of sitting permitted any feeling of ill-humor to cast a shade over your countenance; and that if you were not conscious of endeavouring to put on your best looks for the occasion, the painter was desirous of catching them, and would catch the best he could. The most thoughtless of you need not be told that you cannot retain the charms of youthful beauty, but you may retain the charm of an amiable expression through life:

never allow yourselves to be seen with a worse than you wore for the painter! Whenever you feel ill-tempered, remember that you look ugly; and be assured that every emotion of fretfulness, of ill-humor, of anger, of irritability, of impatience, of pride, haughtiness, envy, malice, any unkind, any uncharitable, any ungenerous feeling, lessens the likeness to your picture, and not only deforms you while it lasts, but leaves its trace behind; for the effect of the passions upon the face is more rapid and more certain than that of time."

Or if Barry did not hold these opinions, he, as a Roman Catholic, and as a believer in the watching of guardian angels, must have felt with Leigh Hunt, who writes:

"Mr. Hazlitt has said somewhere, of the portrait of a beautiful female with a noble countenance, that it seems as if an unhandsome action, would be impossible in its presence. It is not so much for restraint's sake, as for the sake of diffusiveness of heart, or the going out of ourselves, that we would recommend pictures; but, among other advantages, this also, of reminding us of our duties, would doubtless be one; and if reminded with charity, the effect, though perhaps small in most instances, would still be something. We have read of a Catholic money-lender, who, when he was going to cheat a customer, always drew a veil over the portrait of his favorite saint. Here was a favorite vice, far more influential than the favorite saint; and yet we are of opinion that the money-lender was better for the saint than he would have been without him. It left him faith in something; he was better for it in the intervals; he would have treated his daughter the better for it, or his servant, or his dog. There was a bit of heaven in his room,-a sun-beam to shine into a corner of his heart, however he may have shut the window against it, when heaven was not to look on. The companionship of anything greater or better than ourselves must do us good, unless we are destitute of all modesty or patience. And a picture is a companion, and the next thing to the presence of what it represents."

At length, on the 6th of February, 1806, Barry felt, for the first time in his life, seriously indisposed, and was seized, without forewarning, by his fatal illness. Of his death and last hours, Robert Southey gives the following account :—

"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 his 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 scarecrow; all round it there projected a fringe of his own grey hair. He lived alone, in a house which was never cleaned; and he slept in a bedstead, with no other furniture than a blanket nailed on the one side. I wanted him

to visit me. 'No,' he said, he would 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 for 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. Carlisle (Sir Anthony), in Soho Square. There he was taken care of; and the danger from which he had thus escaped, seems to have cured his mental hallucinations. He cast his slough afterwards; appeared decently dressed in his own grey 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 was 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 conversation 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 Leicester-square who did. But this he said was false; for that he would at any time have painted portraits, and have been glad to paint them. God bless you.

Yours very truly,

R. S."

He died upon the 22nd day of February, in the sixty-fifth year of his age. By the Royal Academy his death was unnoticed; the Society of Arts allowed his body to be placed in their room, which his hand had adorned, and from which it was borne to St. Paul's, where it now moulders, commemorated by a monument, for the erection of which Sir Robert Peel-the first baronet-paid two hundred pounds.

We have already named a few of Barry's chief pictures; there is, in the vestibule of the Fine Art Gallery of the Royal Dublin Society, an original picture painted by him, representing the scene in Cymbeline, in which Iachimo watches Imogen sleeping. Barry's writings, with a memoir of his life prefixed, were published in two volumes, quarto, in the year 1809, by Cadell and Davies, London. They should be on the book-shelves, and the principles which they contain in the mind, of every artist who desires to advance his profession.

Southey's Life and Correspondence, Vol. VI., p. 54.

We have selected this particular period for the publication of our memoir of Barry, because the time seems to us peculiarly appropriate. Ninety-three years ago he came to Dublin for the purpose of exhibiting his picture of St. Patrick Baptizing the King of Cashel; he placed it in the room of the Dublin Society; he became a pupil of their schools, and brought honor upon them by his life-labors. From his days to the present, many distinguished men have gone forth from that school, and in the fame of the Irish born painters and sculptors, the Society may well feel proud of their elèves. Amongst the many students of promise who now attend the drawing-school, and school of design, amongst the thousands of our youths who will, within the next three months, throng the halls and galleries of our Crystal Palace, there will be many who possess a taste, if not a genius, for painting and for sculpture. As they pause before the grand pictures, ancient and modern, that may grace the walls; as they linger before Barry's Imogen, and recall the struggles of his life, let them remember wisely his self-denial, his patient toil, his lonely studies, his honest-hearted love of all the noble, manly, traits of his fellow-men, and his honorable care in all matters of debt and of money; let them recollect the high dignity of the painter's art, noble as the poet's, inspiring as the musician's, called in other days to aid God's Priest in exciting the languid devotion of the sinner; leaving to posterity the likeness of great heroes, or transmitting to the future those goddess features, the beauty which "makes beautiful old rhyme," till the world knows not whether there dwells a deeper charm in the glowing, breathing, magic canvas of the painter, or in the glorious hymn that rises from the fullswelling heart of the poet. To compare the poet and the painter is but an idiot's play; each in his rich boon, heaven's own gift of genius, is the steward of the Almighty; and when there lives upon the painter's canvas, when there breathes in the poet's song, some conception that proves God within our breasts, ineffable as in Nature, the light of Intellect, rising above the mists of mortality, shines forth in all the primal brilliancy of its origin,

"And bravely furnish'd all abroad to fling

The winged shafts of truth,

To throng with stately blooms the breathing spring
Of Hope and Youth."

The moral of James Barry's life is the most melancholy in all the biographies of Art. George Morland, regaining transient gleams of intellect through drunkenness, is not more sad; but each instance proves that good sense, good temper, moderation and patience, must be combined with genius, else its possession may become a close-clinging, life-long, curse. The world never yet trampled true genius in the dust, but, alas! true genius has but too often grovelled so deeply in the mire, that the world has crushed it unwittingly and unwillingly.

ART. III.-THE STREETS OF DUBLIN.
No. VI.

MOLESWORTH-STREET, Kildare-street, and their vicinity, stand on the site of a considerable lot of ground, known at the commencement of the last century by the name of "Molesworth-fields," which remained nearly unbuilt upon until an act of parliament, in 1725, enabled "the right honorable John, lord viscount Molesworth, and Richard Molesworth, and the several other persons in remainder for life, when in possession of certain lands, near St. Stephen's Green and Dawson-street, in the county of the city of Dublin, to make leases thereof." Robert, first viscount. Molesworth, distinguished by his writings in defence of liberty, has already been noticed in our account of "Molesworth's Court," in Fishamblestreet his son John, the second viscount, born in 1679, was, in 1710, despatched as envoy extraordinary from Great Britain to Tuscany, and subsequently appointed ambassador at Florence, Venice, and Switzerland, which offices he held till his death, in 1727. Ritson ascribes to him the song commencing "Almeria's face, her shape, her air,

With charms resistless wound the heart;
In vain you for defence prepare,

When from her eyes Love shoots his dart."

Park observes," that he is likely to have written more from having turned this so well." His successor, Richard, third viscount Molesworth, designed by his father for the law, fled from the Temple to Flanders, and served as a volunteer in the allied army there until he obtained an ensigncy, and was appointed aide-de-camp to the duke of Marlborough, whose

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »