Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

dent and economical in his own expenditure, jealous of anything that bore the appearance of unnecessary expense, but most generous to others. He was strongly attached to his home and family, peculiarly tender and watchful in illness, and a most devoted husband. As a father he was anxious, far beyond the common run of parents, for the moral and intellectual progress of his children, always insisting upon the necessity of keeping in view high objects of ambition, in preference to mere worldly advancement, and of placing the attainment of a great public object, above the level of "making money." The "comfortable" folks, of course, thought, and still think him a fool. They are welcome to their opinion.

In music he had a fine taste, and preferred Haydn, Handel, and Mozart to all the rest. Of Beethoven he knew little. To the English theatres he seldom went in his later years. He preferred the French plays, enjoying the polished dialogue and perfect acting there. He was once induced by one of the family to go and see Macready in "Lear." He sat out the first act, and then went away, saying he could not stand any more of it. He afterwards ridiculed the whole thing, comparing Macready to a machine wound up to go through a certain rep

Dinner was announced, and Haydon, who had been in the library, had suddenly disappeared. Search was made for him, and he was found in his bed-room with his evening coat carefully taken off, and his great coat buttoned round him, pulling his bed to pieces, hauling out blankets, sheets. mattress, and pillows, and spreading them over the backs of the chairs before the huge fire he had lighted. He had forgotten to do it before he came down. The late Sir Peter Fairbairn, of Leeds, used to tell a very similar story of him at Woodsley. There was no harm in this; but his habit of opening windows in other persons' houses sometimes got him into a scrape. One day he was calling on Dr. Elliotson in town. "Pugh," he said to himself, as he was shown into the room, "how can he live in such air?" and walking to the window he unfastened it, flung it open, and began to breathe more freely. Dr. Elliotson was a chilly man, and hated open windows. Presently the door swung aside gently, and the doctor slipped in, on the balls of his toes, like something feline. "Ah, my dear Haydon, how are you? Good God, what's that! Eh-what-an open window! Who has dared?”—and, ringing the bell furiously, there ensued a scene between the doctor and his man worthy of Molière. It is to be hoped that Haydon gave the footman a sovereign, but he more probably had not got it to give. Another time he indulged himself at, I think, Lord Yarmouth's, in the same manner. Lord Yarmouth, if it was he, caught him in the act, and walking to the window slammed it down again, and then politely entered into conversation.-ED.

resentation, and every night in the same part performing exactly the same movements, and making exactly the same noises. Edmund Kean, he maintained, never played the same part twice in the same way. The same thing was true, he also said of Mrs. Siddons. Of John Kemble, the machine theory was true. Haydon had studied Edmund Kean from his first appearance in "Richard III." in all his great parts, in his best days. Mr. Lewes, who allows that he only saw Kean in his later and feebler days, asserts, on the other hand, that Kean never trusted to the "inspiration of the moment." This is probably true of Kean's later period, when his intemperate habits had obscured his fine genius, and he could no longer rely upon the advent of the divine afflatus at the right instant. But Edmund Kean, (as he remembered him,) and Mrs. Siddons, were Haydon's faith.

One curious trait about him I remember was his sanguine buoyancy. Nothing ever depressed him for long. If one effort failed, he would try another in a different direction. He was the most persevering, indomitable man I ever met. With us at home he was always confident of "doing better next year." But that next year never came. It was the "Jack Snipe" of his existence; for in this respect, poor fellow, he was like that man whose shooting for many seasons, Fonblanque tells us, was devoted with great constancy to the death of one Jack Snipe, which, after all, outlived him. Every year Haydon had his shot, and every year, somehow or other, his bird escaped. Now it was the Reform Bill-then a crisis in the City-then the failure of a patron-then a change of ministers; and so it went on, and the good luck got off. He would never acknowledge to us what he knew to be the true explanation, that his aim was too high to bring down a bird that flew so capriciously, and so low.


In his painting-room,' Haydon was thoroughly and essen1 This room, the front drawing-room of the house in Burwood Place, was so small -the back room being occupied as the casts and color room-it is surprising how he

tially a happy man. There he lived in an ideal world, whose language was not speech, but form and color. He had the mind of a poet, and he possessed the capacity of complete abstraction from all interrupting ideas. God had gifted him with this, or he never could have borne the life that was his lot so long. His practice was, after settling the composition, to make an oil sketch, and from this to roughly sketch or scumble in with umber upon his large canvas, the whole of the subject he intended to paint. This rarely took him more than one day. When this was dry, he would commence with the head of one of the principal figures, or of the principal figure, and complete it at a sitting. Thus day by day he would go through the picture, finishing as he went along, reserving to himself, however, the right of heightening his colors or deepening his shades at the final glazing. What struck me most with his painting, as compared with what I can remember of Wilkie, and have observed in others, was the marvellous rapidity with which he worked, and the intense precision of his touch, although there was often a period when the result he aimed at was not secured, and this gave him great agitation. But with all that, his painting was singularly swift : it was as if he had seen in his mind's eye the effect of every touch before he set his palette. He certainly never painted any subject that he had not long thought out. Then when he took his brush in his hand, his mind overflowed, he flew at his work like a man inspired with fiery impulse, talking to himself in a rapid whisper, and, utterly lost to all the world around, gave reins to his enthusiasm. He never seemed for a moment to naggle or hesitate. If the result was not satisfactory, he became greatly agitated. I have seen big drops of perspiration come out of his brow. Another touch or two, and then, perhaps, he would dash it all out, and breathe again freely. In painting the human form, or that of animals, he had always the living model before him. His horses were brought into the house, and stabled for the day on the ground-floor. Every ever succeeded in painting for a distance. It was quite impossible to calculate the effect.-ED.

day's work was painted straight off and done with. He ground his own colors and set his own palette before breakfast. He mixed his tints upon his palette, and completed his work wet. After he had hit the exact expression he wanted, he would never touch it again, but swish down his palette and brushes, and say, 66 There, thirty years of experience are in that, and yet how infinitely below what I aim at! But I shall not do better." And then he would fling open the shutters and begin to write.


His natural sight was

His method of painting was his own. of little or no use to him at any distance, and he would wear one pair over the other, sometimes two or three pairs of large round concave spectacles, so powerful as greatly to diminish objects. He would mount his steps, look at you through one pair of glasses, then push them all well back on his head, and paint by his naked eye close to the canvas. After some minutes he would pull down one pair of his glasses, look at you, then step down, walk slowly backwards to the wall, and study the effect through the one, two, or three pairs of spectacles; then, with one pair only, look long and steadily in the looking-glass at the side to examine the reflection of his work; then mount his steps, and paint again. How he ever contrived to paint a head or a limb in proportion is a mystery to me, for it is clear that he had lost his natural sight in boyhood. Without his glasses he could see nothing distinctly. He is, as he said, the first blind man who ever successfully painted pictures. But then he left nothing to chance. He was singularly careful in his arrangements of your position and drapery, and often studied you for long before he began to paint; and would make many changes, so as to get harmony of light and shadow.' He

1 Mr. Redgrave, in his "Dictionary of Painters," asserts that Haydon commenced his pictures "without plan or forethought." This is wholly incorrect. I do not suppose any painter ever lived, who took more preparatory pains in the design of his works. The evidence of his " 'Journals" is alone sufficient to refute Mr. Redgrave.


strongly disapproved of hoarding up a picture until finished. It should be shown, he thought, in progress; and he always admitted uneducated as well as refined persons of taste. "The instinctive feeling of the untutored," he would say, "is often to be preferred to the delusions of mere artists." The unbiased decision of the masses whose heart was touched, he thought a safer guide than the fastidious criticism of insipid dilettanti. Of critics, in general, Haydon held a mean opinion. "There is very little sound criticism in the newspapers upon art," I have heard him say; "even less than there is upon literature, and God knows that is little enough. There is nothing, however absurd, that does not pass through the head of an art critic." He attributed this generally to the same cause as Mr. Disraeli, that the critics were commonly men who had tried and failed in literature and art. But, unlike Mr. Disraeli, Haydon never shook himself free from the thraldom of their criticism. It requires a peculiar temperament, or long practice in the discipline of self-control. Arthur, Duke of Wellington, and Mr. Disraeli, are the only two men in modern times who have set public men an example in this respect.


We have arrived at the last twelve years of Haydon's life. On the vote in Parliament for a National Gallery, in 1832, whether by reason of Haydon's direct efforts or previous statements I know not, but the fact of our inferiority in design to the French -one of his favorite examples and arguments-was strongly insisted on, was not denied by the Government; and the result was, at last, the founding of a National School of Design.

In the scheme for this school Haydon does not seem to have been consulted by the Government, who appear to have preferred to leave the matter in the hands of the Royal Academy. He looked on curiously for the result. In the course of 1835 the Government was delivered of what he declared to be "an abominable abortion "-a mass of radical defects and meanness -a" school of design" which was only to teach pattern-drawing, and to artisans alone. Haydon's object with regard to

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »