Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

ting, hemming sound, which meant that Wilkie's reputation was all my eye" in comparison with ours.



"Poor Fuseli is gone, Sir." "Yes, Sir." Ah, Mr. Haydon, he was a man of genius, but I fear of no principle." "Yes, Sir." "He has left behind him some drawings shockingly indelicate." "Has he, Sir?" "Yes, Mr. Haydon, poor wretch!" said Flaxman, looking ineffably modest. ' Mr. Flaxman, good morning." "Good morning, Mr. Haydon. I am very, very happy to see you, and will call in a few days."


With the exception of Sir Thomas Lawrence, Cooper, Stothard, and Flaxman, he rates the members of the Royal Academy as intellectually very much below par. He notices that in the houses of Sir Martin Shee and Phillips, there was not a single bust of antiquity or work of art to be seen. Haydon was individually well received, but his "admission" was not to be entertained. He was a ruined man; he had lost his influence over society," and his "school" was destroyed. He was not elected at any succeeding election. He put down his name for two years in succession, 1826 and 1827, but never received one single vote.



During these years Lord Egremont seems to have been still the only member of the nobility who kept Haydon in sight. The season of 1827 found him once more without work, painting the "Death of Eucles" on his own responsibility. Lord Egremont called and said, "I will have the picture if you cannot sell it." But this was not a real assistance. What a man in Haydon's position wanted was constant employment and prompt reward. If he did not get this he fell into arrears, and into arrears Haydon soon fell now. Before the London season was half through, he was driven to extremities for want of money; law-costs, writs, and execution followed in rapid succession. No mercy was shown him by the lawyers—no consideration by the nobility. He was like a man buffeting in bondage, driven hither and thither for daily means to meet his daily wants, till at last the catastrophe came. He was again

seized and thrown into prison. His debts amounted to 17677. 175., of which 6367. were for renewed debts incurred previous to 1823. The moment he was arrested and imprisoned, his noble friends attended a public meeting, voted that Haydon, on account of his merits and distresses, was entitled to public sympathy and relief, and subscribed the magnificent sum of 120l. among themselves, which included 50%. from the Duke of Bedford and 20/. from the late Duke of Sutherland. They passed a vote of thanks to the chairman, Lord F. L. Gower, and broke up. Anything more absurd or unworthy can hardly be conceived of a body of men of such reputed wealth. Here was a painter, whose genius and merits they all acknowledged, thrown into prison through their negligence and non-employment, for a trumpery debt of 1700l., and they cannot find more than 120l. towards it among themselves, but must appeal to the "public" for sympathy and aid! There must have been truth in what Lord Durham told Haydon, that three-fourths of the titled nobility in England are insolvent.

The whole thing is almost too ludicrous to be credible. Haydon was detained in prison for two months, and then discharged. It was on this occasion when, like Hecuba of Troy, "almost run mad through sorrow," he saw out of his prison window the farce of a " mock election" of two M.P.'s for the King's Bench, being played by imprisoned debtors. Life is the same everywhere. "Vous ne pouvez vous imaginer l'horreur d'un naufrage. Vous en pouvez imaginer aussi peu le ridicule." Haydon looked and laughed in spite of his misery. He eyed the faces, and, struck by the character shown, resolved to paint the scene the moment he was free. Of course, when he came out of prison he found no work waiting for him. That was the last thing the nobility thought of. The only commission he got was from one of his own tradesmen, to copy a head from a miniature! He remarks upon this, "To think that, at fortytwo years of age, in the very zenith of my powers, and after painting the head of “Lazarus," I should be compelled to do this for my bread! The nobility do not care about my talents, and would rather not be cursed with any one who has the power

in a style of art they do not comprehend, and wish not to encourage because they do not comprehend it."


In five months, by the generous assistance of those personal friends, Strutt, Talfourd, whose portrait he painted, Burn, and a few others who never left him, he finished the cabinet picture of the "Mock Election," and exhibited it at the Egyptian Hall in January, 1828. The exhibition was a fair success, but no one offered to buy the picture. Haydon became depressed. “I cannot pray now to the great God to aid and help and foster me in my attempts for the honor of my great country, for I am making no attempt at all. I am doing only that which will procure me subsistence, and gratify the love of novelty, or pander to the prejudices of my countrymen; even that does not succeed. I have not sold the "Mock Election." I have no orders, no commissions. The exhibition of the picture gets me a bare subsistence, and that is all.

'Non sum qualis eram.'

"I begin at last to long to go abroad, family and all."


After a few days' low spirits, he began a fresh picture, Chairing the Member," as a companion to the "Mock Election." In March the Court came to town, and the King having inquired of Sir Thomas Hammond about the "Mock Election," and been told that it was full of remarkable portraits and would please him, sent Seguier for it. Anything that had a spice of vice in it the King relished. Haydon, who took down the picture to St. James's Palace, was adroitly kept by Seguier out of the way of the King, who wished to see him as much as the picture so Sir Thomas Hammond told me-and after a careful inspection, the King, who showed the greatest interest, declared

it "a d-d fine thing," commanded it to be left with him, and sent Haydon 500 guineas three days afterwards.'

This act of the king was not matched by any member of the nobility, and before the end of the year Haydon was compelled to sell the companion picture for half its price to a private gentleman (who could not afford to pay him for six months). The great lords and their ladies came to its exhibition and looked. Some of them, the Duke of Bedford, for instance, admired it exceedingly, but no one of them would buy it, or recommend it to the notice of the King.


[ocr errors]

The new year, 1829, Haydon opened with a temperate pamphlet in favor of "Public Patronage for Painting.' He had some correspondence with the Duke of Wellington, then Prime Minister, on the subject; and, in compliance with the Duke's request, laid before him a detailed plan for the decoration of the House of Parliament. The Duke, in reply, assured Haydon that, imprimis, he "must object to the grant of any public money for the object." Haydon then consulted Mr. Agar Ellis, who promises to bring the matter before Parliament when he sees a "favorable" opportunity, and urges Haydon

[ocr errors]

1 In the right-hand corner of the picture is the portrait of a Major Campbell, a man who greatly distinguished himself in the Peninsular War. He was imprisoned by Lord Eldon for contempt of Court. He ran away with a ward in Chancery, and on Lord Eldon saying it was "disgraceful ladies of birth should be entrapped by men of low family," Campbell, who was a man of good family, hurled back the insult in words the Chancellor never forgot or forgave. "My lord," said Campbell, my family are ancient and opulent, and were neither coalheavers nor coalheavers' nephews," alluding to Lord Eldon's origin. Lord Eldon committed him to prison on the spot, and refused to accept any apology. Campbell remained, I believe, thirteen years a prisoner. When Lord Brougham came to the Woolsack, in 1834, Campbell was released on special petition by his friends.

The King, in 1828, was deeply interested in all this, which he learned from Haydon through Lord Mount Charles, and sent Sir Edward Barnes down to the Bench, to command Campbell to state his services and his wishes, and they should be gratified. Campbell was too proud to reply, refused to make any statement or application, and remained in prison. Haydon describes him as having one of the grandest Satanic heads, a combination of Byron and Bonaparte, he ever met with. I can just remember him; he came after his release (1834) to see us and sit for his portrait.-ED.

[ocr errors]

to continue his pamphlets every year,” so as to keep the subject before the public. This was not very encouraging, so Haydon turned to his palette once more, and worked hard upon two pictures, "Eucles" and " Punch," and before the end of the year had begun another, "Xenophon and the Ten Thousand first seeing the Sea," and had painted and engraved a little sketch of “Napoleon at St. Helena.”

In January, 1830, Haydon was much affected by the death of Sir Thomas Lawrence, the President of the Royal Academy, and by the election of (Sir Martin Archer) Shee as his successsor, in preference to Wilkie.

The academicians probably had their reasons for this preference, but Haydon refused to admit them. He felt such an election as an abuse of the power he had so long desired to see docked. The idea to him was preposterous, that a man like David Wilkie, though not a painter of history, yet a man of acknowledged genius and European reputation, should be put in momentary competition, still more in a position of permanent inferiority to a portrait-painter of the second order, 66 an accomplished gentleman naebody ever haird on," as Sir Walter Scott described the new President. It drew from Haydon a burst of honest indignation, and brought him and Wilkie more closely together-they had been somewhat estranged since Haydon's marriage-for the rest of their lives. Wilkie began to see at last what Haydon had seen from the first, that humility and forbearance never met with a fair return from men of mean minds. By such men you may do your duty, and more than your duty, but they will turn upon you at the last, and when their "eyesight returns," as Carlyle says, "fling you out like common sweepings."

[ocr errors]

1 The defence put forward by Tom Taylor in Haydon's Autobiography, in support of this election of Sir Martin Shee over Wilkie, is the common defence on such occasions, viz., that the man is most wanted and not his profession. I fail to see the force of this. "Eloquence" and "personal acceptableness" may be valuable qualities in the President of a Royal Academy of Art; but not quite so important as professional knowledge. "In a painter," says Sir Joshua Reynolds, "it is particularly dangerous to be too good a speaker. It lessens the necessary endeavors to make himself master of the language which properly belongs to his art, that of his pencil." This was

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »