Imágenes de página

over you, till you think every other painter insipid, in comparison, and to be admired only for petty excellences. p. 113.

It gives one great confidence in the judgement of a man like Sir J., to find his early practice and his latest opinions thus agreeing. Of his resources in improving himself the following little anecdote may serve as a specimen.

[ocr errors]

Speaking of Paul Veronese, Tintoret, and the other painters of the Venetian School, he says, "When I was at Venice the method I took to avail myself of their principles was this: When I observed an extraordinary effect of light and shade in any picture, I took a leaf out of my pocket book, and darkened every part of it in the same gradation of light and shade as the picture, leaving the white paper untouched, to represent the light, and this without any attention to the subject, or to the drawing of the figures A few trials of this kind will be sufficient to give the method of their conduct in the management of their lights. After a few experiments I found the paper blotted nearly alike; their general practice appeared to be,' &c. p. 305.

Such a blotted paper, held at a distance from the eye, will strike the spectator as something excellent for the disposition of light and shadow, though he does not distinguish whether it is a history, a portrait, a landscape, dead game, or any thing else; for the same principles extend to every branch of the art.' p. 306.

He had, at one time of his life, intended to compose discourse for the students, comprising an account of his own experience in the art, which, by pointing out his own artifices of study, the methods by which he had improved, and the errors into which he had been betrayed, might be of essential and permanent use to the young academicians. It is very much to be regretted that he did not complete the design. Some loose fragments of the discourse Mr. Malone has preserved; one of them relates to the period of his life, we are now speaking of, and deserves insertion both for its own sake, and for the sake of certain rapturous amateurs.

I remember very well my own disappointment, when I first visited the Vatican; but on confessing my feelings to a brother student, of whose ingenuousness I had a high opinion, he acknowledged that the works of Raffaelle had the same effect on him; or rather, that they did not produce the effect which he expected. This was This was a great relief to my mind; and on inquiring further, of other students, I found that those persons only who, from natural imbecility, appeared to be incapable of ever relishing those divine performances, made pretensions to instantaneous raptures on first beholding them. In justice to myself, however, I must add, that though disappointed and mortified at not finding myself enraptured with the works of this great man, I did not for a moment conceive or suppose that the name of Raffaelle, and those admirable paintings in particular, owed their reputation

to the ignorance and prejudice of mankind; on the contrary, my not relishing them, as I was conscious I ought to have done, was one of the most humiliating circumstances that ever happened to me; I found myself in the midst of works executed upon principles with which I was unacquainted; I felt my ignorance, and stood abashed. All the indigested notions of painting which I had brought with me from England, where the art was in the lowest state it had ever been in, (it could not, indeed, be lower,) were to be totally done away, and eradicated from my mind. It was necessary, as it is expressed on a very solemn occasion, that I should become as a little child. Notwithstanding my disappointment, I proceeded to copy some of those excellent works. I viewed them again and again: I even affected to feel their merit; and to admire them more than I really did. In a short time a new taste and new perception began to dawn upon me; and I was convinced that I had originally formed a false opinion of the perfection of art, and that this great painter was well entitled to the high rank which he holds in the estimation of the world. The truth is, that if these works had really been what I expected, they would have contained beauties superficial and alluring, but by no means such as would have entitled them to the great reputation which they have so long and so justly obtained.' pp. 391-2.

Reynolds returned to England in 1752, and finally settled in London at the end of that year. The first picture which seems to have brought him into notice was the well known one of Commodore Keppel.

He was now employed to paint several ladies of high quality, whose portraits the polite world flocked to see, and he soon became one of the most distinguished painters, not only in England, but in Europe. For it should be remarked, that at this time there were no historical works to make a demand upon the painter's skill; and though it may seem a curious observation, it will nevertheless be found, on examination, to be one most true, that hitherto this empire of Great Britain, so great, so rich, so magnificent, so benevolent, so abundant in all the luxury that the most ample wealth could procure, even this exalted empire had never yet been able to keep above one single historical painter from starving, whilst portrait painters have swarmed in a plenty at all times thick as "autumnal leaves in Vallambrosa.' pp. 37, 38.

[ocr errors]

Such is the power of vanity! The young and beautiful would think herself the cruel'st she alive'


If she should lead her graces to the grave,

And leave the world no copy;'

and the old and ugly can submit without much reluctance to the mortification of gazing on their own features, as Rochefoucault has remarked that a man would rather talk of his defects than not talk of himself at all.

Shortly after Reynolds's settlement in London, he became VOL. X.

Y y

acquainted with Johnson, of whose intimacy he first became desirous from a perusal of the life of Savage, which, says Boswell, he began to read while he was standing with his arm leaning against a chimney-piece: it seized his attention so strongly, that, not being able to lay down the book till he had finished it, when he attempted to move, he found his arm totally benumbed.' They met at the house of some ladies, whom Johnson visited; and the doctor's good opinion was conciliated by rather a misanthropic remark of Sir Joshua's.

'The ladies were regretting the death of a friend, to whom they owed great obligations; upon which Reynolds observed, "You have, however, the comfort of being relieved from the burden of gratitude." They were shocked a little at this alleviating suggestion, as too selfish; but Johnson defended it in his clear and forcible manner, and was much pleased with the mind, the fair view of human nature it exhibited, like some of the reflections of Rochefoucault. The consequence was, that he went home with Reynolds, and supped with him.' p. 40.

On what authority the following anecdotes are given we know not; but they agree very ill with the notions which we had formed of Johnson's independence of spirit and susceptibility of temper.

Doctor Johnson had a great desire to cultivate the friendship of Richardson, the author of Clarissa, and with this view paid him frequent visits. These were received very coldly by the latter; "but" observed the Doctor (in speaking of this to a friend), “I was determined to persist till I had gained my point; because I know very well, that when I had once overcome his reluctance and shyness of humour, our intimacy would contribute much to the happiness of both." The event verified the Doctor's prediction.' p. 45.

The Doctor's intercourse with Sir Joshua was at first produced iu the same manner as is described in respect to Richardson. He frequently called in the evening, and remained to a late hour, when Sir Joshua was desirous of going into new company, after having been harrassed by his professional occupations the whole day. This sometimes overcame his patience to such a degree, that, one evening in particular, on entering the room where Johnson was waiting to see him, he immediately took up his hat and went out of the house. Reynolds hoped by this means he would have been effectually cured; but Johnson still persisted, and at last gained his friendship,' pp. 45, 46.

That he sought after Richardson, however, he owned to Boswell. There are one or two stories more of this great man that merit to be preserved.

"There are two things," said he, "which I am confident I can do very well: one is an introduction to any literary work, stating

what it is to contain, and how it should be executed in the most perfect manner; the other is a conclusion, shewing, from various causes, why the execution has not been equal to what the author promised to himself and to the public."" p. 50.

Johnson somewhere tells Boswell, that he looks upon himself as a very polite man. The following, however, the ladies will think no very pre-possessing specimens of his politeness.

'Several ladies being in company with Dr. Johnson, it was remarked by one of them, that a learned woman was by no means a rare character in the present age: when Johnson replied, "I have known a great many ladies who knew Latin, but very few who knew English.'


A lady observed, that women surpassed men in epistolary corespondence. Johnson said, "I do not know that." "At least," said the lady," they are most pleasing when they are in conversation."—"No, Madam," returned Johnson, "I think they are most pleasing when they hold their tongues."" p. 143.

He was, however, capable of true politeness of a delicate attention to the feelings of those about him.

Once being at dinner at Sir Joshua's, in company with many · painters, in the course of conversation Richardson's Treatise on Painting happened to be mentioned. "Ah!" said Johnson, "I remember when I was at College, I by chance found that book on my stairs: I took it up with me to my chamber and read it through, and truly I did not think it possible to say so much upon the art." Sir Joshua, who could not hear distinctly, desired of one of the company to be informed what Johnson had said; and it being repeated to him so loud that Johnson heard it, the Doctor seemed hurt, and added, "But I did not wish, Sir, that Sir Joshua should have been told what I then said."' pp. 146, 147.

We insert the next as a very useful receipt for such of our readers as may be troubled with the acquaintance of any wonderfully learned personage.

A prosing dull companion was making a long harangue to Dr. Johnson upon the Punick war, in which he gave nothing either new or entertaining. Johnson, afterwards, speaking of the circumstance to a friend, said, "Sir, I soon withdrew my attention from him, and thought of Tom Thumb." P. 144.

The following is a very good specimen of Johnson's intrepidity in conversation.

Soon after Goldsmith's death, some people dining with Sir Joshua were commenting rather freely on some part of his works, which, in their opinion, neither discovered talent nor originality. To this, Dr. Johnson listened, in his usual growling manner, for some time;

when, at length, his patience being exhausted, he rose, with great dignity, looked them full in the face, and exclaimed, "If nobody was suffered to abuse poor Goldy, but those who could write as well, he would have few censors." P. 210.

Of the esteem and tenderness with which Reynolds was always regarded by Johnson, the following letter (which Boswell also has preserved) is proof.


"I heard yesterday of your late disorder, and should think ill of myself if I had heard of it without alarm. I heard likewise of your recovery, which I sincerely wish to be complete and permanent. Your country has been in danger of losing one of its brightest ́ornaments, and I of losing one of my oldest and kindest friends: but I hope you will still live long, for the honour of the nation; and that more enjoyment of your elegance, your intelligence, and your benevolence, is still reserved for,

"Dear Sir,

"Your most affectionate, &c.

Brighthelmstone, Nov. 14, 1782.

Reynolds was the original proposer of the literary club. Being himself of a literary turn of mind, and loving to mix conviviality with learning, it is no wonder that he should wish to bring into contact such minds as those of Johnson, and Goldsmith, and Beauclerk, and Garrick, and Burke, and Percy. The club originally consisted of twelve members, and these were so judiciously selected,' as Mr. Malone observes, and were men of such talents and so well known to each other, that any two of them, if they should not happen to be joiued by any more, might be good company for each other.'

Considering the intimacy which subsisted between Sir J. and all the members of this most brilliant society, and the consequent opportunities which Mr. Northcote must have had, as an inmate in Sir J.'s house, of observing their characters and manners, we certainly did expect a greater store of anecdote than this volume presents to us. A great deal of what there is, too, is to be found in Boswell. We could have forgiven Mr. N. for the intrusion of Mr. John Astley, and Giuseppe Marchi, if they had been accompanied a little oftener with Burke or Goldsmith. Still, something may be gleaned.

Garrick's wicked waggery, practised on some 'indifferent painter' is very amusing.

'When the artist had worked on the face till he had drawn it very correctly, as he saw it at the time, Garrick caught an opportunity,

« AnteriorContinuar »