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able employment. Nor did his friendship end here. Convinced of the artist's talents, Burke resolved that he should lack no fair opportunity of cultivating them. No sooner, therefore, were his means equal to such generosity, than, in concurrence with Sir J. Reynolds, he advised him to travel to Italy for improvement, offering to support him while abroad. Barry was absent five years, during the whole of which time he earned not a farthing, but was supported solely at the expense of Burke and his brother, who often persevered in their kindness with great inconvenience to themselves. Nor was it pecuniary aid alone that Burke contributed; he gave him, what was at least equally valuable, his advice as it regarded the course of his studies. This he communicated in a series of letters, in which he often shows himself deeply acquainted with the great principles of the art. These interesting documents are all printed in Barry's Memoirs. One or two we subjoin as
. a specimen.
“ MY DEAR BARRY,
“ I am greatly in arrear to you on account of correspondence; but not, I assure you, on account of regard, esteem, and sincere good wishes. My mind followed you to Paris, through your Alpine journey, and to Rome ; you are an admirable painter with your pen as well as with your pencil ; every one to whom I showed your letters, felt an interest in your little adventures, as well as a satisfaction in your description ; because there is not only a taste, but a feeling in what you observe, something that shows you have an heart; and I would have you by all means keep it. I thank you for Alexander; Reynolds sets an high esteem on it, he thinks it admirably drawn, and with great spirit. He had it at his house for some time, and returned it in a very fine frame; and it at present makes a capital ornament of our little dining-room between the two doors. At Rome you are, I suppose, even still so much agitated by the profusion of fine things on every side of you, that you have hardly had time to sit down to methodical and regular study. When you do, you will certainly select the best parts of the best things, and attach yourself to them wholly. You, whose letter would be the best direction in the world to any other painter, want none yourself from me, who know little of the matter. But as you were always indulgent enough to bear my humour under the name of advice, you will permit me now, my dear Barry, once more to wish you, in the beginning at least, to contract the circle of your studies. The extent and rapidity of your mind carries you to too great a diversity of things, and to the completion of a whole before you are quite master of the parts in a degree equal to the dignity of your ideas. This disposition arises from a generous impatience, which is a fault almost characteristic of great genius. But it is a fault nevertheless, and one which I am sure you will correct, when you consider that there is a great deal of mechanic in your profession, in which, however, the distinctive part of the art consists, and without which the first ideas can only make a good critic, not a painter.
“ I confess I am not much desirous of your composing many pieces, for some time at least. Composition (though by some people placed foremost in the list of the ingredients of an art) I do not value near so highly. I know none who attempts, that does not succeed tolerably in that part: but that exquisite masterly drawing, which is the glory of the great school where you are, has fallen to the lot of very few, perhaps to none of the present age, in its highest perfection. If I were to indulge a conjecture, I should attribute all that is called greatness of style and manner of drawing, to this exact knowledge of the parts of the human body, of anatomy and perspective. For by knowing exactly and habitually, without the labour of particular and occasional thinking, what was to be done in every figure they designed, they naturally attained a freedom and spirit of outline ; because they could be daring without being absurd; whereas ignorance, if it be cautious, is poor and timid ; if bold, it is only blindly presumptuous. This minute and thorough knowledge of anatomy, and practical as well as theoretical perspective, by which I mean to include foreshortening, is all the effect of labour and use in particular studies, and not in general compositions. Notwithstanding your natural repugnance to handling of carcasses, you ought to make the knife go with the pencil, and study anatomy in real, and, if you can, in frequent dissections. You know that a man who despises, as you do, the minutiæ of the art, is bound to be quite perfect in the noblest part of all, or he is nothing. Mediocrity is tolerable in middling things, but not at all in the great. In the course of the studies I speak of, it would not be amiss to paint portraits often and diligently. This I do not say as wishing you to turn your studies to portraitpainting, quite otherwise; but because many things in the human face will certainly escape you without some intermixture of that kind of study.
“ Well, I think I have said enough to try your humility on this subject. But I am thus troublesome from a sincere anxiety for your success. I think you a man of honour and of genius, and I would not have your talents lost to yourself, your friends, or your country, by any means. You will then attribute my freedom to my solicitude about you, and my solicitude to my friendship. Be so good to continue your letters and observations as usual. They are exceedingly grateful to us all, and we keep them by us.
“Since I saw you I spent three months in Ireland. I had the pleasure of seeing Sleigh but for a day or two. We talked much about you, and he loves and esteems you extremely. I saw nothing in the way of your art there which promised much. Those who seemed most forward in Dublin when we were there, are not at all advanced, and seem to have little ambition. Here they are as you left them: Reynolds every now and then striking out some wonder. Barrett has fallen into the painting of views. It is the most called for, and the most lucrative part of his business. He is a wonderful observer of the accidents of nature, and produces every day something new from that source, and indeed is on the whole a delightful painter, and possessed of great resources. But I do not think he gets forward as much as his genius would entitle him to; as he is so far from studying, that he does not even look at the pictures of any of the great inasters, either Italians or Dutch. A man never can have any point of pride that is not pernicious to him. He loves you, and always inquires for you. He is now on a night-piece, which is indeed noble in the conception ; and in the execution of the very first merit. When I say he does not improve, I do not mean to say that he is not the first we have in that way, but that his capacity ought to have carried him to equal any that ever painted landscape.
“ I have given you some account of your friends among the painters here, now I will say a word of ourselves. The change of the Ministry you know was pleasing to none of our household.—Your friend Will. did not think proper to hold even the place he had. He has therefore, with the spirit you know to belong to him, resigned his employment. But I thank God, we want in our new situation neither friends, nor a reasonable share of credit. It will be a pleasure to you to hear, that if we are out of play, others of your friends are in. Macleane is under-secretary in Lord Shelburne's office; and there is no doubt but he will be, as he deserves, well patronized there.”
The language in which Barry ever after spoke of Burke is equally honourable to his own gratitude and the unbounded benevolence of his patron. “I am your property,” he writes on one occasion to Mr. Burke; “ you ought surely to be free with a man of your own making, who has found in you, father, brother, friend, every thing.” Mr. Burke,” he said on another occasion,“ has been, under God, all in all to me.”
Burke was now observed to devote his whole energies to the acquisition of political knowledge. During the sitting of parliament, the gallery of the House of Commons found him an eager auditor on every important occasion. He himself afterwards admitted that his studies were indefatigably directed to obtaining a thorough knowledge of the history and the principles of the constitution, the state of all our principal affairs domestic and foreign, and especially of our colonial and commercial interests. Political economy he studied with the utmost diligence, and with not greater diligence than success; of this he afterwards afforded abundant proofs in his speeches and writings. He was, indeed, the first statesman who ever attained any very large and comprehensive views on the subject.
In 1764 Reynolds and Burke originated the LITERARY CLUB, of which themselves and Johnson were the most distinguished members, and the history of which is associated with almost every considerable name which adorned the literature of the period.—But Mr. Burke was now to make his appearance on a wider theatre. The administration was already tottering. Various circumstances had concurred to render it unpopular; none more so than the ceedings against Mr. Wilkes, and the fatal omission of the name of the Princess Dowager of Wales in the Regency Bill, framed on the first symptoms of alienation in the royal mind.
Under these circumstances Mr. Pitt, afterwards Earl of Chatham, was applied to; but as the conditions of that able but haughty minister were such as royalty could not comply with, and the will of royalty itself not more imperious than his own, the negociations were abandoned.
By the mediation of the Duke of Cumberland, a section of the Whigs entered office under the auspices of the Marquis of Rockingham. This nobleman was a man of no mean talents and accomplishments ; at all events he possessed an advantage which is generally supposed to argue the existence of them, or which, if it can be obtained without them, will go far to make up for their absence; we mean popularity. Those virtues, however, for which he was more especially popular, he did possess—and, indeed, the only way to obtain a character for them is to possess them;—the virtues of consistency and integrity. For the rest, his talents were rather useful than splendid; he was characterized chiefly by that prudence, that sobriety of mind, that practical sense, which generally accompany the virtues above mentioned. But though he possessed many good qualities, he had no such superfuity of merit as could atone for the defects of the cabinet he formed. Its great, its essential vice was a want of unity ; it was composed of men of all shades of opinion, of all political sects; while some of them, (a still more dangerous set,) belonged to no sect at all; men who are too prudent to commit themselves to any fixed opinions, and who, having no certain course, can manage to trim their sails to any wind.
Born, therefore, with the elements of dissolution within, a short-lived existence was predicted for it. Our immediate object, however, is merely to trace Mr. Burke's connexion with it ; a connexion which affected his whole future life. In July 1765, at the instance of Mr. Fitzherbert and some other friends, he was appointed private secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham. He had scarcely been
He had scarcely been appointed, when a strange report, communicated to the Marquis of Rockingham by the Duke of Newcastle, for purposes which none can doubt, threatened his immediate dismissal.
This report was nothing less than that Burke was a papist and Jacobin in disguise. The frankness and evident honesty with which these charges were repelled, and the honour with which he offered to resign his situation rather than remain, if the slightest feeling of doubt or hesitation lingered in the mind of the Marquis, removed every suspicion, if any had ever existed, nay, procured him a confidence, which, but for this, he might not so soon have enjoyed; “a confidence which," as Lord Charlemont afterwards said, “Lord Rockingham never had occasion to repent.” Through the interest of Lord Verney, he entered parliament as member for Wendover.
The Rockingham administration, it is well known, entered into power under very critical circumstances. The stamp act, passed in the previous session, was spreading discontent and alarm through our American colonies, and inspiring the manufacturers at home, who began to tremble for their trade to the American ports, with discontent almost equally strong.
The session opened Jan. 14, 1766, and on a very early day Mr. Burke delivered his first speech. It was on that fruitful theme which was afterwards to excite so much of his eloquence, America. Little of this first effort now remains. That it must have possessed no ordinary excellence, however, is evident from the fact that it drew from Mr. Pitt, who followed him, the most marked commendations. After this he spoke very frequently, and each time with increasing effect.
The parliamentary reputation of Burke was not of slow growth, as is usually the case; it had no slow dawning; he burst at once into a blaze of celebrity. Johnson himself has left it on record,“ that probably no man at his first appearance ever obtained so much reputation before."
The most important measure on which the Rockingham party resolved was that which respected America, and is well known to every reader of this portion of our history. It
repealed the stamp act on the ground of expediency, but asserted the legislative power of Great Britain to enforce it, if she thought proper. This was a middle course between the two extreme parties, one of whom denied the right of England to tax the colonies at all, while the other not only maintained that right, but could not rest satisfied to see such a weapon rusting in its scabbard. Whether the measure was altogether well judged or not, it bears most conclusive internal evidence of having been in a considerable measure the work of Mr. Burke. It bears the very stamp of his policy. His principle was always to apply a practical remedy to a practical grievance, and never to discuss abstract principles, or, at all events, not before the most imperious necessity compelled such a course. The measure answered its purpose; and had the principles it recognised been adhered to, North America might long have remained the colonies of Britain.-Several other measures were passed this session, the most popular of which was the resolution against general warrants. Under the provisions of this act, Mr. Wilkes returned from banishment. With the consummate impudence which marked his whole career, he proposed the most extravagant terms to the Ministry. By the skilful negociations of Mr. Burke, however, he was again induced to retire from the kingdom, with a small gratuity.
Parliament was prorogued in June, and in July the ministry were dismissed. No pension, or sinecure, or reversion awaited any of them. Mr. Burke soon after drew up that masterly little sketch, entitled, “ A Short Account of a late Short Administration;" in which, leaving his readers to form their own judgment of that administration, he simply stated, in a few paragraphs, what it had done during the year it had been in office.
No sooner was the Rockingham administration dismissed, than Mr. Pitt was applied to to form a new one. He attempted to combine it out of the elements of all political parties, and he produced in consequence a monster of inconsistencies, every one of whose members seemed to counterwork the other. This was the memorable “ piece of joinery,” some years afterwards so happily described by Mr. Burke.
Ten days after the dismissal of the Rockingham administration, Burke set out for Ireland, accompanied by his wife and her mother. He has himself stated his motives for this journey, and they are highly honourable to him. It was “ to put himself out of the negociations which were then carrying on very eagerly and through many channels with the Earl of Chatham, he went to Ireland very soon after the change of ministry, and did not return until the meeting of parliament. He was at that time free from any thing that looked like an engagement.” There is every reason to believe that he might have had a place under the new administration, namely, that of a lord of trade, and that he was advised by the Marquis of Rockingham to accept it.
The session of 1766 opened with unequivocal symptoms of weakness and approaching dissolution in the ministry. A resolution that the land-tax should be four shillings in the pound, was carried against the chancellor of the Exchequer. But this was without the camp; more formidable terrors were within. Mutual suspicion and distrust had spread weakness through every part of the administration.—Parliament was prorogued in July; before that event Burke is said to have been offered a seat at the Treasury Board, but the conditions attached to the offer were such as he could not accept.
No sooner had the next session opened, than he distinguished himself by a most eloquent speech against the ministry, which however, soon after the commencement of the session, received an accession of strength from the Bedford party, terminating in what is usually called the Grafton administration. The chief topics which engaged Burke's attention were the nullum tempus act, the public distresses consequent on the dearness of provisions, and the affairs of the East India company. The parliament was dissolved in March, when Mr. Burke was again chosen for Wendover.
It was at this time that he purchased an estate in Buckinghamshire, called Gregories, which cost not less than £20,000. The manner in which the money was raised for this object has often led to surmises and reports not very favourable to Mr. Burke's character, but all of which appear to be without foundation. The simple fact is, that the larger portion of the money was left him by his father and elder brother, then dead; and the rest generously lent him by his patron the Marquis of Rockingham, if it ought not rather to be considered little more than a just return for the faithful and indefatigable services of his secretary.
The session of 1768 opened in perplexities. America was agitated from one extremity to the other, and the tone of remonstrance was fast strengthening into that of defiance. These, together with other topics, (more especially the flagrant injustice of summoning Americans to England for trial) furnished Mr. Burke with matter of frequent and powerful invective. Unable any longer to carry on the government, Lord Chatham resigned. At this critical moment, as if to increase the intricacy of this confused plot, appeared on the stage the notorious Wilkes, and against the influence of both court and legislature gained the election of Middlesex. His election and consequent prosecution, as is well known, were followed by disgraceful riots. In this difficult juncture Burke behaved in a manner worthy of himself, and while he heartily detested the demagogue, exerted himself to the utmost to defeat the unconstitutional methods adopted to crush him.
At this period Mr. Grenville either wrote, or caused to be written, a pamphlet entitled “The Present State of the Nation.” It was an elaborate defence of the Marquis of Bute's measures and his own. To this pamphlet Mr. Burke replied, in his celebrated work, entitled, “Observations on a late Pamphlet, entitled, The Present State of the Nation.” It is an admirable piece, distinguished not more by comprehensiveness in its general reasonings than by minute accuracy of detail in the statements, financial and commercial, on which his reasonings were founded. As this microscopic accuracy was the point in which Mr. Grenville most prided himself, Mr. Burke's reply was the more galling. It showed, moreover, that there was scarcely any subject which could come amiss to one who added to natural endowments so rare a knowledge almost universal.
The session of 1770 was a most important one. His most strenuous efforts were those made in favour of the bounty on the exportation of foreign corn, in support of the bill for regulating controverted elections, and in a speech proposing a censure on ministers for their American policy. It was in this session that Mr. Fox made his first speech-a speech to which Burke replied, and with some severity.
About this period, Mr. Burke drew up a petition from the Freeholders of Middlesex, praying for a new parliament. With the same object he published his powerful work entitled, “ Thoughts on the Present Discontents.”
The session of 1771 found him as indefatigable as ever in the ranks of opposition. He chiefly signalized himself by the active part he took in the support of a measure of Serjeant Glynn, for an inquiry into the administration of justice in Westminster Hall; of a bill to
; ascertain the rights of electors in choosing their own representatives, and those of juries in cases of prosecution for libel, a bill which was, in fact, his own; and in opposing government in the unhappy affair of Falkland's Island. But the most important service he rendered during this session, however comparatively insignificant it might have appeared then, was his defence of the publication of the proceedings in parliament. This led, not to the recognition, indeed, but to what is practically as good, an undisturbed enjoyment of the most valuable privileges, (next to the privileges of our great charters,) which this country possesses. Though never as yet formally recognised, prescription, joined with public opinion, has rendered the privilege as sacred as law could make it. No government would be so mad
to invade it; and if any were so mad, it would be impossible that the attempt should be successful.
In 1771 Burke was appointed agent to the State of New York, a situation worth about £1000 a year. This situation afforded his observant and capacious mind the fullest oppor