London, Volume 5

Knight, Charles


CXXIII.--The Society of Arts, &c. in the Adelphi.

CXXIII.--The Society of Arts, &c. in the Adelphi.



This once-flourishing and influential Society has been so long reposing beneath the shadow of its laurels, that now, when it arouses itself to renewed vigour and action, it must not be surprised to find its very existence, much more its services, forgotten, and that its greeting with the public generally will be at little else than a repetition of the remark and question :

The Society of Arts!-what Society is that?

There may be something mortifying in this, but it cannot be helped, that is consolation; another may be found in the respectable antiquity of the custom of forgetting what is no longer of service to us.

There's hope,

says Hamlet, in a passage applying with still greater force to societies than to individuals,

a great man's memory may outlive his life half a year: but, by'r lady, he must build churches then.

Now, if there had been any alternative but the building of churches, this Society must have been remembered for at least its half year of lifelessness or inaction, so many, so various, and so important are the good things it has done for the development and promotion of the arts, manufactures, and commerce of England. To this Society some of our


best artists have owed the most priceless of all services that can be rendered to men of genius at the outset of their career, appreciation on the part of an enlightened few, introduction under favourable circumstances to the many. It was established in , chiefly through the public spirit of a drawing-master, Mr. William Shipley; and after tossing about from coffee-house to coffee-house, from private apartments to private apartments, finally and most satisfactorily settled itself in in its own premises, in the . It was while the members were yet in their rooms in , that Bacon, in , ventured to send a small figure of Peace, and was delighted with a reward of guineas. Subsequent attempts by the same artist were so successful, that he gained the highest premium on different occasions. His beautiful works now at the , Mars, Venus, and Narcissus, all originals, all the size of life, and all presented by him, show how deeply he felt his obligations to the Society. Again, in , Nollekens received guineas for the alto-relievo of

Jephthah's Vow,

which now hangs up in the antechamber to the great room of the Society; and years later, guineas, as a mark of its approbation of a still more important piece of sculpture. The example of these sculptors was followed soon after by Flaxman, who, sending in of his earliest attempts, received a grant of guineas; for another work, exhibited in , he obtained the Society's gold medal. Next came Lawrence, who, at the early age of , received the reward of a silver palette, gilt, with the addition of guineas in money, for his drawing in crayons of the Transfiguration; the painter, in the height of his subsequent prosperity, was accustomed to speak of the impulse thus given to his love of the art. Other names might be added to the list, which could also be extended with interest to painters of the present day; as, for instance, Sir William Ross received the Society's silver palette in , at the age of , for a drawing of the death of Wat Tyler; Mr. Edwin Landseer received a similar mark of approbation in for an ; and Mr. Wyon was adjudged the gold medal in , for a medal die. But to artists there is a feature of still greater interest in the Society's history: it was in its rooms that the public exhibition of paintings in England took place in , and which was continued with great success for some years. If we turn to manufactures and commerce, and the variety of incidentals included in those terms, we find even more important and solid services rendered, as a whole, though the details furnish fewer points of interest or comment. The large expenditure of the Society in the reward of merit, which expenditure, for about years, has considerably exceeded , is alone a striking fact, connected as it has been with so little personal interest on the part of the distributors, whose labours have been throughout labours of love. In glancing over the subjects that have engaged their attention with the happiest results, we may mention the following. To the growth of forest trees the Society gave a great impulse among the higher classes, almost immediately after its formation, and accordingly we find among the recipients of its gold and silver medals the Dukes of Bedford and Beaufort, the Earls of Winterton, Upper Ossory, and Mansfield, and a Bishop of Llandaff. A similar movement took place, and through the same agency, in agriculture, with the effect of bringing to bear on that most important of all sciences, and almost for the time, a considerable amount of intellect and education, and enterprising activity, which formed most


refreshing contrasts to the dulness, ignorance, and unwillingness to move inch out of the even tenor of their way, that too generally characterised the farmers of England at the time. Mr. Curwen of Windermere, who received several medals for agricultural improvements, stated at of the public meetings that but for the Society he should never have been a farmer; and his case was no doubt but of a large number. Implements began rapidly to improve; madder, hemp, foreign grasses, and different sorts of cattle, were added to our home productions; experiments on drill husbandry were brought into notice; and thus did the Society lead the way to that assiduous study of all the processes of agriculture-however apparently well known--that promises yet to revolutionise the entire science. Then in chemistry, we had for the time manufactured at home such vessels as the best kinds of crucibles, melting-pots for tin ores, and earthen retorts, such materials as smalt and verdigris; whilst the prosperity of the country was even more directly advanced by the introduction of new or improved modes of tinning copper and brass vessels, dyeing woollen cloth, linen, cotton, silk, and leather, making buff leather, transparent varnishes, and enamels, tanning with oak saw-dust, &c. &c. In manufactures and mechanics generally, the Society taught us, or at least aided those who did so, the manufacture of Turkey carpets, tapestry weaving, weaving to imitate the Marseilles and India quilting; also how to improve our spinning and lace-making, our paper and our catgut for musical instruments, our straw bonnets, and artificial flowers. The colonies shared in its extensive beneficence : potash and pearlash were produced by the Society's agency in North America; and just before the war of independence which separated the States from England broke out, it was busily engaged in introducing the cultivation of the vine, the growth of silkworms, and the manufacture of indigo and vegetable oils. But the rewards, some in number, given within the last years or so, to poor and Spitalfields' weavers, for useful inventions in their calling, illustrates perhaps even better than any of the foregoing notices that feature of the Society which so honourably distinguishes it from all others in the present day, its readiness to receive, examine, and reward every kind of useful invention that may be brought forward by those who have neither friends nor money to aid them in making their inventions known. To all such persons the is ever open; and the general knowledge of this fact throughout Britain might yet be attended with more important results than any noted in the Society's previous history. So careful has the latter been to do full justice to whatever might be offered it by parties thus situated, that, till recently, patented inventions were not included within its scope; and now that an alteration has taken place, and that the Society very properly is ready to do its best to disseminate information as to all useful discoveries, whether patents or not, it still reserves its rewards for those who are too poor to take out a patent, or too liberal.

A brief notice of the rewards granted during the present year, and of some of the principal communications read to the Society, will, in connexion with the foregoing pages, give a tolerably clear view of the Society's general proceedings. In the mechanical and other practical arts, rewards have been given for an improved method of hanging window-sashes, an improved life-buoy, an improved tube for weaving wide velvet, an improved loom for weaving horse-hair; also for


a plan of a self-acting feeding-apparatus for high-pressure boilers, a plan of a floating breakwater, and a machine for hot-pressing lace goods, with some others. The breakwater is the invention of a foreigner, Major Parlby, Paris; and in looking at the names and addresses of the other parties, we find such places as Spitalfields, , Mile End, and , , mentioned; significant evidences of the admirable effect of the Society's operations in the development of unfriended talent. The subjects rewarded, in connexion with the fine arts, consist of a drawing of the Townley Hercules, a design for a school-house, designs for architectural ornaments, design for the best elevation of a Gothic church, a painting in oil of animals from life, different portraits in oil, and a drawing of the Apollo. The rewards are medals of gold and silver, with occasionally money payments in lieu of or in addition. feature of these rewards of merit has yet to be mentioned--the prizes are publicly presented to the recipients in the great room at the , by the President, who is now no less a personage than Her Majesty's consort, Prince Albert. Among the communications read during the present session, on the ordinary weekly evenings of meeting (Wednesdays), may be mentioned the type-setting machine of Messrs. Young and Delcambre--the lithotint process, explained by Mr. Rotch, of the Society's vice-presidents--the Secretary's communication on Arithmography, or system of universal languages by means of numbers-Mr. Prosser's invention of making bricks, tiles, and tesserae, by compression-and Mr. Braithwaite's process of stamping wood with hot irons, to produce imitations of the best style of carving. All this multifarious business is managed by means of committees, some of which meet weekly; having for its charge the subject of Accounts, a Agriculture, a Chemistry, a Colonies and Trade, and so on for Correspondence and Papers, Manufactures, Mechanics, Miscellaneous matters, and, lastly, Fine Arts. Members generally may attend the meetings of committees, with the exception of that of Miscellaneous matters, which consists of the Chairmen of the other committees and members chosen from the body at large. The number of members is now about , no less than having been added in the present year, since the revival we have referred to. The terms of membership are a single payment of guineas or annual payments of , which include the right of borrowing books from the valuable scientific library.

According to the title of the Society it is established

for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce;

tolerably comprehensive words certainly, but evidently not too much so. Indeed, looking at the variety of subjects we have already had occasion to mention, and then stepping into the model-room of the Society at the , might be tempted to ask whether there are any limits to its field of exertion; whether, in short, it is not a society for the encouragement of everything. What a glorious confusion there is amidst all this orderly array of glass-cases, that extend horizontally in rows across the room, or that perpendicularly line the walls. Hands for the -handed, to give them again , and other instruments for those who have lost both-cloths of all sorts of materials from all sorts of countries-medals of Charles the 's reign and the last new stove of Victoria's-fire-escape ladders to run down from windows, and scaffolds, rising telescope-fashion out of a box, to mount up to roofs (a most ingenious machine, and worthy the admiration which we understand his Royal


Highness the President recently expressed in regard to it)-bee-hives, and instruments to slice turnips-ploughs, and instruments to restrain vicious bullspans to preserve butter in hot localities, and safety-lamps to preserve men in dangerous ones-models of massive cranes, and of little tips for umbrellas-lifebuoys, and maroon-locks to give notice of thieves in gardens-diving-bells and expanding-keys-safe coaches and traps-clocks, and improved tail-pieces for violoncellos-instruments to draw spirits, and instruments to draw teeth-samples of tea, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmegs, in different stages of growth-models of Tuscan pavements-beds for invalids-methods to teach the blind how to write --but the list is interminable, and were we to continue it for half-a-dozen pages further, we should be in no appreciable degree nearer the end. It is but justice to another admirable point of the Society's policy to mention here, that however miscellaneous many of the subjects may be which are brought annually before it, in accordance with the particular pursuit or skill of individuals, the Society itself, at the same time, pursues a methodical course of its own: thus while it rewards by


whatever inventions or works of more than ordinary skill and value are casually submitted to it, its chief rewards, or


are bestowed on those who have succeeded in a competition, or in a mode, the nature of which has been previously pointed out by the Society. Its guide in selecting subjects for premiums may be, perhaps, best expressed in the phrase,

What do we most want?

a question that we may presume to find practically answered in the list now before us, of subjects for which rewards will be given in the course of the next sessions. These are classed under the heads Agriculture, Fine Arts, Chemistry and Mineralogy, Colonies and Trade, Manufactures, Mechanics, and include a host of matters of the deepest interest, in connexion with the national prosperity. We find among them premiums offered for cheaper or superior


modes of gaining lands from the sea, cultivating waste lands, draining, forming manure, making extensive plantations, particularly on land unfit for other purposes; also for the introduction of new and improved species and varieties of forest, or fruit, or ornamental trees, shrubs, and other plants ;--in some instances of known dioecious plants, of which we possess but sex, specified by name; as in the beautiful evergreen so common in our gardens, the aucuba japonica, or gold plant, the female of which we alone possess, and for the male a gold medal is consequently offered. Then, again, premiums are offered for new or improved methods of harvesting corn or making hay in wet seasons--for importing and rearing in this country any improved breed of cattle, sheep, or other domestic animals (the Cashmere-shawl goat forms a special item)-for improvement in the heating of horticultural buildings, and in the formation of better and cheaper agricultural machines: these all occur under the head Agriculture. Beneath that of Chemistry and Mineralogy, communications are desired on the subjects of generating steam at a higher power, without increasing the danger or the expense --on preventing smoke--on purer glass for optical purposes--on the discovery in Britain, or in a British colony, of a stone for lithography, to equal the best German stones--of better modes of lighting houses and streets. In connexion with Colonies and Trade, the improvements, discoveries, or introductions sought are--the growth of flax in British India, and of silk and tea in any British colony--a substitute for hemp-also accounts of the Chinese modes of manufacturing their Indian paper so much used by our printsellers, their porcelain, and of their method of growing cocoa. Under the head Mechanics, the attention of candidates is directed generally to improvement in those important objects on which the interests of Great Britain essentially depend, namely-the shipping, steam-engines, steam-boats and carriages, roads, bridges, tunnels, canals, docks, and harbours; the construction of rail-roads, and modes of propelling rail-road carriages; also to everything connected with these subjects, as machinery, tools, and diminution of manual labour; to the improvement of optical, mathematical, astronomical and especially of nautical instruments, in respect to accuracy or facility of use; to the improvement of surgical instruments and apparatus; and, we are glad to see, to the diminution of danger attending many of the ordinary avocations of men through steam-boilers, gunpowder-mills, public conveyances, mines, and quarries. Lastly, the Society announce, under the head of Fine Arts, that, for the future, the rewards will be confined to original works of art; including historical subjects, portraits, landscapes, fruit, flowers and still life; enamels and miniatures; architectural designs; drawings of machinery; engravings on steel, copper and wood; medal dies, gems and cameos, drawings in lithography, lithotint, &c.; models in wax and clay; carvings in wood, ivory, marble, or other suitable material; anatomical, botanical, and other scientific drawings, and improvements in the Daguerrotype and Solar type processes.

Such are but a few of the subjects to which the Society directs attention at the present time, and in connexion with which it offers its numerous rewards. We may conclude this part of our paper by throwing out a suggestion which seems to us not unworthy of notice. Of all the communicants, or those who might become so under favourable circumstances, of the Society, it is evident a very large portion must be persons whose situation will not admit of the expenditure


of any considerable amount of time, much less of money, unless with the expectation of a decidedly beneficial pecuniary return; yet this the Society does not give: we think it might. If, instead of offering small premiums in connexion with so many different subjects, it would yearly select a few of the most important, and promote them by large ones, the result, we think, would be a more decided success; the Society, it seems to us, would become a still more valuable agent for the promotion of all the great objects it has at heart. We now turn to an event in the history of the Society which has already done much to popularise it in years past, which may yet do much more, when the magnificent works which that event placed in their possession shall be as generally known and appreciated as they deserve.

Some years ago, there might have been seen daily passing in a direction between and the , for years together, and through all kinds of weather, whose appearance told, to even the most casual observer, he looked upon a remarkable man. Referring to himself, in of his letters to a friend, he had once said,

though the body and the soul of a picture will discover themselves on the slightest glance, yet you know it could note be the same with such a pock-fretted, hard-featured little fellow as I am also;

but neither these personal characteristics, nor the mean garb in which he usually appeared, could conceal the earnestness stamped upon his grave, saturnine countenance, or the air of entire absorption in some mental pursuit, having little in common with the bustle of the every-day business of the world around him. He was a man to make or to keep few friends, and to shun all acquaintances; it was not often therefore that, in these passages to and fro, he had any companion; but the event was noticeable when he had, from the striking change in his demeanour.
He became full of animation, and of a kind of sparkling cheerfulness; his conversation was at once frank, weighty, and elevating, and even the oaths, with which he made somewhat free, could not spoil the delight of the most fastidious censor of words, whilst borne along on the full and free current of the painter's thoughts. No but himself at such times would have called his countenance


its smile was inexpressibly sweet, its look of scorn or anger, when roused, such as few men could have met unmoved. But what was the


employment that thus determined for so long a period his daily movements? The answer will require a brief review of his past career. Whilst a young student at Rome, Barry--for it was he to whom we refer-had been often annoyed by the absurd taunts of foreigners as to the ungenial character of the British soil for the growth of Art, often seduced into answering them in such a manner as suited rather his fiery temper and indomitable will, `than the cause which he so impatiently espoused. But a better result was his own quiet determination to devote his life to the disproof of the theory. He began admirably, by a strict analysis of his own powers, and by inquiring how they were best to be developed. Here is the result:

If I should chance to have genius, or anything else,

he observes, in a letter to Dr. Sleigh,

it is so much the better; but my hopes are grounded upon an unwearied, intense application, of which I am not sparing. At present I have little to show that I value; my work is all under ground, digging and laying foundations, which, with God's assistance, I may hereafter find the use of. I every day centre more and more upon the art; I give myself totally to it: and, except honour and conscience, am determined to renounce every thing else.

But the writer was without a shilling in the world to call his own; and although he had friends, the best of friends, as they were, of them at least, Burke, the best of men, he had already received from them the entire means of subsistence while he had been studying so long at Rome, and was determined therefore to be no longer a burden to them or to others; but how should he, renouncing all the ordinary blandishments of a young painter's career, the


and other methods by which genius condescends to become fashionable, or, in other words, to lay down its immortality for the pleasure of being acknowledged immortal, how was he to subsist? It was whilst this question remained, we may suppose, not decisively answered, that the painter thus mournfully wrote to a friend:--

O, I could be happy, on my going home, to find some corner where I could sit down in the middle of my studies, books, and casts after the antique, to paint this work and others, where I might have models of nature when necessary, bread and soup, and a coat to cover me! I should care not what became of my work when it was done; but I reflect with horror upon such a fellow as I am, and with such a kind of art in London, with house-rent to pay, duns to follow me, and employers to look for. Had I studied art in a manner more accommodated to the nation, there would be no dread of this.

But from this state of despondency and dissatisfaction he was soon to rise triumphant. Again and again he asked himself how he was to subsist while the great things he meditated should be accomplished, and the answer came: the conclusion was anything but attractive or cheering, but he saw it was the conclusion: ; and accepted it ungrudgingly. It was not long before he could say,

I have taken great pains to fashion myself to this kind of Quixotism : to this end I have contracted and simplified my cravings and wants, and brought them into a very narrow compass.

There are few, we think, of those who lay have smiled with pity or contempt at the painter's mean garb, who would not have honoured it while they reverenced him, had they known this. The apparent opportunity of achieving the object indicated, was in connexion with the proposed decoration of , of which we have already given an account. The very idea was enough to set Barry's soul on fire. It


opened a field of exertion wider in its range, more magnificent in its nature, than in his cooler moments he could have expected would ever have been afforded him; though, from the following passage of of his letters, it should seem that he had not only long meditated upon the scheme, but had been--in opposition to the general notion, which accords the merit to Reynolds--the to propose it to the Academy.-

The dean and chapter have agreed to leave the ornamenting of

St. Paul's

to the Academy, and it now rests with us to give permission to such painters as we shall think qualified to execute historical pictures of a certain size, I believe from




feet high. We also intend to set up a monument there-Pope is mentioned--the sculptor is to be paid by subscription, and a benefit from the play-house. I proposed this matter to the Academy about a year since, a little after my being admitted an associate, and I had long set my heart upon it, as the only means for establishing a solid, manly taste for real art, in place of our contemptible passion for the daubing of inconsequential things, portraits of dogs, landscapes, &c.-things which the mind, which is the soul of art, having no concern in, have hitherto served to disgrace us over all Europe.

[n.361.1]  The enthusiasm of the Academy seems to have been all expended in its offer respecting ; for, on the refusal of the Bishop of London, they allowed the matter to drop; and when the Society which forms the subject of this paper very wisely stepped forward and offered its room for decoration, the Academy declined. No wonder that Barry's dislike of the Academy grew more and more decided, member of it though he was; or that he could no longer allow his life to glide away without the accomplishment of any of its great objects: it was soon rumoured through the academic circle, with such comments as ill-nature, jealousy, and personal dislike would prompt, that Barry himself, single-handed, had offered to undertake the great work they had refused, and that the Society had accepted his offer. Barry, at the time of his offer, is said to have had just in his possession; but he says, referring to his writings,

I thought myself bound, in duty to the country, to art, and to my own character, to try whether my abilities would enable me to exhibit the proof as well as the argument.

And so, merely stipulating for the exercise of his own independent judgment, free admission at all times, and that the necessary models should be furnished at the Society's expense, he began his undertaking. Such was the man, such the nature of the avocations that drew him daily, at the period we have mentioned, towards the . Let us now ascend the stairs to the floor, passing through the little anteroom where the alto-relievos of Bacon and Nollekens are mounted high upon the walls, and beneath the portrait of the founder of the Society, which appropriately hangs over the door of the great room, where the painter's works are to be found. The glance shows us in way the magnitude of the undertaking; the upper portion of the walls of the whole of the noble room, or hall, as it should rather be called, is covered by the paintings of which the series consists; as we step from to another, we perceive that these large spaces have been wrought upon in a large spirit, and a still closer examination opens to our view pictures of surpassing beauty and grandeur, and scarcely less remarkable as a


whole for the successful manner in which they have been executed, than for the daring originality of their conception.

His leading object, it seems, was to convey the idea,

That the attainment of happiness, individual as well as public, depends on the development, proper cultivation, and perfection of the human faculties, physical and moral, which are so well calculated to lead human nature to its true rank, and the glorious designation assigned for it by Providence.

A truth of the mightiest import, and for all time, and, of course, that a painter requires every fair indulgence in the attempt to illustrate by the mere representation of half a dozen :scenes. In the of these, the principle of civilization is at once forcibly and poetically embodied in the picture of Orpheus, in the combined characters of legislator, priest, poet, philosopher, and musician, addressing a wild and uncultivated people, in a
country but too much in harmony with themselves. As he pours forth his songs of instruction, accompanied by the music of his lyre,--types of the instruments by and through which he works, the understanding, and the feelings,--the rapt savage fresh from the chace, with his female partner, to whom he has delegated the task of carrying the dead fawn, leaning upon his shoulders, the old man looking up with the scepticism natural to age overborne by wonder and admiration, and him


who sits by his side, lost in surprise, at the new views opening upon him of what may be done by so small and as yet comparatively untried an instrument as the hand, all betoken the potency of the

minister and interpreter of the gods,

as Horace calls him. Comments have been made on the delicacy of the female above mentioned, as inconsistent with the painter's own view of showing

that the value and estimation of women increase according to the growth and cultivation of society, and that, amongst savage nations, they are in a condition little better than the beasts of burden.

Barry seems to have perceived this himself; for in his etchings of the picture in the great work published by him, which lies on the table, the objection seems to be completely obviated. He has there removed the censer, the fumes of which, winding upwards, veil the undressed limbs in the picture, and made it prominent to the eye, and, at the same time, by other alterations, removed the air of excessive delicacy, and made the figure as we now see it in our engraving. The picture presents us with a lovely view of a

Grecian Harvest Home;

the inhabitants are no longer such as Orpheus addressed, but such as his teachings and time have made them, civilized, gentle, and happy, the cultivation of their fields and the tending of their flocks their chief avocation, the dance and the song their chief enjoyment, the honour of success in a wrestling match their highest ambition. The thoroughly Grecian air of this picture must enchant every . Barry, as well as Wordsworth, felt that-

in despite

Of the gross fictions, chanted in the streets

By wandering rhapsodists; and in contempt

Of doubt and bold denials hourly urged

Amid the wrangling schools--a spirit hung,

Beautiful region! o'er thy woods and fields,

and, like the poet, he has made us feel it too. This is the triumph of art. The picture of the series, that facing you as you enter the room, is perhaps, taken altogether, as great a picture as ever was painted. We have advanced from savage life and the earliest stage of civilization, to that where poets, painters, sculptors, philosophers, have arisen to shed a new glory over the earth, and where the heroes have become more essentially because more ideally heroic. Most happily has the painter chosen the event that above all others could best enable him to express this new position is the history of man, and the acknowledgments due to the people to whom we owe so much: the Victors at Olympia is the subject of the picture; the age of Pericles, the most brilliant in Grecian history, the time. Beneath the seat of the judges are portraits reminding us of the illustrious men who have helped to make Greece what she here appears, Solon, Lycurgus, and others; and trophies' telling of the grander events of her history,--of Salamis, of Marathon, and of Thermopylae; whilst in the crowds congregated about the victors, we have Pindar leading the chorus in the singing of of his own odes; behind him, in the chariot, is Hiero of Syracuse; Pericles is seen in another direction speaking to Cimon; whilst Socrates, Anaxagoras, Euripides listen, and Aristophanes scoffs. The chief group represents Diagoras of Rhodes, who had in his youth been celebrated for his own victories in the


games, and who is now borne on the shoulders of his sons, of whom has been this day the victor at the Cestus; the multitude are filling the air with their acclamations, and strewing flowers upon his head as the victorious father of victorious children; whilst a friend on the left grasps his hand, and tells him in the well-known recorded words,

Now, Diagoras, die, for thou canst not be made a god.

Of the other victors on the right, both foot racers, has already received the branch of palm, and is being crowned, while the scribe at the table records his name, family, and country. If the reader will look in the extreme corner of the picture on the left hand, he will see an interesting practical evidence of Barry's own opinion of the work; that low figure seated on the base of the statue of Hercules represents the painter in the character of Timanthes. As to the opinions of others, Canova's is a memorable case in point. When on his visit here, he said he would have come purposely to England from Rome to see it, without any other motive, had he known of the existence of such a picture.
Of the and pictures of the series little can be said in the way of praise,. The artist felt the necessity of showing a something still better than


Grecian civilization, as preparatory to the Elysium into which he proposed to lead men at last, and, of course, if that were any where to be found it was in the history of commerce and the greatest of commercial countries, his own; he felt also, no doubt, that in other respects the British nation had influenced and was still influencing most potently the progress of civilization; but the pictures in which he has embodied these views are failures, nor do we see how they could be otherwise. Grecian history and civilization present a tolerably consistent whole, because the chief details were consistent with the religion, morals, and manners, the theory and the practice, of the Grecian people. Our history and civilization present but too many evidences of inconsistency; we have ascended higher, but sunk lower; have made our religion, morals, and manners too often at war with each other, our theory a frequent satire on our practice. In the mean time we have the Thames, in the shape of a venerable figure, in a triumphal car, borne along by Drake, Raleigh, Cabot, and Cook, accompanied by Mercury as Commerce, with Nereids carrying articles of manufacture and industry, among whom Dr. Burney is somewhat ludicrously introduced as the personified idea of Music. The most pertinent criticism we have seen on this picture was the unintentional on the part of a dowager, who, putting her fan before her face, expressed her regret to see

good Dr. Burney with a parcel of naked girls dabbling in a horse-pond.

The other picture referred to is the meeting of the members of the Society of Arts for the annual distribution of the premiums, and who appear to be debating how they may best forward the objects of the Society; a work in itself of considerable merit, and interesting in the locality, but too restricted in its nature for the series. Opposite the Victors at Olympia, and over the door of entrance, is the last of these pictorial essays on moral culture, the view of Elysium, certainly of the boldest flights of imagination to which painter ever ventured to give a local habitation and a name, and, though not as a whole to be compared with the


which seems to us all but perfect, presents perhaps a still loftier view of the artist's genius. Michael Angelo might have been proud of that wonderful figure of the Archangel Gabriel, who keeps watch and ward between the confines of Elysium and Tartarus; and, indeed, the amazing character of the whole conception is not unworthy of that sublime painter. Barry was quite aware of the objections to which

Elysium, or the State of Final Retribution

was exposed.


he says,

it is indisputably true that it exceeds the highest reach of human comprehension to form an adequate conception of the nature and degree of that beatitude which hereafter will be the final reward of virtue; yet it is also true that the arts which depend on the imagination, though short and imperfect, may nevertheless be very innocently and very usefully employed on the subject, from which the fear of erring ought not to deter us from the desire of being serviceable.

It was my wish,

he continues,

to bring together in Elysium those great and good men of all ages and nations who were cultivators and benefactors of mankind. The picture forms a kind of apotheosis, or more properly a beatification, of those useful qualities which were pursued throughout the series.

The truly admirable manner in which he has done this is remarkable; he has utterly sunk all consciousness of self, of the man Barry's religious, moral, political, philosophical,


or artistical biases, in order to look over the field of human history as a superior being might be supposed to look over it, who had nothing in common with humanity, and, thus looking, true intellectual eminence is not difficult to be distinguished. The very case that has been adduced to prove the contrary is of the strongest of evidences of this, Hogarth's; against whom Barry is said to have had a grudge, and of whose merit he has certainly spoken disrespectfully-but Hogarth is there. A more important evidence of the largeness and philosophical grasp of the painter's mind is the way in which he has grouped his characters, making light of the accidents of time, country, or costume, to impress with the more striking force the essentials of biographical history. Thus we have Roger Bacon, Archimedes, Descartes, and Thales, in combination; Homer, Milton, Shakspere, Spenser, Chaucer, and Sappho, in another; Alfred the Great, Penn, and Lycurgus, in a . Other portraits will be readily recognised in our engravings. features of the picture exhibit Barry's judgment as conspicuously in what he has avoided, as the whole shows his lofty courage in what he has grappled with. Near the top of the picture, on the left, cherubim are seen indistinctly through the blaze of light and glory that streams down--from whence


we need not ask; at the opposite corner of the picture, at the bottom, we have an indication equally slight, but equally sufficient, of Tartarus and the torments of the damned. As an evidence of the spirit in which, as we have said, Barry introduced or kept out the persons who fell under his consideration when selecting for this picture, a little anecdote in reference to the Tartarean part of it may be read with interest. In the emaciated limb which belongs to the garter of of the falling wicked, it was said that the leg of a nobleman who had offended Barry was noticeable. When the remark reached the latter, he defended himself with an earnestness and propriety that speak the truth of his words:



particularly valued in my work,

said he,

was a dignity, seriousness, and gravity, infinitely removed from all personality.

Still the temptation, it must be owned, was great, and many no doubt wondered why they did not find there the whole Academy. With another anecdote from the same source,[n.367.1]  which we give in the relator's words, we conclude this notice of the pictures :--

A young lady from the north, of great beauty and wit, went to take a look at the painter's Elysium. She looked earnestly for a while, and said to Mr. Barry,

The ladies have not yet arrived in this Paradise of yours.

0, but they have, madam,

said the painter with a smile,

they reached Elysium some time ago; but I could find no place so fit for creatures so bright and beautiful as behind yon very luminous cloud. They are there, and very happy, I assure you.

And, referring once more to the painter's anticipated difficulties at the commencement of his career, how he subsist during the long years this work was in progress? Why, by working at night for the bread that was to keep him alive the next day, or week; making hasty drawings, or such engravings as the Job, Birth of Venus, and Lear; and when these failed, and he applied to the Society for assistance by a small subscription, and was refused, why then-God knows what he did then; for he was too proud to borrow, too honest to run in debt. However, he struggled on, bating no jot of heart or hope, until the Society gave him a donation of guineas, and after that another of similar amount; and so the goal was reached at last. The paintings, begun in , were completed in . Something like reward now followed. The Society allowed the work to be exhibited for his benefit; Johnson came, and pronounced his decision in his usual weighty words,

There is a grasp of mind there which you will find no where else;

Burke, estranged as he was from his once

dear Barry

(and, it must be owned, not through his fault), looked upon the walls with an honest exultation as he felt how he had contributed to the success of the author; whilst good Jonas Hanway had scarcely paid his shilling and looked over the noble works around him, before he hurried back to demand its return from the astonished doorkeeper; and, on receiving it, put down a guinea in its place. By this exhibition Barry gained ; by the etchings of the pictures which he made with his own hands, more; he received from Lord Romney, the President of the Society, whose portrait was introduced; was bequeathed to him by Timothy Hollis, as

the painter of the work on Human Culture,

and Lord Radnor presented him, in a delicate way, with The use Barry made


of this money gives the finishing touch to the character of this noble artist :--he placed his money in the funds, and secured to himself an income of a-year; and that sum may be said to be the money value of Barry, as an artist, to the age he lived in, and which he has so greatly adorned by these imperishable works.


[n.361.1] Letter to the Duke of Richmond.

[n.367.1] Cunningham's Lives of the Painters, &c.