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coachman had often to exhibit it to sight-seers. As a carriage must have been a convenience to Miss Reynolds, her brother reasonably combated her intention of permitting the ornamented panels of the chariot to deprive her of its use.
Reynolds gave a ball on taking possession of his house. He was not much addicted to mere gaiety, but no man had a keener zest for mental intercourse. He was as fond of London,' says Malone, as Dr. Johnson, always maintaining that it was the only place in England where a pleasant society might be found.’ He later erected a villa on Richmond Hill, and often spent a summer evening there with his friends; but notwithstanding his fine sense of the beauties of nature, he rarely remained a night. He used to say that the human face was his landscape,' and he would not sacrifice the stir of London for rural scenes and fresh air. He belonged to various social clubs, he was a frequent diner out, and every week he gave one or more dinners himself. He gradually gathered round him all the celebrities of the time. For above thirty years, says Malone, there was scarce a person in the three kingdoms distinguished in literature, art, law, politics, or war, who did not occasionally appear at the table, and the most famous among them were his constant guests. Dinner was served at five o'clock precisely, and he waited for nobody. He invited chance callers at the shortest notice, and sixteen people were often crowded round a table which had been laid for half the number. The additional knives and forks, plates and glasses, were supplied at the moment by two or three ill-trained servants. The waiting was defective, and the guests were left, in a great measure, to take care of themselves. The fare was just what would be expected from the other arrangements; there was abundance of the best provisions the season afforded, without any of the refinements of epicurism. Reynolds sat composed in the midst of the 'convivial bustle,' attending solely to what was said, and paying no regard to the hitches in the service of the food and wine.* Mr. Courtenay, who describes the scene, says that the trifling embarrassments only served to enhance the hilarity and singular pleasure of the entertainment;' and it is evident that, among gentlemen, the absence of formality must have contributed to good fellowship and animated conversation, without the risk of introducing vulgar freedoms and disorder. The variety of tastes
*At a venison feast, where the company were more intent upon eating than talking, Reynolds tried to no purpose to engage his neighbour in conversation. The taciturn man at last broke silence to say, Mr. Reynolds, whenever you are at a venison feast, I advise you not to speak during dinner time, as in endeavouring to answer your question I have just swallowed a fine piece of fat entire, without tasting its flavour.'
and talents brought together assisted in giving life to the conversation. 'Temporal and spiritual peers,' says Mr. Courtenay, 'physicians, lawyers, actors, and musicians, composed the motley group, and played their parts without dissonance or discord.' Politics were excluded, together with pretentious tiresome dissertations on any subject whatsoever. Jest-books have been called collections of wit for those who have none, and the vapid retailers of second-hand jokes, as well as the professed dealers in humour and bon mots, were under a ban. The talk was the natural outpourings of superior minds, and had the united charm of ease and excellence. The discussions were sometimes eager and even vehement, and once when Dunning arrived the first, he said to his host, 'Well, Sir Joshua, and whom have you got to dine with you to-day, for the last time I dined in your house the assembly was of such a sort that I believe all the rest of the world were at peace for that afternoon at least.' Mr. Courtenay remarks that Reynolds himself was formed to promote 'lively, rational conversation.' He had a comprehensive nature which sympathised with many moods of mind, or he could not have recorded them with such wonderful power on his canvas. His notions were not picked up from books, but were the fresh and vigorous ideas of a keen dispassionate scrutiniser of mankind. 'I know no one,' said Johnson, who has passed through life with more observation.' He was always philosophising upon what he saw and heard, and though he had often been anticipated in theories which, from his limited reading, he supposed to be original, yet his views were enforced by bright and novel illustrations. He had 'an uncommon flow of spirits,' he had a strong turn for humour, he abounded in interesting anecdotes, and his faculties of every kind were harmonised and kept in order by presiding good sense. His manners were perfect- gentle, complying, and bland'-and his exterior graciousness was the truthful index of his inward benevolence. His complaisance never degenerated into servility. 'He kept the mean,' says Edwards, in his Anecdotes of Painting,' between affected consequence and supple compliance.' From his habitual association with the luminaries of literature he was sometimes numbered among literary men; but he disclaimed any title to the character, and when he was classed with the wits' in a newspaper, he said, 'Why have they named me amongst them as a wit? I never was a wit in my life.'*
While Reynolds feasted his distinguished guests, he is said by Allan Cunningham to have been penurious and oppressive to his
Allan Cunningham ascribes the remark to alarm, of which there is not a hint in the narrative of Northcote. It was the simple protestation of a man who scorned to assume a merit which did not belong to him.
servants. In his economy he was close and saving. He stinted his domestics to the commonest fare, and rewarded their faithfulness by very moderate wages. One of his servants, who survived till lately, described him as a master who exacted obedience in trifles, was prudent in the matter of pins, a saver of bits of thread, a man hard and parsimonious, who never thought he had enough of labour out of his dependents, and always suspected that he overpaid them.' Flimsier evidence was never adduced to prove that a refined and large-minded genius, who lived generously before the world, was in secret a sordid task-master, who belonged to the race of grovelling misers. The male or female servant who gave the account is unnamed, as well as the witness who heard it from his or her lips. For anything which appears, the anonymous accuser may have been an impostor, or, what is most probable, may have been discharged for misconduct. The pretended parsimony was a calumny. Northcote, who resided five years with Reynolds, and who must have known the minutest details of his household economy, declares that 'he never gave the smallest attention to such matters,' and that he was 'equally free from meanness or ostentation.' Some of his domestics remained with him for years, and they would not have stayed to be overworked, underpaid, and underfed. What estimate should we form of the noblest personages that have ever adorned the world if their biographers had stooped to take their characters from the spiteful tongue of a dissatisfied servant?
The aspersions of Mr. Cunningham do not stop here. He admits that Reynolds performed many acts of kindness,' but is careful to convey the impression that his liberality was confined to eminent men, and was inspired by his excessive love of reputation. 'It would have been well for him,' says his biographer, 'if he had opened his heart to humbler people. A little would have gone a long way,—a kindly word and a guinea prudently given.' His fame will suffer no abatement, for he did on a large scale what Allan Cunningham suggests he should have done on a small. His rapidly accumulating fortune,' says Northcote, 'was not for his sole enjoyment; he still felt the luxury of doing good.' His readiness to relieve the needy was notorious among his intimates, and Johnson, who was 'of every friendless man the friend,' habitually applied to him to assist with his bounty. He did not dole out niggard sums. 'It was not before
yesterday,' Johnson wrote to him June 23, 1781, 'that I received your splendid benefaction. To a hand so liberal in distributing I hope no one will envy the power of acquiring.' He became acquainted at Antwerp with a foreign artist named De Gree. The young man passed through London on his way to Ireland,
where he had entered into an engagement, and Sir Joshua sented him with fifty guineas to buy his outfit. Having heard that an unfortunate artist, with a large family, could not venture out of doors for fear of being arrested, Reynolds hastened to his house. He learnt that forty pounds would enable the poor fellow to compound with his creditors, and on leaving slipped a hundred pound note into his hand. Such acts were not exceptional, for Northcote, after relating two or three traits of benevolence,' of which this was one, adds that many other instances might be recorded.' Reynolds sometimes helped the objects of his patronage by enabling them to help themselves, which,' says Northcote, doubled the obligation by lessening it.' Mr. Dayes made some drawings of the King at St. Paul's, when he returned thanks after his illness. Sir Joshua observed that their sale would not recompense the labour, and told Mr. Dayes if he would publish them he would lend him the money for the purpose, and get him a handsome subscription from the nobility.
The guineas and compassion of the 'hard and parsimonious man' were bestowed upon 'humbler people' than indigent artists, or even than the lowly pensioners of Johnson. A negro who had lived long in the service of Reynolds, and who appears in several of his pictures, was ordered one night to attend blind Miss Williams home. He stopped to enjoy the company of some acquaintances on his way back, and when he returned to Leicestersquare he found the servants in bed. He took refuge in a watchhouse where a man, who was under arrest, picked his pockets while he slept. The thief was tried for the offence at the Old Bailey, and condemned to death. The negro, to conceal his own delinquency, had kept the robbery and the trial a secret from his master, and Reynolds was ignorant of the transaction till he read it in the newspaper. He was greatly affected, and immediately despatched a messenger to the cell of the criminal, who was found surrounded by filth, and wasted with hunger. Sir Joshua sent him clothes, obliged the negro to carry him victuals every day, got his sentence commuted through the intervention of Burke, and when the poor wretch was transported he equipped him for his voyage. This incident is said by Northcote to have been highly illustrative of the character of Reynolds.'
The lesser deeds of beneficence in which Sir Joshua delighted were not those of a miser. He had been bound apprentice to Hudson by the advice of Mr. Cranch, a gentleman with a small independence at Plympton. When Reynolds rose in the world, he had a silver cup made for a present to Mr. Cranch, as a token of gratitude, but before the cup was quite finished this wise counsellor died. The comment of Allan Cunningham is a
sample of the spirit which pervades his biography: The painter had the honour of the intention, and the use of the cup -a twofold advantage of which he was not insensible.' The pretence that he was eager to get praise for generosity is not more true than that he was parsimonious in giving. He was singularly unostentatious in his benevolence, and if he had tainted his virtue with the vice of boastfulness we should have heard less of his meanness.
Another little kindness performed by Reynolds was connected with Plympton. The widow of the clergyman who succeeded his father in the mastership of the grammar school kept a school for young ladies. Her daughter, a mere girl, pitied a teacher who was too poor to buy a holiday dress in which to appear at their balls. The child had heard of the reputation of Reynolds for generosity, and, without consulting any one, she wrote him a letter, and begged a silk gown for the teacher. A box arrived shortly afterwards with two silk dresses of different patterns, to the extreme surprise of the teacher, who was not let into the secret, and who could not have been more astonished if they had dropped from the skies. The sympathies of Reynolds, it is evident, were not reserved for men of renown, though to his infinite credit he was a noble benefactor to those who were his rivals in greatness but not in prosperity. His delicate consideration anticipated their wants. His generous kindness,' says Northcote, would never permit his friends to ask a pecuniary favour, his purse and heart being always open.' Johnson, who left considerable sum of money, who carried his proud independence to a fault, and who would rarely consent to be under an obligation to anybody, begged, when he was dying, that Sir Joshua would cancel a debt of thirty pounds, and this request from such a man would of itself be a proof that Reynolds was noted for his ungrudging liberality.
With his readiness in spending he was not greedy in getting. Northcote states that he would work for weeks on fancy subjects, where he could try experiments at pleasure, while numbers of portraits were unfinished for which he would have received the money the moment they were sent home. When his pictures were not paid for he sat down quietly under the loss. He used to say that he could not dun persons for debts whom he was constantly meeting at dinner. In spite of a disposition the reverse of grasping-in spite of his wide-spread, costly charities, his house in town and country, his liberal establishment, his profuse hospitality, and his lavish outlay upon works of art,* Mr.
* Reynolds at the close of his life offered his collection of pictures to the Academy