Imágenes de páginas
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

in the theory and practice of the science. None but Academicians were eligible to the post; and when it was proposed, as the first step towards the necessary qualification, to elect M. Bonomi an associate, he was only chosen by the casting vote of the President. The opposition was stronger still when M. Bonomi became a candidate for the full honours of the Academy. An obscure pamphleteer of the time, from whom Northcote borrowed his account, alleged that Reynolds espoused the interests of Bonomi out of deference to the Earl of Aylesford, and this supposition, which was a mere pretence to excuse a factious proceeding, is repeated by Farington. The circumstances completely contradict the imputation that Sir Joshua, to oblige a friend, had tried to force an unworthy member upon the Academy. Long before M. Bonomi was heard of, Reynolds had repeatedly. urged the duty of finding a Professor. He insisted that merit, and not favour, should determine the choice, and he supported a resolution, which was carried in the Council, that the candidates should send specimens of their abilities in perspective draughtsmanship. Bonomi furnished two drawings, which Barry said would do honour to the greatest academy in the world,' and Mr. Leslie, who had seen them, bears witness that they fully deserved the praise.' The true cause of the unworthy cabal appears to have been the jealousy which frequently instigated Sir William Chambers to oppose his influence to that of the President. The election of the new academician was fixed for Feb. 10, 1790, and a large majority, under the leadership of Chambers, voted against Bonomi. In the excitement of the contest they treated Reynolds with gross discourtesy, and his self-respect compelled him to resign his office. As he himself said he was driven from the chair.' drew up a statement of the case for publication, but the academicians did not dare to justify their conduct, and before he could print his defence, they passed a resolution in which they virtually admitted that they were in the wrong.



Joshua was highly gratified. He immediately withdrew his resignation, and the reconciliation on all sides seems to have been hearty and sincere. He was conscious that his remaining reign could not be long. He delivered his final Discourse on Dec. 10, 1790, when he informed his auditors that 'his age, and his infirmities still more than his age,' would probably never permit him to address them again. His Lecture was chiefly devoted to the mighty master from whom he had derived in his youth his highest inspiration, and he wound up with saying, that the last words he wished to pronounce from the chair of the Academy was the name of Michael Angelo. Doris His


His disorders made rapid progress. Miss Burney saw him in July, 1791, when he was greatly dejected by the apprehension that the failing sight of the right eye would soon consign him to total darkness. The enormous enlargement of his liver, which was overlooked by his physicians, was the secret cause of a deeper melancholy. His wonted cheerfulness forsook him, and his friends could no longer dissipate his abiding despondency. In December he was aware that death was approaching. A friend tried to comfort him with the hope of returning health, and he answered, 'I know that all things on earth must have an end, and I have come to mine.' His composure returned when he became sen sible that his departure was at hand. 'Nothing,' wrote Burke on Jan. 26, 1792, 'can equal the tranquillity with which he views his end. He congratulates himself on it as a happy conclusion to a happy life.' Enthusiasm for his art had enticed him in his prosperity into a partial neglect of his religious duties. His sister, Mrs. Johnson, had earnestly remonstrated with him for painting on Sundays; and the last request of his dying friend, Dr. Johnson, was that he would give up his Sunday painting and read his Bible. But though he sometimes relaxed in his strictness his reverence remained. 'All this excellence,' he said, in his notice of Moser, the Keeper of the Royal Academy, 'had a firm foundation. He was a man of a sincere and ardent piety, and has left an illustrious example of the exactness with which the subordinate duties may be expected to be discharged by him whose first care is to please God.' Such was the creed of Reynolds in 1783; and with his simple mind and sweet disposition, we might be sure that he had never relinquished the faith in which he had been trained by his father. 'He had from the beginning of his malady,' said Burke, 'a distinct view of his dissolution,' and the peaceful hope with which he looked forward to the consummation continued with him to the last. He died on the evening of Feb. 23, 1792.

He had requested that he might be buried, without expense, in St. Paul's cathedral. Burke and the other executors were of opinion that the brilliant era he had created in art demanded a public funeral. His body was removed to the academy at Somerset House, and on Saturday, March 3, a long procession of men of eminence and rank followed the remains of the great and good President to the tomb. The shops were closed, and a vast concourse of people lined the streets, and thronged the houses. "Everything,' wrote Burke, 'turned out fortunately for poor Sir Joshua from the moment of his birth to the hour I saw him laid in the earth. Never was a funeral of ceremony attended with so much sincere concern of all sorts of people.'



[ocr errors]

"He was not, Burke added, altogether indifferent to this kind of observance,' and it pleased his friends that the solemn honours accorded to his memory were exactly what would have gratified him if he could have witnessed the scene. When the academicians returned to Somerset House Burke entered the room, and endeavoured to thank them in the name of the family. His eloquent voice was stifled by his feelings, and bursting into tears he withdrew. He had already paid his tribute to the man and the painter. He sent a notice of him to the papers the day after his death, and the brief sketch displays the greatness of style and thought which characterised every sentence that proceeded from Burke.*

'Reynolds,' says Malone, was in stature rather under the middle size; of a florid complexion, and a lively and pleasing aspect, well made, and extremely active.' His numerous portraits of himself have rendered his mild intelligent face familiar to everybody. His only peculiarity of expression was the searching look of the eye with which he scanned strangers, like a person accustomed to read the character in the countenance. His qualities were so admirable that Malone, after

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

*Northcote says that Reynolds expected Burke, Malone, or Boswell, to write his Life. I think,' Northcote adds, his chief dependence was on Burke.' This could be only conjecture, for Sir Joshua, who never alluded to his own merits, would certainly not have avowed his expectation that the most illustrious man of that generation would turn aside from his political pursuits to hand him down to posterity. Allan Cunningham improves the remark of Northcote into a heinous charge against Burke. He asserts that Reynolds sought to secure Burke's service by a donation of four thousand pounds,' and that when the donor's 'pen could no longer sign away thousands, he was neglected or forgotten by persons who had followed or flattered him.' That Burke understood the legacy to be a retaining fee for a biography, that he took the money and broke the compact, is pure imagination. His language makes it manifest that the idea had never been intimated to him by Reynolds, nor had ever crossed his own mind. He believed himself to be quite unqualified for the task, and said that to go beyond his obituary notice would require an acquaintance with the details of art which he did not possess. The bequest to him is explained by Sir Joshua's knowledge of his embarrassments, and by the pride and gratitude which Sir Joshua felt for the devoted friendship of such a man. The friendship did not cease with the death of the President. He was neither 'neglected' nor 'forgotten' by Burke, who cherished his memory with tender affection. There is a second erroneous statement by Allan Cunningham which would seem to give a colour to the improbable notion that Sir Joshua had relied upon his Life being written by one of two or three men who were ignorant of painting. To them,' says, Mr. Cunningham, 'Reynolds had opened up all his knowledge, and for their use he had made memorandums concerning his practice, all calculated to direct the pen and shorten the labour of the biographer.' His memorandums consisted of what Malone describes as a rough sketch of an Academy Discourse, which the President did not live to deliver, and of some scanty notes, for the most part of early date, which he jotted down roughly to assist his own memory. In his long leisure, when he would have been glad of any enticing pursuit, he omitted to record the smallest particular for his biographers, and his apathy would imply that the subject had never occupied his thoughts.



describing them, thinks it natural for readers to ask, 'Were there no failings?' To this question he answers in the words of Burke, 'I do not know a fault or weakness of his that he did not convert into something that bordered on a virtue, instead of pushing it to the confines of a vice.' 'Sir Joshua Reynolds,' said Johnson, when pronouncing a eulogy on him to Boswell, is the most invulnerable man I know; a man with whom, if you should quarrel, you will find the most difficulty how to abuse.' Northcote, who was never over-lenient in his judgments, acknowledged that Sir Joshua was as free from defects as any man and Mrs. Thrale, when writing rhyming characters of her friends in no kindly spirit, was obliged to admit that his general excellence and charm were only alloyed by a single want:

'Of Reynolds all good should be said and no harm,
Though his heart is too frigid, the pencil too warm;
Yet each fault from his converse we still must disclaim,
As his temper 'tis peaceful, and pure as his fame.
Nothing in it o'erflows, nothing ever is wanting;

It nor chills like his kindness, nor glows like his painting.'


He did not, we learn from himself, wear his feelings outside. 'I never,' he wrote to his niece Theophila Palmer, 'was a great professor of love and affection, and therefore I never told you how much I loved you.' Nor was he undistinguishing in his intimacies, and the flighty and eccentric Welshwoman was among the last persons he would have selected for his especial regard. But that his heart was not 'frigid,' though his manners were calm, is demonstrated beyond cavil by the warmth of affection he excited in his friends. He had been dead for five years when Burke put down his thoughts on him for the use of Malone, and as he wrote he blotted the paper with his tears. Malone himself was accustomed to make notes of remarkable sayings and facts. He concluded his memoranda on Feb. 28, 1792, with an imperfect account of the last illness of Reynolds. A blank of three years and a half then occurs in his manuscript, and in August, 1795, he resumed his old habit, with the remark that he had left off the practice in the interval to avoid the pain of reverting to the death of Sir Joshua. No 'frigid' heart was ever mourned so acutely and so long. Those who had passed away before him had equally felt the depth and

* Allan Cunningham misunderstood the observation. The cold and cautions nature,' he says, of Reynolds rendered him in the opinion of Johnson almost invulnerable. Johnson, as Boswell expressly states, was speaking of Sir Joshua in a strain of high panegyric; and he called him 'invulnerable,' because he was nearly faultless. To have said that he was invulnerable,' because he was callous and calculating, would have been censure instead of praise.



[ocr errors]

truth of his attachment. He had been ill in 1764; and Johnson, on hearing of his recovery, wrote to him: If I should lose you, I should lose almost the only person whom I call a friend.' Goldsmith told the public that his sole motive in dedicating the Deserted Village' to Reynolds, was 'to indulge his affections.' The only dedication,' Goldsmith continues, "I ever made was to my brother, because I loved him better than most other men. He is since dead. Permit me to inscribe this poem to you.' Cold hand, warm heart,' has passed into a proverb; and Reynolds is an example that, if often false, it is sometimes signally true. The imputation of Mrs. Thrale, like so many others, entirely fails. Not one serious charge has yet been brought against Sir Joshua, whether in malice or misapprehension, from which he cannot be triumphantly defended; and we may adopt almost literally the loving couplet of Goldsmith,―

'Here Reynolds is laid, and to tell you my mind,

He has not left a wiser or better behind.'



ART. V.-The Albert Nyanza; Great Basin of the Nile, and ex-
ploration of the Nile Sources. By Samuel White Baker, M.A.,
F.R.G.S., Gold Medallist of the Royal Geographical Society.
London, 1866.

WE hail with pleasure the appearance of this record of

Mr. Baker's expedition in search of the great lake in Equatorial Africa, in the endeavour to reach which he spent nearly four years of his enterprising life. The undertaking involved an almost unparalleled amount of anxiety and difficulty, but it was ultimately crowned with complete success. He fitted out entirely at his own expense a costly expedition, receiving no pecuniary support whatever either from the public or the Government, and it has resulted in some very important additions to our knowledge of Equatorial Africa, and more particularly of the Basin of the Nile. In a former number of the 'Quarterly Review,'* we were enabled to refer, but only in a very cursory manner, to the successful labours of this most energetic explorer. If we were, and still are, unable to assent to all the conclusions which Mr. Baker drew from his discovery, we must at all events emphatically express our high appreciation of the qualities which enabled him to

*No. 237.


« AnteriorContinuar »