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Title: The Life, Studies, and Works of Benjamin West, Esq. - Composed from Materials Furnished by Himself
Author: Galt, John, 1779-1839
Language: English
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The Life, Studies, and Works of Benjamin West, Esq.

President of the Royal Academy of London

Composed from Materials Furnished by Himself

By John Galt, Esq.

Author of the Life and Administration of Cardinal Wolsey, &c.


Part I.

Alexander Gordon, Esq.
This little work
Is respectfully inscribed
By the Author.


The professional life of Mr. West constitutes an important part of an
historical work, in which the matter of this volume could only have been
introduced as an episode, and, perhaps, not with much propriety even in
that form. It was my intention, at one time, to have prepared the whole of
his memoirs, separately, for publication; but a careful review of the
manuscript convinced me, that the transactions in which he has been
engaged, subsequently to his arrival in England, are so much of a public
nature, and belong so immediately to the history of the Arts, that such a
separation could not be effected without essentially impairing the
interest and unity of the main design; and that the particular nature of
this portion of his memoirs admitted of being easily detached and arranged
into a whole, complete within itself.

I do not think that there can be two opinions with respect to the utility
of a work of this kind. Mr. West, in relating the circumstances by which
he was led to approximate, without the aid of an instructor, to those
principles and rules of art, which it is the object of schools and
academies to disseminate, has conferred a greater benefit on young Artists
than he could possibly have done by the most ingenious and eloquent
lectures on the theories of his profession; and it was necessary that the
narrative should appear in his own time, in order that the authenticity of
the incidents might not rest on the authority of any biographer.

_April_ 25,1816.

John Galt.


Chap. I.

    The Birth and Paternal Ancestry of Mr. West.--His Maternal
    Family.--His Father.--The Origin of the Abolition of Slavery by the
    Quakers.--The Progress of the Abolition.--The Education of the
    Negroes.--The Preaching of Edmund Peckover.--His Admonitory Prediction
    to the Father of West.--The first Indication of Benjamin's
    Genius.--State of Society in Pennsylvania.--The Indians give West the
    Primary Colours.--The Artist's first Pencils.--The Present of a Box of
    Colours and Engravings.--His first Painting.

Chap. II.

    The Artist visits Philadelphia.--His second Picture.--Williams the
    Painter gives him the works of Fresnoy and Richardson.--Anecdote of
    the Taylor's Apprentice.--The Drawings of the Schoolboys.--Anecdote
    relative to Wayne.--Anecdote relative to Mr. Flower.--Anecdote
    relative to Mr. Ross.--Anecdote of Mr. Henry.--The Artist's first
    Historical Picture.--Origin of his Acquaintance with Dr. Smith of
    Philadelphia.--The friendship of Dr. Smith, and the character of the
    early companions of West.--Anecdote of General Washington.

Chap. III.

    The course of instruction adopted by Provost Smith.--The Artist led
    to the discovery of the Camera.--His Father becomes anxious to place
    him in business.--Extraordinary proceedings of the Quakers in
    consequence.--The Speech of Williamson the Preacher in defence of the
    Fine Arts.--Magnanimous Resolution of the Quakers.--Reflections on
    this singular transaction.

Chap. IV.

    Reflections on the Eccentricities of Young Men of Genius with respect
    to pecuniary matters.--The Death of the Artist's Mother.--The
    Embodying of the Pennsylvanian Militia; an Anecdote of General
    Wayne.--The Artist elected Commandant of a corps of Volunteer
    boys.--The circumstances which occasioned the Search for the Bones of
    Bradock's army.--The Search.--The Discovery of the Bones of the
    Father and Brother of Sir Peter Halket.--The Artist proposed
    afterwards to paint a Picture of the Discovery of the Bones of the
    Halkets.--He commences regularly as a Painter.--He copies a St.
    Ignatius.--He is induced to attempt Historical Portraiture.--His
    Picture of the Trial of Susannah.--Of the merits of that Picture.

Chap. V.

    Motives which induced him to visit New York.--State of Society in New
    York.--Reflections on the sterility of American
    talent.--Considerations on the circumstances which tend to produce
    Poetical feelings.--The causes which produced the peculiarities in the
    state of Society in New York.--The Accident which led the Artist to
    discover the method of colouring Candle-light and Fire effects after
    Nature.--- He copies Strange's engraving of Belisarius, by Salvator
    Rosa.--The occurrence which hastened his Voyage to Italy, with the
    Anecdote of his obligations to Mr. Kelly.--Reflections on Plutarch,
    occasioned by reference to the effect which his works had on the mind
    of West.--The Artist embarks; occurrence at Gibraltar.--He arrives at
    Leghorn.--Journey to Rome.

Chap. VI.

    State of the stationary Society of Rome.--Causes which rendered the
    City a delightful temporary residence.--Defects of the Academical
    methods of study.--His introduction to Mr. Robinson.--Anecdote of
    Cardinal Albani.--The Cardinal's method of finding Resemblances, and
    curious mistake of the Italians.--The Artist's first visit to the
    Works of Art.

Chap. VII.

    Anecdote of a famous Improvisatore.--West the subject of one of his
    finest effusions.--Anecdote of Cardinal Albani.--West introduced to
    Mengs.--Satisfactory result of West's first essay in
    Rome.--Consequence of the continual excitement which the Artist's
    feelings endured.--He goes to Florence for advice.--He accompanies
    Mr. Matthews in a tour.--Singular instance of liberality towards the
    Artist from several Gentlemen of Philadelphia.

Chap. VIII.

    The result of the Artist's experiment to discover the methods by which
    Titian produced his splendid colouring.--He returns to Rome.
    --Reflections suggested by inspecting the Egyptian Obelisk.
    --Considerations of the Author on the same subject; an anecdote of a
    Mohawk Indian who became an Actor at New York.--Anecdote of a Scottish
    Fanatic who arrived in Rome to convert the Pope.--Sequel of the
    Adventure.--The Artist prepares to visit England.--Having completed
    his St. Jerome, after Corregio's famous picture, he is elected an
    Honorary Member of the Academy of Parma, and invited to Court.--He
    proceeds by the way of Genoa towards France.--Reflections on the Stale
    of Italy.--Adventure on reaching the French frontiers.--State of
    Taste in France.

The Life and Studies of Benjamin West

Chap. I.

    The Birth and Paternal Ancestry of Mr. West.--His Maternal
    Family.--His Father.--The Origin of the Abolition of Slavery by the
    Quakers.--The Progress of the Abolition.--The Education of the
    Negroes.--The Preaching of Edmund Peckover.--His Admonitory Prediction
    to the Father of West.--The first Indication of Benjamin's
    Genius.--State of Society in Pennsylvania.--The Indians give West the
    Primary Colours.--The Artist's first Pencils.--The Present of a Box of
    Colours and Engravings.--His first Painting.

Benjamin West, the subject of the following Memoirs, was the youngest son
of John West and Sarah Pearson, and was born near Springfield, in Chester
County, in the State of Pennsylvania, on the 10th of October, 1738.

The branch of the West family, to which he belongs, has been traced in an
unbroken series to the Lord Delawarre, who distinguished himself in the
great wars of King Edward the Third, and particularly at the battle of
Cressy, under the immediate command of the Black Prince. In the reign of
Richard the Second, the ancestors of Mr. West settled at Long Crandon in
Buckinghamshire. About the year 1667 they embraced the tenets of the
Quakers; and Colonel James West, the friend and companion in arms of the
celebrated Hampden, is said to have been the first proselyte of the
family. In 1699 they emigrated to America.

Thomas Pearson, the maternal grandfather of the Artist, was the
confidential friend of William Penn, and accompanied him to America. On
their first landing, the venerable Founder of the State of Pennsylvania
said to him, "Providence has brought us safely hither; thou hast been the
companion of my perils, what wilt thou that I should call this place?" Mr.
Pearson replied, that "since he had honoured him so far as to desire him
to give that part of the country a name, he would, in remembrance of his
native City, call it Chester." The exact spot where these patriarchs of
the new world first landed, is still pointed out with reverence by the
inhabitants. Mr. Pearson built a house and formed a plantation in the
neighbourhood, which he called Springfield, in consequence of discovering
a large spring of water in the first field cleared for cultivation; and it
was near this place that Benjamin West was born.

When the West family emigrated, John, the father of Benjamin, was left to
complete his education at the great school of the Quakers at Uxbridge, and
did not join his relations in America till the year 1714. Soon after his
arrival he married the mother of the Artist; and of the worth and piety of
his character we have a remarkable proof in the following transactions,
which, perhaps, reflect more real glory on his family than the
achievements of all his heroic ancestors.

As a part of the marriage portion of Mrs. West he received a negro slave,
whose diligence and fidelity very soon obtained his full confidence.
Being engaged in trade, he had occasion to make a voyage in the West
Indies, and left this young black to superintend the plantation in his
absence, During his residence in Barbadoes, his feelings were greatly
molested, and his principles shocked, by the cruelties to which he saw the
negroes subjected in that island; and the debasing effects were forcibly
contrasted in his mind with the morals and intelligence of his own slave.
Conversing on this subject with Doctor Gammon, who was then at the head of
the community of Friends in Barbadoes, the Doctor convinced him that it
was contrary to the laws of God and Nature that any man should retain his
fellow-creatures in slavery. This conviction could not rest long inactive
in a character framed like that of Mr. West. On his return to America he
gave the negro his freedom, and retained him as a hired servant.

Not content with doing good himself, he endeavoured to make others follow
his example, and in a short time his arguments had such an effect on his
neighbours, that it was agreed to discuss publicly the general question of
Slavery. This was done accordingly; and, after debating it at many
meetings, it was resolved by a considerable majority THAT IT WAS THE DUTY
discussion was soon afterwards followed by a similar proposal to the head
meeting of the Quakers in the township of Goshen in Chester County; and
the cause of Humanity was again victorious. Finally, about the year 1753,
the same question was agitated in the annual general assembly at
Philadelphia, when it was ultimately established as one of the tenets of
the Quakers, that no person could remain a member of their community who
held a human creature in slavery. This transaction is perhaps the first
example in the history of communities, of a great public sacrifice of
individual interest, not originating from considerations of policy or the
exigences of public danger, but purely from moral and religious

The benevolent work of restoring their natural rights to the unfortunate
Negroes, did not rest even at this great pecuniary sacrifice. The Society
of Friends went farther, and established Schools for the education of
their children; and some of the first characters among themselves
volunteered to superintend the course of instruction.

In the autumn of 1738, Edmund Peckover, a celebrated Orator among the
Quakers, came to the neighbourhood of Springfield, and on the 28th of
September preached in a meeting-house erected by the father of Mrs. West
at the distance of about a mile and a half from his residence. Mrs. West
was then the mother of nine children, and far advanced in her pregnancy
with Benjamin.--Peckover possessed the most essential qualities of an
impressive speaker, and on this occasion the subject of his address was of
extraordinary interest to his auditors. He reviewed the rise and progress
of society in America, and with an enthusiastic eloquence which partook of
the sublimity and vehemence of the prophetic spirit, he predicted the
future greatness of the country. He described the condition of the
European nations, decrepid in their institutions, and corrupt in their
morality, and contrasted them with the young and flourishing
establishments of the New World. He held up to their abhorrence the
licentious manners and atheistical principles of the French, among whom
God was disregarded or forgotten; and, elevated by the importance of his
subject, he described the Almighty as mustering his wrath to descend on
that nation, and disperse it as chaff in a whirlwind. He called on them to
look towards their home of England, and to see with what eager devotion
the inhabitants worshiped the golden image of Commerce, and laid the
tribute of all their thoughts on its altars; believing that with the power
of the idol alone, they should be able to withstand all calamities. "The
day and the hour are, however, hastening on, when the image shall be
shaken from its pedestal by the tempest of Jehovah's descending vengeance,
its altars overturned, and the worshipers terribly convinced that without
the favour of the Almighty God there is no wisdom in man! But," continued
this impassioned orator, "from the woes and the crimes of Europe let us
turn aside our eyes; let us turn from the worshipers of Commerce, clinging
round their idols of gold and silver, and, amidst the wrath, the storm,
and the thunder, endeavouring to hold them up; let us not look at the land
of blasphemies; for in the crashing of engines, the gushing of blood, and
the shrieking of witnesses more to be pitied than the victims, the
activity of God's purifying displeasure will be heard; while turning our
eyes towards the mountains of this New World, the forests shall be seen
fading away, cities rising along the shores, and the terrified nations of
Europe flying out of the smoke and the burning to find refuge here."--All
his auditors were deeply affected, particularly Mrs. West, who was taken
with the pains of labour on the spot. The meeting was broken up; the women
made a circle round her as they carried her home, and such was the
agitation into which she was thrown, that the consequences had nearly
proved fatal both to the mother and the infant, of which she was
prematurely delivered.

This occurrence naturally excited much attention, and became the subject
of general conversation. It made a deep impression on the mind of Mr.
West, who could not divest himself of a feeling that it indicated
something extraordinary in the future fortunes of his child; and when
Peckover, soon afterwards, on his leaving that part of the country, paid
him a farewell visit, he took an opportunity of introducing the subject.
The warm imagination of the Preacher eagerly sympathised with the feelings
of his friend. He took him by the hand, and, with emphatic solemnity, said
that a child sent into the world under such remarkable circumstances would
prove no ordinary man; and he charged him to watch over the boy's
character with the utmost degree of paternal solicitude. It will appear in
the sequel, that this singular admonition was not lost on Mr. West.

The first six years of Benjamin's life passed away in calm uniformity;
leaving only the placid remembrance of enjoyment. In the month of June
1745, one of his sisters, who had been married some time before, and who
had a daughter, came with her infant to spend a few days at her father's.
When the child was asleep in the cradle, Mrs. West invited her daughter to
gather flowers in the garden, and committed the infant to the care of
Benjamin during their absence; giving him a fan to flap away the flies
from molesting his little charge. After some time the child happened to
smile in its sleep, and its beauty attracted his attention. He looked at
it with a pleasure which he had never before experienced, and observing
some paper on a table, together with pens and red and black ink, he seized
them with agitation, and endeavoured to delineate a portrait: although at
this period he had never seen an engraving or a picture, and was only in
the seventh year of his age.

Hearing the approach of his mother and sister, he endeavoured to conceal
what he had been doing; but the old lady observing his confusion, enquired
what he was about, and requested him to show her the paper. He obeyed,
entreating her not to be angry. Mrs. West, after looking some time at the
drawing with evident pleasure, said to her daughter, "I declare he has
made a likeness of little Sally," and kissed him with much fondness and
satisfaction. This encouraged him to say, that if it would give her any
pleasure, he would make pictures of the flowers which she held in her
hand; for the instinct of his genius was now awakened, and he felt that he
could imitate the forms of those things which pleased his sight.

This curious incident deserves consideration in two points of view. The
sketch must have had some merit, since the likeness was so obvious,
indicating how early the hand of the young artist possessed the power of
representing the observations of his eye. But it is still more remarkable
as the birth of the fine arts in the New World, and as one of the few
instances in the history of art, in which the first inspiration of genius
can be distinctly traced to a particular circumstance. The drawing was
shown by Mrs. West to her husband, who, remembering the prediction of
Peckover, was delighted with this early indication of talent in his son.
But the fact, though in itself very curious, will appear still more
remarkable, when the state of the country at that period, and the peculiar
manners of the Quakers, are taken into consideration.

The institutions of William Penn had been sacredly preserved by the
descendants of the first settlers, with whom the remembrance of the causes
which had led their ancestors to forsake their native country, was
cherished like the traditions of religion, and became a motive to
themselves, for indulging in the exercise of those blameless principles,
which had been so obnoxious to the arrogant spirit of the Old World. The
associates of the Wests and the Pearsons, considered the patriarchs of
Pennsylvania as having been driven from England, because their endeavours
to regulate their conduct by the example of Jesus Christ, mortified the
temporal pretensions of those who satisfied themselves with attempting to
repeat his doctrines; and they thought that the asylum in America was
chosen, to facilitate the enjoyment of that affectionate intercourse which
their tenets enjoined, free from the military predilections and political
jealousies of Europe. The effect of this opinion tended to produce a state
of society more peaceful and pleasing than the World had ever before
exhibited. When the American Poets shall in future times celebrate the
golden age of their country, they will draw their descriptions from the
authentic history of Pennsylvania in the reign of King George the Second.

From the first emigration in 1681, the colony had continued to thrive with
a rapidity unknown to the other European Settlements. It was blessed in
the maxims upon which it had been founded, and richly exhibited the fruits
of their beneficent operation. At the birth of Benjamin West it had
obtained great wealth, and the population was increasing much more
vigorously than the ordinary reproduction of the human species in any
other part of the world. In the houses of the principal families, the
patricians of the country, unlimited hospitality formed a part of their
regular economy. It was the custom among those who resided near the
highways, after supper and the last religious exercise of the evening, to
make a large fire in the hall, and to set out a table with refreshments
for such travellers as might have occasion to pass during the night; and
when the families assembled in the morning they seldom found that their
tables had been unvisited. This was particularly the case at Springfield.
Poverty was never heard of in the land. The disposition to common charity
having no objects, was blended with the domestic affections, and rendered
the ties of friendship and kindred stronger and dearer. Acts of liberality
were frequently performed to an extent that would have beggared the
munificence of the Old World. With all these delightful indications of a
better order of things, society in Pennsylvania retained, at this time,
many of those respectable prejudices which gave a venerable grace to
manners, and are regarded by the practical philosopher as little inferior
in dignity to the virtues. William Penn was proud of his distinguished
parentage, and many of his friends traced their lineage to the antient
and noble families of England. In their descendants the pride of ancestry
was so tempered with the meekness of their religious tenets, that it lent
a kind of patriarchal dignity to their benevolence.

In beautiful contrast to the systematic morality of the new inhabitants,
was the simplicity of the Indians, who mingled safe and harmless among the
Friends. In the annual visits which they were in the practice of paying to
the Plantations, they raised their huts in the fields and orchards without
asking leave, nor were they ever molested. Voltaire has observed, that the
treaty which was concluded between the Indians and William Penn was the
first public contract which connected the inhabitants of the Old and New
World together, and, though not ratified by oaths, and without invoking
the Trinity, is still the only treaty that has never been broken. It may
be further said, that Pennsylvania is the first country which has not been
subdued by the sword, for the inhabitants were conquered by the force of
Christian benevolence.

When the great founder of the State marked out the site of Philadelphia in
the woods, he allotted a piece of ground for a public library. It was his
opinion, that although the labour of clearing the country would long
employ the settlers, hours of relaxation would still be requisite; and,
with his usual sagacity, he judged that the reading of books was more
conducive to good morals and to the formation of just sentiments, than any
other species of amusement. The different counties afterwards instituted
libraries, which the townships have also imitated: where the population
was insufficient to establish a large collection of books, the
neighbouring families formed themselves into societies for procuring the
popular publications. But in these arrangements for cultivating the powers
of the understanding, no provision was made, during the reign of George
the Second, for improving the faculties of taste. The works of which the
libraries then consisted, treated of useful and practical subjects. It was
the policy of the Quakers to make mankind wiser and better; and they
thought that, as the passions are the springs of all moral evil when in a
state of excitement, whatever tends to awaken them is unfavourable to that
placid tenour of mind which they wished to see diffused throughout the
world. This notion is prudent, perhaps judicious; but works of imagination
may be rendered subservient to the same purpose. Every thing in
Pennsylvania was thus unpropitious to the fine arts. There were no cares
in the bosoms of individuals to require public diversions, nor any
emulation in the expenditure of wealth to encourage the ornamental
manufactures. In the whole Christian world no spot was apparently so
unlikely to produce a painter as Pennsylvania. It might, indeed, be
supposed, according to a popular opinion, that a youth, reared among the
concentrating elements of a new state, in the midst of boundless forests,
tremendous waterfalls, and mountains whose summits were inaccessible to
"the lightest foot and wildest wing," was the most favourable situation
to imbibe the enthusiasm either of poetry or of painting, if scenery and
such accidental circumstances are to be regarded as every thing, and
original character as nothing. But it may reasonably be doubted if ever
natural scenery has any assignable influence on the productions of genius.
The idea has probably arisen from the impression which the magnificence of
nature makes on persons of cultivated minds, who fall into the mistake of
considering the elevated emotions arising in reality from their own
associations, as being naturally connected with the objects that excite
them. Of all the nations of Europe the Swiss are the least poetical, and
yet the scenery of no other country seems so well calculated as that of
Switzerland to awaken the imagination; and Shakespeare, the greatest of
all modern Poets, was brought up in one of the least picturesque districts
of England.

Soon after the occurrence of the incident which has given rise to these
observations, the young Artist was sent to a school in the neighbourhood.
During his hours of leisure he was permitted to draw with pen and ink; for
it did not occur to any of the family to provide him with better
materials. In the course of the summer a party of Indians came to pay
their annual visit to Springfield, and being amused with the sketches of
birds and flowers which Benjamin shewed them, they taught him to prepare
the red and yellow colours with which they painted their ornaments. To
these his mother added blue, by giving him a piece of indigo, so that he
was thus put in possession of the three primary colours. The fancy is
disposed to expatiate on this interesting fact; for the mythologies of
antiquity furnish no allegory more beautiful; and a Painter who would
embody the metaphor of an Artist instructed by Nature, could scarcely
imagine any thing more picturesque than the real incident of the Indians
instructing West to prepare the prismatic colours. The Indians also taught
him to be an expert archer, and he was sometimes in the practice of
shooting birds for models, when he thought that their plumage would look
well in a picture.

His drawings at length attracted the attention of the neighbours; and some
of them happening to regret that the Artist had no pencils, he enquired
what kind of things these were, and they were described to him as small
brushes made of camels' hair fastened in a quill. As there were, however,
no camels in America, he could not think of any substitute, till he
happened to cast his eyes on a black cat, the favourite of his father;
when, in the tapering fur of her tail, he discovered the means of
supplying what he wanted. He immediately armed himself with his mother's
scissors, and, laying hold of Grimalkin with all due caution, and a proper
attention to her feelings, cut off the fur at the end of her tail, and
with this made his first pencil. But the tail only furnished him with one,
which did not last long, and he soon stood in need of a further supply. He
then had recourse to the animal's back, his depredations upon which were
so frequently repeated, that his father observed the altered appearance of
his favourite, and lamented it as the effect of disease. The Artist, with
suitable marks of contrition, informed him of the true cause; and the old
gentleman was so much amused with his ingenuity, that if he rebuked him,
it was certainly not in anger.

Anecdotes of this kind, trifling as they may seem, have an interest
independent of the insight they afford into the character to which they
relate. It will often appear, upon a careful study of authentic biography,
that the means of giving body and effect to their conceptions, are rarely
withheld from men of genius. If the circumstances of Fortune are
unfavourable, Nature instructs them to draw assistance immediately from
herself, by endowing them with the faculty of perceiving a fitness and
correspondence in things which no force of reasoning, founded on the
experience of others, could enable them to discover. This aptness is,
perhaps, the surest indication of the possession of original talent. There
are minds of a high class to which the world, in the latitude of its
expressions, often ascribes genius, but which possess only a superior
capacity for the application of other men's notions, unconnected with any
unusual portion of the inventive faculty.

In the following year Mr. Pennington, a merchant of Philadelphia, who was
related to the West family, came to pay a visit to Mr. West. This
gentleman was also a member of the Society of Friends, and, though
strictly attentive to the peculiar observances of the sect, was a man of
pleasant temper and indulgent dispositions. He noticed the drawings of
birds and flowers round the room, unusual ornaments in the house of a
Quaker; and heard with surprise that they were the work of his little
cousin. Of their merit as pictures he did not pretend to judge, but he
thought them wonderful productions for a boy only entering on his eighth
year, and being told with what imperfect materials they had been executed,
he promised to send the young Artist a box of paints and pencils from the
city. On his return home he fulfilled his engagement, and at the bottom of
the box placed several pieces of canvass prepared for the easel, and six
engravings by Grevling.

The arrival of the box was an æra in the history of the Painter and his
art. It was received with feelings of delight which only a similar mind
can justly appreciate. He opened it, and in the colours, the oils, and
the pencils, found all his wants supplied, even beyond his utmost
conceptions. But who can describe the surprise with which he beheld the
engravings; he who had never seen any picture but his own drawings, nor
knew that such an art as the Engraver's existed! He sat over the box with
enamoured eyes; his mind was in a flutter of joy; and he could not refrain
from constantly touching the different articles, to ascertain that they
were real. At night he placed the box on a chair near his bed, and as
often as he was overpowered by sleep, he started suddenly and stretched
out his hand to satisfy himself that the possession of such a treasure was
not merely a pleasing dream. He rose at the dawn of day, and carried the
box to a room in the garret, where he spread a canvass, prepared a pallet,
and immediately began to imitate the figures in the engravings. Enchanted
by his art he forgot the school hours, and joined the family at dinner
without mentioning the employment in which he had been engaged. In the
afternoon he again retired to his study in the garret; and for several
days successively he thus withdrew and devoted himself to painting. The
schoolmaster, observing his absence, sent to ask the cause of it. Mrs.
West, affecting not to take any particular notice of the message,
recollected that she had seen Benjamin going up stairs every morning, and
suspecting that the box occasioned his neglect of the school, went to the
garret, and found him employed on the picture. Her anger was appeased by
the sight of his performance, and changed to a very different feeling. She
saw, not a mere copy, but a composition from two of the engravings. With
no other guide than that delicacy of sight which renders the Painter's
eye, with respect to colours, what the Musician's ear is with respect to
sounds, he had formed a picture as complete, in the scientific arrangement
of the tints, notwithstanding the necessary imperfection of the
pencilling, as the most skilful Artist could have painted, assisted by the
precepts of Newton. She kissed him with transports of affection, and
assured him that she would not only intercede with his father to pardon
him for having absented himself from school, but would go herself to the
master, and beg that he might not be punished. The delightful
encouragement which this well-judged kindness afforded to the young
Painter may be easily imagined; but who will not regret that the mother's
over-anxious admiration would not suffer him to finish the picture, lest
he should spoil what was already in her opinion perfect, even with half
the canvass bare? Sixty-seven years afterwards the writer of these Memoirs
had the gratification to see this piece in the same room with the sublime
painting of "Christ Rejected," on which occasion the Painter declared to
him that there were inventive touches of art in his first and juvenile
essay, which, with all his subsequent knowledge and experience, he had not
been able to surpass.

Chap. II.

    The Artist visits Philadelphia.--His second Picture.--Williams the
    Painter gives him the works of Fresnoy and Richardson.--Anecdote of
    the Taylor's Apprentice.--The Drawings of the Schoolboys.--Anecdote
    relative to Wayne.--Anecdote relative to Mr. Flower.--Anecdote
    relative to Mr. Ross,--Anecdote of Mr. Henry.--The Artist's first
    Historical Picture.--Origin of his Acquaintance with Dr. Smith of
    Philadelphia.--The friendship of Dr. Smith, and the character of the
    early companions of West.--Anecdote of General Washington.

In the course of a few days after the affair of the painting, Mr.
Pennington paid another visit to Mr. West; and was so highly pleased with
the effect of his present, and the promising talents of his young
relation, that he entreated the old gentleman to allow Benjamin to
accompany him for a few days to Philadelphia. This was cheerfully agreed
to, and the Artist felt himself almost, as much delighted with the journey
as with the box of colours. Every thing in the town filled him with
astonishment; but the view of the shipping, which was entirely new,
particularly attracted his eye, and interested him like the imaginary
spectacles of magic.

When the first emotions of his pleasure and wonder had subsided, he
applied to Mr. Pennington to procure him materials for painting. That
gentleman was desirous of getting possession of the first picture, and had
only resigned what he jocularly alleged were his just claims, in
consideration of the mother's feelings, and on being assured that the next
picture should be purposely painted for him. The materials were procured,
and the Artist composed a landscape, which comprehended a picturesque view
of a river, with vessels on the water, and cattle pasturing on the banks.
While he was engaged in this picture, an incident occurred which, though
trivial in itself, was so much in unison with the other circumstances that
favoured the bent of his genius, that it ought not to be omitted.

Samuel Shoemaker [Footnote: This gentleman was afterwards introduced by
Mr. West to the King, at Windsor, as one of the American Loyalists.], an
intimate friend of Mr. Pennington, one of the principal merchants of
Philadelphia, happened to meet in the street with one Williams, a Painter,
carrying home a picture. Struck by the beauty of the performance, he
enquired if it was intended for sale, and being told that it was already
disposed of, he ordered another to be painted for himself. When the
painting was finished, he requested the Artist to carry it to Mr.
Pennington's house, in order that it might be shewn to young West. It was
very well executed, and the boy was so much astonished at the sight of it,
that his emotion and surprise attracted the attention of Williams, who was
a man of observation, and judged correctly in thinking that such an
uncommon manifestation of sensibility in so young a boy, indicated
something extraordinary in his character. He entered into conversation
with him, and enquired if he had read any books, or the lives of great
men, The little amateur told him that he had read the Bible, and was well
acquainted with the history of Adam, Joseph, David, Solomon, and the other
great and good men whose actions are recorded in the Holy Scriptures.
Williams was much pleased with the simplicity of the answer; and it might
have occurred to him that histories more interesting have never been
written, or written so well. Turning to Mr. Pennington, who was present,
he asked if Benjamin was his son; advising him at the same time to indulge
him in whatever might appear to be the bent of his talents, assuring him
that he was no common boy.

This interview was afterwards much spoken of by Williams, who in the mean
time lent him the works of Fresnoy and Richardson on Painting, and invited
him to see his pictures and drawings. The impression which these books
made on the imagination of West finally decided his destination. He was
allowed to carry them with him into the country; and his father and
mother, soon perceiving a great change in his conversation, were referred
to the books for an explanation of the cause. They read them for the first
time themselves, and treasuring in their minds those anecdotes of the
indications of the early symptoms of talent with which both works abound,
they remembered the prophetic injunction of Edmund Peckover.

The effect of the enthusiasm inspired by Richardson and Fresnoy may be
conceived from the following incident. Soon after the young Artist had
returned to Springfield, one of his schoolfellows, on a Saturday's half
holiday, engaged him to give up a party at trap-ball to ride with him to
one of the neighbouring plantations. At the time appointed the boy came,
with the horse saddled. West enquired how he was to ride; "Behind me,"
said the boy; but Benjamin, full of the dignity of the profession to which
he felt himself destined, answered, that he never would ride behind any
body. "O! very well then," said the good-natured boy, "you may take the
saddle, and I will get up behind you." Thus mounted, they proceeded on
their excursion; and the boy began to inform his companion that his father
intended to send him to be an apprentice. "In what business?" enquired
West; "A taylor," answered the boy. "Surely," said West, "you will never
follow that trade;" animadverting upon its feminine character. The other,
however, was a shrewd, sound-headed lad, and defended the election very
stoutly, saying that his father had made choice of it for him, and that
the person with whom he was to learn the business was much respected by
all his neighbours. "But what do you intend to be, Benjamin?" West
answered, that he had not thought at all on the subject, but he should
like to be a painter. "A painter!" exclaimed the boy, "what sort of a
trade is a painter? I never heard of such a thing." "A painter," said
West, "is a companion for Kings and Emperors." "Surely you are mad,"
replied the boy, "for there are no such people in America." "Very true,"
answered Benjamin, "but there are plenty in other parts of the world." The
other, still more amazed at the apparent absurdity of this speech,
reiterated in a tone of greater surprise, "You are surely quite mad." To
this the enthusiast replied by asking him if he really intended to be a
taylor. "Most certainly," answered the other. "Then you may ride by
yourself, for I will no longer keep your company," said West, and,
alighting, immediately returned home.

The report of this incident, with the affair of the picture, which had
occasioned his absence from school, and visit to Philadelphia, made a
great impression on the boys in the neighbourhood of Springfield. All
their accustomed sports were neglected, and their play-hours devoted to
drawing with chalk and oker. The little president was confessedly the most
expert among them, but he has often since declared, that, according to his
recollection, many of his juvenile companions evinced a degree of taste
and skill in this exercise, that would not have discredited the students
of any regular academy.

Not far from the residence of Mr. West a cabinet-maker had a shop, in
which Benjamin sometimes amused himself with the tools of the workmen. One
day several large and beautiful boards of poplar tree were brought to it;
and he happening to observe that they would answer very well for drawing
on, the owner gave him two or three of them for that purpose, and he drew
figures and compositions on them with ink, chalk, and charcoal. Mr. Wayne,
a gentleman of the neighbourhood, having soon after occasion to call at
his father's, noticed the boards in the room, and was so much pleased with
the drawings, that he begged the young Artist to allow him to take two or
three of them home, which, as but little value was set on them, was
thought no great favour, either by the painter or his father. Next day Mr.
Wayne called again, and after complimenting Benjamin on his taste and
proficiency, gave him a dollar for each of the boards which he had taken
away, and was resolved to preserve. Doctor Jonathan Moris, another
neighbour, soon after, also made him a present of a few dollars to buy
materials to paint with. These were the first public patrons of the
Artist; and it is at his own request that their names are thus
particularly inserted.

About twelve months after the visit to Philadelphia, Mr. Flower, one of
the Justices of the county of Chester, who possessed some taste in
painting, requested Mr. West to allow Benjamin to spend a few weeks at his
house. A short time before, this gentleman had met with a severe domestic
misfortune in the loss of a wife, to whom he was much attached; and he
resolved to shew his respect to her memory by devoting his attention
exclusively to the improvement of his children: for this purpose he had
sent to England for a governess qualified to undertake the education of
his daughters, and he had the good fortune to obtain a lady eminently
fitted for the trust. She arrived a few days only before the young Artist,
and her natural discernment enabled her to appreciate that original bias
of mind which she had heard ascribed to him, and of which she soon
perceived the determination and the strength. Finding him unacquainted
with any other books than the Bible, and the works of Richardson and
Fresnoy, she frequently invited him to sit with her pupils, and, during
the intervals of their tasks, she read to him the most striking and
picturesque passages from translations of the antient historians and
poetry, of which Mr. Flower had a choice and extensive collection. It was
from this intelligent woman that he heard, for the first time, of the
Greeks and Romans; and the impression which the story of those illustrious
nations made on his mind, was answerable to her expectations.

Among the acquaintance of Mr. Flower was a Mr. Ross, a lawyer in the town
of Lancaster, a place at that time remarkable for its wealth, and which
had the reputation of possessing the best and most intelligent society to
be then found in America. It was chiefly inhabited by Germans, who of all
people in the practice of emigrating, carry along with them the greatest
stock of knowledge and accomplishments. The society of Lancaster,
therefore, though it could not boast of any very distinguished character,
yet comprehended many individuals who were capable of appreciating the
merit of essays in art, and of discriminating the rude efforts of real
genius from the more complete productions of mere mechanical skill. It was
exactly in such a place that such a youth as Benjamin West was likely to
meet with that flattering attention which is the best stimulus of juvenile
talent. The wife of Mr. Ross was greatly admired for her beauty, and she
had several children who were so remarkable in this respect as to be
objects of general notice. One day when Mr. Flower was dining with them,
he advised his friend to have their portraits taken; and mentioned that
they would be excellent subjects for young West. Application was in
consequence made to old Mr. West, and permission obtained for the little
Artist to go to Lancaster for the purpose of taking the likenesses of Mrs.
Ross and her family. Such was the success with which he executed this
task, that the sphere of his celebrity was greatly enlarged; and so
numerous were the applications for portraits, that it was with difficulty
he could find time to satisfy the demands of his admirers.

Among those who sent to him in this early stage of his career, was a
person of the name of William Henry. He was an able mechanic, and had
acquired a handsome fortune by his profession of a gunsmith. Henry was,
indeed, in several respects, an extraordinary man, and possessed the power
generally attendant upon genius under all circumstances, that of
interesting the imagination of those with whom he conversed. On examining
the young Artist's performance, he observed to him, that, if he could
paint as well, he would not waste his time on portraits, but would devote
himself to historical subjects; and he mentioned the Death of Socrates as
affording one of the best topics for illustrating the moral effect of the
art of painting. The Painter knew nothing of the history of the
Philosopher; and, upon confessing his ignorance, Mr. Henry went to his
library, and, taking down a volume of the English translation of Plutarch,
read to him the account given by that writer of this affecting story.

The suggestion and description wrought upon the imagination of West, and
induced him to make a drawing, which he shewed to Mr. Henry, who commended
it as a perspicuous delineation of the probable circumstances of the
event, and requested him to paint it. West said that he would be happy to
undertake the task, but, having hitherto painted only faces and men
cloathed, he should be unable to do justice to the figure of the slave who
presented the poison, and which he thought ought to be naked. Henry had
among his workmen a very handsome young man, and, without waiting to
answer the objection, he sent for him into the room. On his entrance he
pointed him out to West, and said, "There is your model." The appearance
of the young man, whose arms and breast were naked, instantaneously
convinced the Artist that he had only to look into nature for the models
which would impart grace and energy to his delineation of forms.

When the death of Socrates was finished, it attracted much attention, and
led to one of those fortunate acquaintances by which the subsequent career
of the Artist has been so happily facilitated. About this period the
inhabitants of Lancaster had resolved to erect a public grammar-school;
and Dr. Smith, the Provost of the College at Philadelphia, was invited by
them to arrange the course of instruction, and to place the institution in
the way best calculated to answer the intention of the founders. This
gentleman was an excellent classical scholar, and combined with his
knowledge and admiration of the merits of the antients that liberality of
respect for the endeavours of modern talent, with which the same kind of
feeling is but rarely found connected. After seeing the picture and
conversing with the Artist, he offered to undertake to make him to a
certain degree acquainted with classical literature; while at the same
time he would give him such a sketch of the taste and character of the
spirit of antiquity, as would have all the effect of the regular education
requisite to a painter. When this liberal proposal was communicated to old
Mr. West, he readily agreed that Benjamin should go for some time to
Philadelphia, in order to take advantage of the Provost's instructions;
and accordingly, after returning home for a few days, Benjamin went to the
capital, and resided at the house of Mr. Clarkson, his brother-in-law, a
gentleman who had been educated at Leyden, and was much respected for the
intelligence of his conversation, and the propriety of his manners.

Provost Smith introduced West, among other persons, to four young men,
pupils of his own, whom he particularly recommended to his acquaintance,
as possessing endowments of mind greatly superior to the common standard
of mankind. One of these was Francis Hopkins, who afterwards highly
distinguished himself in the early proceedings of the Congress of the
United States. Thomas Godfrey, the second, died after having given the
most promising indications of an elegant genius for pathetic and
descriptive poetry. He was an apprentice to a watchmaker, and had secretly
written a poem, which he published anonymously in the Philadelphia
newspaper, under the title of "The Temple of Fame." The attention which it
attracted, and the encomiums which the Provost in particular bestowed on
it, induced West, who was in the Poet's confidence, to mention to him who
was the author. The information excited the alert benevolence of Smith's
character, and he lost no time until he had procured the release of
Godfrey from his indenture, and a respectable employment for him in the
government of the state; but this he did not live long to enjoy: being
sent on some public business to Carolina, he fell a victim to the climate.

It is pleasant to redeem from oblivion the memory of early talent thus
prematurely withdrawn from the world. Many of Godfrey's verses were
composed under a clump of pines which grew near the upper ferry of the
river Schuylkill, to which spot he sometimes accompanied West and their
mutual friends to angle. In the heat of the day he used to stretch himself
beneath the shade of the trees, and repeat to them his verses as he
composed them. Reid was the name of the other young man, and the same
person who first opposed the British troops in their passing through
Jersey, when the rebellion of the Provinces commenced. Previous to the
revolution, he was bred to the bar, and practised with distinction in the
courts of Philadelphia. He was afterwards elected a Member of Congress,
and is the same person who was appointed to meet Lord Carlisle on his
mission from the British Court.

Provost Smith was himself possessed of a fluent vein of powerful
eloquence, and it happened that many of his pupils who distinguished
themselves in the great struggle of their country, appeared to have
imbibed his talent; but none of them more than Jacob Duchey, another of
the four youths whom he recommended to the Artist. He became a Clergyman,
and was celebrated throughout the whole of the British Provinces in
America as a most pathetic and persuasive preacher. The publicity of his
character in the world was, however, chiefly owing to a letter which he
addressed to General Washington, soon after the appointment of that chief
to the command of the army. The purport of this letter was to persuade the
General to go over to the British cause. It was carried to him by a Mrs.
Ferguson, a daughter of Doctor Graham, a Scottish Physician in
Philadelphia. Washington, with his army, at that time lay at Valley-forge,
and this lady, on the pretext of paying him a visit, as they were
previously acquainted, went to the camp. The General received her in his
tent with much respect, for he greatly admired the masculine vigour of her
mind. When she had delivered the letter he read it attentively, and,
rising from his seat, walked backwards and forwards upwards of an hour,
without speaking. He appeared to be much agitated during the greatest part
of the time; but at length, having decided with himself, he stopped, and
addressed her in nearly the following words: "Madam, I have always
esteemed your character and endowments, and I am fully sensible of the
noble principles by which you are actuated on this occasion; nor has any
man in the whole continent more confidence in the integrity of his friend,
than I have in the honour of Mr. Duchey. But I am here entrusted by the
people of America with sovereign authority. They have placed their lives
and fortunes at my disposal, because they believe me to be an honest man.
Were I, therefore, to desert their cause, and consign them again to the
British, what would be the consequence? to myself perpetual infamy; and to
them endless calamity. The seeds of everlasting division are sown between
the two countries; and, were the British again to become our masters, they
would have to maintain their dominion by force, and would, after all,
retain us in subjection only so long as they could hold their bayonets to
our breasts. No, Madam, the proposal of Mr. Duchey, though conceived with
the best intention, is not framed in wisdom. America and England must be
separate states; but they may have common interests, for they are but one
people. It will, therefore, be the object of my life and ambition to
establish the independence of America in the first place; and in the
second, to arrange such a community of interests between the two nations
as shall indemnify them for the calamities which they now suffer, and form
a new æra in the history of nations. But, Madam, you are aware that I
have many enemies; Congress may hear of your visit, and of this letter,
and I should be suspected were I to conceal it from them. I respect you
truly, as I have said; and I esteem the probity and motives of Mr. Duchey,
and therefore you are free to depart from the camp, but the letter will be
transmitted without delay to Congress."

Mrs. Ferguson herself communicated the circumstances of this interesting
transaction to Mr. West, after she came to England; for she, as well as
Mr. Duchey, were obliged to quit the country. It is painful to add, that
Duchey came to England, and was allowed to pine unnoticed by the
Government, and was heard of no more.

Chap. III.

    The course of instruction adopted by Provost Smith.--The Artist led to
    the discovery of the Camera.--His Father becomes anxious to place him
    in business.--Extraordinary proceedings of the Quakers in
    consequence.--The Speech of Williamson the Preacher in defence of the
    Fine Arts.--Magnanimous Resolution of the Quakers,--Reflections on
    this singular transaction.

There was something so judicious in the plan of study which Provost
Smith had formed for his pupil, that it deserves to be particularly
considered. He regarded him as destined to be a Painter; and on this
account did not impose upon him those grammatical exercises of language
which are usually required from the young student of the classics, but
directed his attention to those incidents which were likely to interest
his fancy, and to furnish him at some future time with subjects for the
easel. He carried him immediately to those passages of antient history
which make the most lasting impression on the imagination of the
regular-bred scholar, and described the picturesque circumstances of the
transactions with a minuteness of detail that would have been
superfluous to a general student.

In the midst of this course of education the Artist happened to be taken
ill of a slight fever, and when it had subsided, he was in so weak a state
as to be obliged to keep his bed, and to have the room darkened. In this
situation he remained several days, with no other light than what was
admitted by the seams and fissures in the window-shutters, which had the
usual effect of expanding the pupil of his eyes to such a degree that he
could distinctly see every object in the room, which to others appeared in
complete obscurity. While he was thus lying in bed, he observed the
apparitional form of a white cow enter at the one side of the roof, and
walking over the bed, gradually vanish at the other. The phenomenon
surprised him exceedingly, and he feared that his mind was impaired by his
disease, which his sister also suspected, when on entering to inquire how
he felt himself, he related to her what he had seen. Without, however,
saying any thing, she went immediately and informed her husband, who
accompanied her back to the apartment; and as they were standing near the
bed, West repeated the story, exclaiming in his discourse that he saw, at
the very moment in which he was then speaking, several little pigs running
along the roof. This confirmed them in the apprehension of his delirium,
and they sent for a physician. But the doctor could discover no symptoms
of fever; the pulse was regular, the skin moist and cool, the thirst was
abated, and indeed every thing about the patient indicated convalescence.
Still the Painter persisted in his story, and assured them that he then
saw the figures of several of their mutual friends passing on the roof,
over the bed; and that he even saw fowls pecking, and the very stones of
the street. All this seemed to them very extraordinary, for their eyes,
not accustomed to the gloom of the chamber, could discern nothing; and the
learned physician himself, in despite of the symptoms, began to suspect
that the convalescent was really delirious. Prescribing, therefore, a
composing mixture, which the Painter submitted to swallow, he took his
fee and leave, requesting Mrs. Clarkson and her husband to come away and
not disturb the patient. After they had retired, curiosity overcame the
influence of the drug, and the Artist got up, determined to find out the
cause of the strange apparitions which had so alarmed them all. In a short
time he discovered a diagonal knot-hole in one of the window-shutters, and
upon placing his hand over it, the visionary paintings on the roof
disappeared. This confirmed him in an opinion that he began to form, that
there must be some simple natural cause for what he had seen; and, having
thus ascertained the way in which it acted, he called his sister and her
husband into the room and explained it to them. When able to go down
stairs, Mr. Clarkson gave him permission to perforate one of the parlour
window-shutters horizontally, in order to obtain a representation on the
wall of the buildings of the opposite side of the street. The effect was
as he expected, but, to his astonishment, the objects appeared inverted.
Without attempting to remedy this with the aid of glasses, as a
mathematical genius would perhaps have done, he was delighted to see in it
the means of studying the pictural appearance of Nature, and he hailed
the discovery as a revelation to promote his improvement in the art of
painting. On his return soon after to his father's, he had a box made with
one of the sides perforated; and, adverting to the reflective power of the
mirror, he contrived, without ever having heard of the instrument, to
invent the _Camera_. Thus furnishing another proof, that although the
faculty which enables a man to excel in any particular art or science is a
natural endowment, it is seldom unaccompanied with a general superiority
of observation. It will, however, not be disputed, that a boy under
sixteen, who had thus, by the guidance of his own unassisted judgment,
found out a method of ascertaining the colour and outline of natural
objects as they should appear in painting, possessed no ordinary mind.
Observations of this nature mark the difference between innate talent and
instructed habits; and, whether in painting, or in poetry, in art, or in
science, constitute the source of that peculiarity of intellect which is
discriminated from the effects of education by the name of original
talent. The self-educated man of genius, when his mind is formed, differs
but little in the method of expressing his notions, from the most
mechanical disciple of the schools; but the process by which he attains
that result, renders his history interesting by its incidents, and
valuable by the hints which it furnishes for the study of human character.
It is, perhaps, also, one great cause of his own distinguishing features
of mind, as the very contrivances to which he has recourse have the effect
of taking, as it were, something extraneous into the matter of his
experiments which tinges the product with curious and singular
effects.--West, on afterwards mentioning his discovery to Williams the
painter, was surprised to find himself anticipated, that Artist having
received a complete Camera some time before from England.

In this favourable state of things he attained his sixteenth year, when
his father became anxious to see him settled in some established business.
For, though reluctant to thwart the bias of a genius at once so decided
and original, and to which the injunction of Peckover had rendered him
favourable and indulgent, the old gentleman was sensible that the
profession of a painter was not only precarious, but regarded by the
religious association to which he belonged, as adverse to their tenets, by
being only ornamental; and he was anxious, on his son's account and on his
own, to avoid those animadversions to which he was exposed by the freedom
he had hitherto granted to the predilections of Benjamin. He, therefore,
consulted several of his neighbours on the subject; and a meeting of the
Society of Friends in the vicinity was called, to consider, publicly, what
ought to be the destiny of his son.

The assembly met in the Meeting-house near Springfield, and after much
debate, approaching to altercation, a man of the name of John Williamson
rose, and delivered a very extraordinary speech upon the subject. He was
much respected by all present, for the purity and integrity of his life,
and enjoyed great influence in his sphere on account of the superiority
of his natural wisdom, and, as a public preacher among the Friends,
possessed an astonishing gift of convincing eloquence. He pointed to old
Mr. West and his wife, and expatiated on the blameless reputation which
they had so long maintained, and merited so well. "They have had," said
he, "ten children, whom they have carefully brought up in the fear of
God, and in the Christian religion; and the youth, whose lot in life we
are now convened to consider, is Benjamin, their youngest child. It is
known to you all that God is pleased, from time to time, to bestow upon
some men extraordinary gifts of mind, and you need not be told by how
wonderful an inspiration their son has been led to cultivate the art of
painting. It is true that our tenets deny the utility of that art to
mankind. But God has bestowed on the youth a genius for the art, and can
we believe that Omniscience bestows His gifts but for great purposes?
What God has given, who shall dare to throw away? Let us not estimate
Almighty wisdom by our notions; let us not presume to arraign His
judgment by our ignorance, but in the evident propensity of the young
man, be assured that we see an impulse of the Divine hand operating
towards some high and beneficent end."

The effect of this argument, and the lofty commanding manner in which it
was delivered, induced the assembly to agree that the Artist should be
allowed to indulge the predilections of his genius; and a private
meeting of the Friends was appointed to be holden at his father's house,
at which the youth himself was requested to be present, in order to
receive, in form, the assent and blessing of the Society. On the day of
meeting, the great room was put in order, and a numerous company of both
sexes assembled. Benjamin was placed by his father, and the men and
women took their respective forms on each side. After sitting some time
in silence, one of the women rose and addressed the meeting on the
wisdom of God, and the various occasions on which He selected from among
His creatures the agents of His goodness. When she had concluded her
exhortation, John Williamson also rose, and in a speech than which,
perhaps, the porticos of Athens never resounded with a more impressive
oratory, he resumed the topic which had been the subject of his former
address. He began by observing that it was fixed as one of their
indisputable maxims, that things merely ornamental were not necessary to
the well-being of man, and that all superfluous things should be
excluded from the usages and manners of their society. "In this
proscription, we have included," said he, "the study of the fine arts,
for we see them applied only to embellish pleasures, and to strengthen
our inducements to gratify the senses at the expense of our immortal
claims. But, because we have seen painting put to this derogatory use,
and have, in consequence, prohibited the cultivation of it among us, are
we sure that it is not one of those gracious gifts which God has
bestowed on the world, not to add to the sensual pleasures of man, but
to facilitate his improvement as a social and a moral being? The fine
arts are called the offspring and the emblems of peace. The Christian
religion itself is the doctrine of good will to man. Can those things
which only prosper in peace be contrary to the Christian religion? But,
it is said, that the fine arts soften and emasculate the mind. In what
way? is it by withdrawing those who study them from the robust exercises
which enable nations and people to make war with success? Is it by
lessening the disposition of mankind to destroy one another, and by
taming the audacity of their animal fierceness? Is it for such a reason
as this, that we who profess to live in unison and friendship, not only
among ourselves, but with all the world that we should object to the
cultivation of the fine arts, of those arts which disarm the natural
ferocity of man? We may as well be told that the doctrine of peace and
life ought to be proscribed in the world because it is pernicious to the
practice of war and slaughter, as that the arts which call on man to
exercise his intellectual powers more than his physical strength, can be
contrary to Christianity, and adverse to the benevolence of the Deity. I
speak not, however, of the fine arts as the means of amusement, nor the
study of them as pastime to fill up the vacant hours of business, though
even as such, the taste for them deserves to be regarded as a
manifestation of Divine favour, in as much as they dispose the heart to
kind and gentle inclinations. For, I think them ordained by God for some
great and holy purpose. Do we not know that the professors of the fine
arts are commonly men greatly distinguished by special gifts of a
creative and discerning spirit? If there be any thing in the usual
course of human affairs which exhibits the immediate interposition of
the Deity, it is in the progress of the fine arts, in which it would
appear he often raises up those great characters, the spirit of whose
imaginations have an interminable influence on posterity, and who are
themselves separated and elevated among the generality of mankind, by
the name of men of genius. Can we believe that all this is not for some
useful purpose? What that purpose is, ought we to pretend to
investigate? Let us rather reflect that the Almighty God has been
pleased among us, and in this remote wilderness, to endow, with the rich
gifts of a peculiar spirit, that youth who has now our common consent to
cultivate his talents for an art, which, according to our humble and
human judgment, was previously thought an unnecessary ministration to
the sensual propensities of our nature. May it be demonstrated by the
life and works of the Artist, that the gift of God has not been bestowed
on him in vain, nor the motives of the beneficent inspiration which
induces us to suspend our particular tenets, prove barren of religious
or moral effect. On the contrary, let us confidently hope that this
occurrence has been for good, and that the consequences which may arise
in the society of this new world, from the example which Benjamin West
will be enabled to give, will be such a love of the arts of peace as
shall tend to draw the ties of affection closer, and diffuse over a
wider extent of community the interests and blessing of fraternal love."

At the conclusion of this address, the women rose and kissed the young
Artist, and the men, one by one, laid their hands on his head and prayed
that the Lord might verify in his life the value of the gift which had
induced them, in despite of their religious tenets, to allow him to
cultivate the faculties of his genius.

The history of no other individual affords an incident so extraordinary.
This could not be called a presentiment, but the result of a clear
expectation, that some important consequence would ensue. It may be added
that a more beautiful instance of liberality is not to be found in the
records of any religious society. Hitherto, all sects, even of Christians,
were disposed to regard, with jealousy and hatred, all those members who
embraced any pursuit that might tend to alienate them from their
particular modes of discipline. The Quakers have, therefore, the honour of
having been the first to allow, by a public act, that their conception of
the religious duties of man was liable to the errors of the human
judgment, and was not to be maintained on the presumption of being
actually according to the will of God. There is something at once simple
and venerable in the humility with which they regarded their own peculiar
principles, especially contrasted with the sublime view they appeared to
take of the wisdom and providence of the Deity. But, with whatever
delightful feelings strangers and posterity may contemplate this beautiful
example of Christian magnanimity, it would be impossible to convey any
idea of the sentiments with which it affected the youth who was the object
of its exercise. He must have been less than man had he not endeavoured,
without ceasing, to attain an honourable eminence in his profession; or,
had he forgotten, in the honours which he has since received from all
polished nations, that he was authorized by his friends and his religion,
to cultivate the art by which he obtained such distinctions, not for his
own sake, but as an instrument chosen by Providence to disseminate the
arts of peace in the world.

Chap. IV.

    Reflections on the Eccentricities of Young Men of Genius with respect
    to pecuniary matters.--The Death of the Artist's Mother.--The
    Embodying of the Pennsylvanian Militia; an Anecdote of General
    Wayne.--The Artist elected Commandant of a corps of Volunteer
    boys.--The circumstances which occasioned the Search for the Bones of
    Bradock's army.--The Search.--The Discovery of the Bones of the
    Father and Brother of Sir Peter Halket.--The Artist proposed
    afterwards to paint a Picture of the Discovery of the Bones of the
    Halkets.--He commences regularly as a Painter.--He copies a St.
    Ignatius.--He is induced to attempt Historical Portraiture.--His
    Picture of the Trial of Susannah.--Of the merits of that Picture.

There is a regardless independence about minds of superior endowment,
which, in similar characters, manifests itself differently according to
the circumstances in which they happen to be placed. Devoted to the
contemplation of the means of future celebrity, the man of genius
frequently finds himself little disposed to set a proper value on the
common interests of of life. When bred in affluence, and exempted from
the necessity of considering the importance of money to the attainment of
his object, he is often found, to a blameful degree, negligent of
pecuniary concerns; and, on the contrary, when his situation is such that
he may only hope for distinction by the practice of the most parsimonious
frugality, he will as often appear in the social and propelling season of
youth enduring voluntary privations with an equanimity which the
ostentatious fanatic or contrite penitent would in vain attempt to
surpass. This peculiar feature of the self-sustained mind of genius has
often been misunderstood, and seldom valued as it ought to be. The
presumptuous weak who mistake the wish of distinction for the workings of
talent, admire the eccentricities of the gifted youth who is reared in
opulence, and, mistaking the prodigality which is only the effect of his
fortune, for the attributes of his talents, imitate his errors, and
imagine that, by copying the blemishes of his conduct, they possess what
is illustrious in his mind. Such men are incapable of appreciating the
self-denial which Benjamin West made it a duty to impose upon himself on
entering the world; but to those who are truly conscious of possessing
the means of attracting the admiration of their contemporaries and
posterity, the voluntary abstinence of a youth of genius will afford them
delight in the contemplation, even though they may be happily free from
the obligation of practising it themselves.

When it was determined among the Friends that Benjamin West should be
allowed to cultivate the art of Painting, he went to Lancaster, but he was
hastily recalled by a severe domestic misfortune. His mother was seized by
a dangerous illness, and being conscious that she could not live long, she
requested that he might be sent for home. Benjamin hastily obeyed the
summons, but, before he reached the house, her strength was exhausted, and
she was only able to express by her look the satisfaction with which she
saw him approach the bed, before she expired. Her funeral, and the
distress which the event naturally occasioned to her family, by all of
whom she was very tenderly beloved, detained the young Artist some time at
his father's. About the end of August, in 1756, however, he took his
final departure, and went to Philadelphia. But, before proceeding with
the narrative of his professional career, it is necessary to advert to
some of the public transactions of that period, by which his sensibility
was powerfully excited. Indeed it will appear throughout the whole of
these singular memoirs, that the subject of them was, perhaps, more
immediately affected by the developement of national events, than usually
falls to the lot of any individual so little connected with public men,
and so far remote from the great thoroughfare of political occurrences.

After the destruction of General Bradock's army, the Pennsylvanians being
alarmed at the defenceless state in which they were placed by that
calamity, the Assembly of the Province resolved to embody a militia force;
and Mr. Wayne, who has been already mentioned, was appointed Colonel of
the Regiment raised in Chester County. This defensive measure announced
that the golden age of the country was past, and the change felt by the
peaceful Quakers indicated an alteration in their harmless manners. West,
among others, went to view the first muster of the troops under the
command of Colonel Wayne, and the sight of men in arms, their purpose and
array, warmed his lively imagination with military enthusiasm. In
conjunction with a son of the Colonel, a boy of his own age, with whom he
had become acquainted, he procured a gun, and determined also to be a
soldier. Young Wayne was drilled by the diciplinarians of his father's
corps, and he, in turn, exercised West, who, being more alert and active,
soon obtained a decided superiority; but what different destinies were
attached to them! West has attained, in the intellectual discipline of the
arts of peace, an enviable reputation; and Wayne, who was inferior to him
in the manual of the soldier, became an illustrious commander, and
partook, as the companion in arms of Washington, of the glory of having
established the independence of America.

The martial preparations inspired all the youths of Pennsylvania with the
love of arms, and diffused the principles of that military spirit which
was afterwards exerted with so much effect against the erroneous policy
of the mother country. West, soon after his drilling under young Wayne,
visited Lancaster; and the boys of that town having formed themselves
into a little corps, made choice of him for their commandant. Among
others who caught the spirit of the time, was his brother Samuel, who
possessed a bold character and an enterprising disposition. He was about
six years older than the Artist, and, being appointed a Captain in
Colonel Wayne's regiment, joined the troops under the command of General
Forbes, who was sent to repair the disasters which had happened to the
unfortunate Bradock.

After the taking of Fort Duane, to which the new name of Pittsburgh was
given, in compliment to the minister of the day, General Forbes resolved
to search for the relics of Bradock's army. As the European soldiers were
not so well qualified to explore the forests, Captain West was appointed,
with his company of American sharpshooters, to assist in the execution of
this duty; and a party of Indian warriors, who had returned to the British
interests, were requested to conduct him to the places where the bones of
the slain were likely to be found. In this solemn and affecting duty
several officers belonging to the 42d regiment accompanied the detachment,
and with them Major Sir Peter Halket, who had lost his father and a
brother in the fatal destruction of the army. It might have been thought a
hopeless task that he should be able to discriminate their remains from
the common relics of the other soldiers; but he was induced to think
otherwise, as one of the Indian warriors assured him that he had seen an
officer fall near a remarkable tree, which he thought he could still
discover; informing him at the same time, that the incident was impressed
on his memory by observing a young subaltern, who, in running to the
officer's assistance, was also shot dead on his reaching the spot, and
fell across the other's body. The Major had a mournful conviction in his
own mind that the two officers were his father and brother, and, indeed,
it was chiefly owing to his anxiety on the subject, that this pious
expedition, the second of the kind that History records, was undertaken.

Captain West and his companions proceeded through the woods and along the
banks of the river towards the scene of the battle. The Indians regarded
the expedition as a religious service, and guided the troops with awe, and
in profound silence. The soldiers were affected with sentiments not less
serious; and as they explored the bewildering labyrinths of those vast
forests, their hearts were often melted with inexpressible sorrow; for
they frequently found skeletons lying across the trunks of fallen trees, a
mournful proof to their imaginations that the men who sat there, had
perished of hunger, in vainly attempting to find their way to the
plantations. Sometimes their feelings were raised to the utmost pitch of
horror by the sight of sculls and bones scattered on the ground--a certain
indication that the bodies had been devoured by wild beasts; and in other
places they saw the blackness of ashes amidst the relics,--the tremendous
evidence of atrocious rites.

At length they reached a turn of the river not far from the principal
scene of destruction, and the Indian who remembered the death of the two
officers, stopped; the detachment also halted. He then looked around in
quest of some object which might recall, distinctly, his recollection of
the ground, and suddenly darted into the wood. The soldiers rested their
arms without speaking. A shrill cry was soon after heard; and the other
guides made signs for the troops to follow them towards the spot from
which it came. In the course of a short time they reached the Indian
warrior, who, by his cry, had announced to his companions that he had
found the place where he was posted on the day of battle. As the troops
approached, he pointed to the tree under which the officers had fallen.
Captain West halted his men round the spot, and with Sir Peter Halket and
the other officers, formed a circle, while the Indians removed the leaves
which thickly covered the ground. The skeletons were found, as the Indian
expected, lying across each other. The officers having looked at them some
time, the Major said, that as his father had an artificial tooth, he
thought he might be able to ascertain if they were indeed his bones and
those of his brother. The Indians were, therefore, ordered to remove the
skeleton of the youth, and to bring to view that of the old officer. This
was immediately done, and after a short examination, Major Halket
exclaimed, "It is my father!" and fell back into the arms of his
companions. The pioneers then dug a grave, and the bones being laid in it
together, a highland plaid was spread over them, and they were interred
with the customary honours.

When Lord Grosvenor bought the picture of the death of Wolfe, Mr. West
mentioned to him the finding of the bones of Bradock's army as a pictorial
subject capable of being managed with great effect. The gloom of the vast
forest, the naked and simple Indians supporting the skeletons, the grief
of the son on recognizing the relics of his father, the subdued melancholy
of the spectators, and the picturesque garb of the Pennsylvanian
sharpshooters, undoubtedly furnished topics capable of every effect which
the pencil could bestow, or the imagination require in the treatment of so
sublime a scene. His Lordship admitted, that in possessing so affecting an
incident as the discovery of the bones of the Halkets, it was superior
even to that of the search for the remains of the army of Varus; the
transaction, however, being little known, and not recorded by any
historian, he thought it would not be interesting to the public. Other
engagements have since prevented Mr. West from attempting it on his own
account. But it is necessary that the regular narrative should be resumed;
for the military history of the Artist terminated when he was recalled
home by the last illness of his mother, although the excitement which the
events that led to it occasioned never lost its influence on his mind,
especially that of the incident which has been described, and which has
ever been present to his imagination as one of the most affecting
occurrences, whether considered with respect to the feelings of the
gentlemen most immediately interested in it, or with respect to the wild
and solemn circumstances under which the service was performed.

On his return to Philadelphia, he again resided with Mr. Clarkson, his
brother-in-law; and Provost Smith, in the evenings, continued to direct
his attention to those topics of literature which were most suitable to
cherish the expansion of his mind, and to enrich his imagination with
ideas useful to his profession. While his leisure hours were thus
profitably employed, his reputation as a portrait painter was rapidly
extended. His youth, and the peculiar incidents of his history, attracted
many sitters, and his merits verified the recommendations of his friends.
This constancy of employment, no doubt materially tended to his
improvement in the manipulation of his art; for whatever may be the native
force of talent, it is impossible that the possessor can attain excellence
by any other means than practice. Facility to express the conceptions of
the mind must be acquired before the pen or the pencil can embody them
appropriately, and the author who does not execute much, however little he
may exhibit, can never expect to do justice to the truth and beauty of his
own ideas. West was very soon duly impressed with the justness of this
observation; and, while in the execution of his portraits, he was
assiduous to acquire a ready knowledge of those characteristic traits
which have since enabled him to throw so much variety into his
compositions; he felt conscious that, without seeing better pictures than
his own, he could neither hope to attain distinction, nor to appreciate
his own peculiar powers. It was this consideration that induced him to
adopt a most rigid system of frugality. He looked forward to a period when
he might be enabled, by the fruits of his own industry, to visit the great
scenes of the fine arts in Europe; and the care with which he treasured
the money that he received for his portraits was rewarded even at the time
with the assurance of realizing his expectations. The prices which he
first fixed for his portraits, were two guineas and a half for a head, and
five guineas for a half length.

After what has already been mentioned of the state of Society in
Pennsylvania, it is needless to say that at the period to which these
memoirs refer, there were but few pictures in the British Plantations;
indeed, without any other explanation, all that should be contended for by
any person who might imagine it necessary to advocate the pretensions of
Benjamin West to be placed in the list of original and self-instructed
artists, would be readily granted, upon stating the single fact, that he
was born in Pennsylvania, and did not leave America till the year 1760. At
the same time, it might be construed into an injudicious concealment, if
it were not mentioned that Governor Hamilton, who at that period presided
with so much popularity over the affairs of the province, possessed a few
pictures, consisting, however, chiefly of family portraits. Among them was
a St. Ignatius, which was found in the course of the preceding war on
board a Spanish prize, and which Mr. Pennington obtained leave for West to
copy. The Artist had made choice of it himself, without being aware of its
merits as a work of art, for it was not until several years after that he
discovered it to be a fine piece of the Morillo school, and in the best
style of the master.

This copy was greatly admired by all who saw it, and by none more than his
valuable friend Provost Smith, to whom it suggested the notion that
portrait-painting might be raised to something greatly above the
exhibition of a mere physical likeness; and he in consequence endeavoured
to impress upon the mind of his pupil, that characteristic painting opened
a new line in the art, only inferior in dignity to that of history, but
requiring, perhaps, a nicer discriminative tact of mind. This judicious
reflection of Dr. Smith was however anticipated by Sir Joshua Reynolds,
who had already made the discovery, and was carrying it into effect with
admirable success. The Provost, however, was unacquainted with that
circumstance, and induced West to make an experiment by drawing his
portrait in the style and attitude of the St. Ignatius.

While he was thus employed on portraits, a gentleman of the name of Cox
called on him to agree for a likeness of his daughter; and the picture of
Dr. Smith attracted his attention. It indeed appeared to him to evince
such a capacity for historical composition, that, instead of then
determining any thing respecting his daughter's portrait, he gave an order
for an historical picture, allowing the Artist himself to choose the
subject. This task had peculiar charms; for the Painter in the course of
reading the Bible to his mother some time before, had been led to think
that the Trial of Susannah was a fine subject, and he was thus enabled, by
the liberality of Mr. Cox, to embody the conceptions of his imagination
while they were yet in all the freshness and vigour of original
formation. He made his canvas about the size of a half length portrait, on
which he introduced not fewer than forty figures. In the execution he
followed the rule which he had adopted in painting the Death of Socrates,
and drew the principal figures from living models.--It is not known what
has become of the Trial of Susannah. In the rebellion of the Colonies, Mr.
Cox adhered to the British interest; and his daughter, the last person
into whose possession the picture has been traced, having married a
British officer, came to England during the war, and the Artist has not
heard where she has since resided.

In point of composition, Mr. West is of opinion that the Trial of Susannah
was superior to the Death of Socrates. In this he is probably correct; for
during the interval between the execution of the one and the other, his
mind had been enlarged in knowledge by reading, his eye improved by the
study of pictorial outline and perspective in the _Camera_, and his touch
softened by the portraits which he painted, and particularly by his
careful copy of the St. Ignatius. In point of drawing, both pictures were
no doubt greatly inferior to many of his subsequent works; but his son,
long after he had acquired much celebrity, saw the picture of the Death of
Socrates; and was of opinion that it was not surpassed by any of them in
variety of composition, and in that perspicuity of narrative which is the
grand characteristic of the Artist's genius.

Chap. V.

    Motives which induced him to visit New York.--State of Society in New
    York.--Reflections on the sterility of American
    talent.--Considerations on the circumstances which tend to produce
    Poetical feelings.--The causes which produced the peculiarities in the
    state of Society in New York.--The Accident which led the Artist to
    discover the method of colouring Candle-light and Fire effects after
    Nature.--He copies Strange's engraving of Belisarius, by Salvador
    Rosa.--The occurrence which hastened his Voyage to Italy, with the
    Anecdote of his obligations to Mr. Kelly.--Reflections on Plutarch,
    occasioned by reference to the effect which his works had on the mind
    of West.--The Artist embarks; occurrence at Gibraltar.--He arrives at
    Leghorn.--Journey to Rome.

But although West found himself in possession of abundant employment in
Philadelphia, he was sensible that he could not expect to increase his
prices with effect, if he continued constantly in the same place. He also
became sensible that to view life in various lights was as necessary to
his improvement as to exercise his pencil on different subjects. And,
beyond all, he was profoundly sensible, by this time, that he could not
hope to attain eminence in his profession, without inspecting the great
master-pieces of art in Europe, and comparing them with his own works in
order to ascertain the extent of his powers. This philosophical view of
his situation was doubtless partly owing to the excellent precepts of
Provost Smith, but mainly to his own just perception of what was necessary
to the successful career of an Artist: indeed the principle upon which the
notion was formed is universal, and applies to all intellectual pursuits.
Accordingly, impressed with these considerations, he frugally treasured
the earnings of his pencil, that he might undertake, in the first place, a
professional journey from Philadelphia, as preparatory to acquiring the
means of afterwards visiting Europe, and particularly Rome. When he found
that the state of his funds enabled him to undertake the journey, he went
to New York.

The Society of New York was much less intelligent in matters of taste and
knowledge than that of Philadelphia. In the latter city the institutions
of the college and library, and the strict moral and political
respectability of the first settlers, had contributed to form a community,
which, though inferior in the elegancies of living, and the etiquettes of
intercourse, to what is commonly found in the European capitals, was
little behind them in point of practical and historical information. Dr.
Smith, the Provost of the college, had largely contributed to elevate the
taste, the sentiment and the topics of conversation in Philadelphia. He
was full of the best spirit of antiquity, and there was a classical purity
of mind and splendour of imagination sometimes met with in the families
which he frequented, that would have done honour to the best periods of
polished society.

It would be difficult to assign any reason why it has so happened that no
literary author of any general celebrity, with the exception of Franklin,
has yet arisen in America. That men of learning and extensive reading,
capable of vying with the same description of persons in Europe, are to
be found in the United States, particularly in Philadelphia, is not to be
denied; but of that class, whose talents tend to augment the stock of
intellectual enjoyment in the world, no one, with the single exception
already alluded to, has yet appeared.

Poetry is the art of connecting ideas of sensible objects with moral
sentiments; and without the previous existence of local feelings, there
can be no poetry. America to the first European settlers had no objects
interesting to the imagination, at least of the description thus strictly
considered as poetical; for although the vigour and stupendous appearances
of Nature were calculated to fill the mind with awe, and to exalt the
contemplations of enthusiasm, there was nothing connected with the
circumstances of the scene susceptible of that colouring from the memory,
which gives to the ideas of local resemblance the peculiar qualities of
poetry. The forests, though interminable, were but composed of trees; the
mountains and rivers, though on a larger scale, were not associated in the
mind with the exertions of patriotic valour, and the achievements of
individual enterprize, like the Alps or the Danube, the Grampians or the
Tweed. It is impossible to tread the depopulated and exhausted soil of
Greece without meeting with innumerable relics and objects, which, like
magical talismans, call up the genius of departed ages with the
long-enriched roll of those great transactions, that, in their moral
effect, have raised the nature of man, occasioning trains of reflection
which want only the rythm of language to be poetry. But in the
unstoried solitudes of America, the traveller meets with nothing to awaken
the sympathy of his recollective feelings. Even the very character of the
trees, though interesting to scientific research, chills, beneath the
spaciousness of their shade, every poetical disposition. They bear little
resemblance to those which the stranger has left behind in his native
country. To the descendants of the first settlers, they wanted even the
charm of those accidental associations which their appearance might have
recalled to the minds of their fathers. Poetry is, doubtless, the first of
the intellectual arts which mankind cultivate. In its earliest form it is
the mode of expressing affection and admiration; but, before it can be
invented, there must be objects beloved and admired, associated with
things in nature endowed with a local habitation and a name. In America,
therefore, although there has been no lack of clever versifiers, nor of
men who have respectably echoed the ideas current in the old world, the
country has produced nothing of any value descriptive of the peculiar
associations connected with its scenery. Among some of the Indian tribes a
vein of original poetry has, indeed, been discovered; but the riches of
the mine are unexplored, and the charge of sterility of fancy, which is
made by the Europeans against the citizens of the United States, still
remains unrefuted. Since the period, however, to which these memoirs
chiefly refer, events of great importance have occurred, and the
recollections connected with them, no doubt, tend to imbue the American
climate with the elements of poetical thought; but they are of too recent
occurrence for the purposes either of the epic or the tragic muse. The
facts of history in America are still seen too much in detail for the
imagination to combine them with her own creation. The fields of battle
are almost too fresh for the farmer to break the surface; and years must
elapse before the ploughshare shall turn up those eroded arms of which the
sight will call into poetical existence the sad and dreadful incidents of
the civil war.

In New York Mr. West found the society wholly devoted to mercantile
pursuits. A disposition to estimate the value of things, not by their
utility, or by their beauty, but by the price which they would bring in
the market, almost universally prevailed. Mercantile men are habituated by
the nature of their transactions to overlook the intrinsic qualities of
the very commodities in which they deal; and though of all the community
they are the most liberal and the most munificent, they set the least
value on intellectual productions. The population of New York was formed
of adventurers from all parts of Europe, who had come thither for the
express purpose of making money, in order, afterwards, to appear with
distinction at home. Although West, therefore, found in that city much
employment in taking likenesses destined to be transmitted to relations
and friends, he met with but few in whom he found any disposition
congenial to his own; and the eleven months which he passed there, in
consequence, contributed less to the improvement of his mind than might
have been expected from a city so flourishing. Still, the time was not
altogether barren of occurrences which tended to advance his progress in
his art, independent of the advantage arising from constant practice.

He happened, during his residence there, to see a beautiful Flemish
picture of a hermit praying before a lamp, and he was resolved to paint a
companion to it, of a man reading by candle-light. But before he
discovered a method of producing, in day-light, an effect on his model
similar to what he wished to imitate, he was frequently baffled in his
attempts. At length, he hit on the expedient of persuading his landlord to
sit with an open book before a candle in a dark closet; and he found that,
by looking in upon him from his study, the appearance was exactly what he
wished for. In the schools and academies of Europe, tradition has
preserved the methods by which all the magical effects of light and
shadow have been produced, with the exception, however, of Rembrandt's
method, and which the author of these sketches ventures to suggest was
attained, in general, by observing the effect of sunshine passing through
chinks into a dark room. But the American Artist was as yet unacquainted
with any of them, and had no other guides to the essential principles of
his art but the delicacy of his sight, and that ingenious observation of
Nature to which allusion has been already so often made.

The picture of the Student, or man reading by candle-light, was bought by
a Mr. Myers, who, in the revolution, continued to adhere to the English
cause. The same gentleman also bought a copy which West made about the
same time of Belisarius, from the engraving by Strange, of Salvator Rosa's
painting. It is not known what has now become of these pictures; but when
the Artist long afterwards saw the original of Salvator Rosa, he was
gratified to observe that he had instinctively coloured his copy almost as
faithfully as if it had been painted from the picture instead of the

In the year 1759 the harvest in Italy fell far short of what was
requisite for the ordinary consumption of the population, and a great
dearth being foreseen, Messrs. Rutherford and Jackson, of Leghorn, a house
of the first consequence then in the Mediterranean trade, and well known
to all travellers for the hospitality of the partners, wrote to their
correspondent Mr. Allen, at Philadelphia, to send them a cargo of wheat
and flour. Mr. Allen was anxious that his son, before finally embarking in
business, should see something of the world; and Provost Smith, hearing
his intention of sending him to Leghorn with the vessel, immediately
waited on the old gentleman, and begged him to allow West to accompany
him, which was cheerfully acceded to, and the Provost immediately wrote to
his pupil at New York on the subject. In the mean time, West had heard
that there was a vessel at Philadelphia loading for Italy, and had
expressed to Mr. William Kelly, a merchant, who was then sitting to him
for his portrait, a strong desire to avail himself of this opportunity to
visit the fountain-head of the arts. Before this period, he had raised his
terms for a half-length to ten guineas, by which he acquired a sum of
money adequate to the expenses of a short excursion to Italy. When he had
finished Mr. Kelly's portrait, that gentleman, in paying him, requested
that he would take charge of a letter to his agents in Philadelphia, and
deliver it to them himself on his return to that city, which he was
induced to do immediately, on receiving Dr. Smith's letter, informing him
of the arrangement made with Mr. Allen. When this letter was opened, an
instance of delicate munificence appeared on the part of Mr. Kelly, which
cannot be too highly applauded. It stated to the concern to which it was
addressed, that it would be delivered by an ingenious young gentleman,
who, he understood, intended to visit Rome for the purpose of studying the
fine arts, and ordered them to pay him fifty guineas as a present from him
towards furnishing his stores for the voyage.

While waiting till the vessel was clear to sail, West had the
gratification to see, in Philadelphia, his old friend Mr. Henry, for whom
he had painted the Death of Socrates. Towards him he always cherished the
most grateful affection. He was the first who urged him to attempt
historical composition; and, above all, he was the first who had made him
acquainted with the magnanimous tales of Plutarch; perhaps, the greatest
favour which could be conferred on a youthful mind, susceptible of
impressions from the sublime and beautiful of human actions, which no
author has better illustrated than that celebrated Biographer, who may
indeed be regarded, almost without hyperbole, as the recorder of
antient worth, and the tutor of modern genius. In his peculiar class,
Plutarch still stands alone, at least no author in any of the living
languages appears to be yet truly sensible of the secret cause by which
his sketches give that direct impulse to the elements of genius, by which
the vague and wandering feelings of unappropriated strength are converted
into an uniform energy, endowed with productive action. Plutarch, like the
sculptors of antiquity, has selected only the great and elegant traits of
character; and hence his lives, like those statues which are the models of
art, possess, with all that is graceful and noble in human nature, the
particular features of individuals. He had no taste for the blemishes of
mankind. His mind delighted in the contemplation of moral vigour; and he
seems justly to have thought that it was nearly allied to virtue: hence
many of those characters whose portraitures in his works furnish the
youthful mind with inspiring examples of true greatness, more authentic
historians represent in a light far different. It is the aim of all
dignified art to exalt the mind by exciting the feelings as well as the
judgment; and the immortal lessons of Plutarch would never have awakened
the first stirrings of ambition in the innumerable great men who date
their career from reading his pages, had he been actuated by the minute
and invidious spirit of modern biography. These reflections have occurred
the more forcibly at this juncture, as the subject of this narrative was
on the point of leaving a country in which were men destined to acquire
glory in such achievements as Plutarch would have delighted to record; and
of parting from early associates who afterwards attained a degree of
eminence in the public service that places them high in the roll of those
who have emulated the exploits and virtues of the Heroes of that great

The Artist having embarked with young Allen had a speedy and pleasant
passage to Gibraltar; where, in consequence of the war then raging, the
ship stopped for convoy. As soon as they came to anchor, Commodore Carney
and another officer came on board to examine the vessel's papers. It
happened that some time before, the British Government had, on account of
political circumstances, prohibited the carrying of provisions into Italy,
by which prohibition the ship and cargo would have been forfeited had she
been arrested in attempting to enter an Italian port, or, indeed, in
proceeding with such an intention. But Captain Carney had scarcely taken
his pen to write the replies to the questions which he put to the Master,
as to the owners of the vessel and her destination, when he again threw it
down, and, looking the other officer full in the face, said, "I am much
affected by the situation in which I am now placed. This valuable ship is
the property of some of my nearest relations, and the best friends that I
have ever had in the world!" and he refrained from asking any more
questions. There was, undoubtedly, much generosity in this conduct, for
by the indulgence of the crown, all prizes taken in war become the
property of the captors; and Captain Carney, rather than enrich himself at
the expence of his friends, chose to run the hazard of having his own
conduct called in question for the non-performance of his official duty.
It perhaps deserves also to be considered as affording a favourable
example of that manly confidence in the gentlemanly honour of each other
which has so long distinguished the British officers. On the mind of West
it tended to confirm that agreeable impression by which so many previous
incidents had made him cherish a liberal opinion of mankind. In other
respects, Captain Carney happening to be the officer who came on board,
was a fortunate circumstance; for on learning that young Allen was in the
ship, he invited the passengers to dine on board his frigate; and the
company, consisting of the Governor, his staff, and principal officers in
the garrison, tended to raise the consideration of the Artist, and his
companion in the estimation of the fleet with which their vessel was to
proceed to Leghorn. Indeed, throughout his whole life, Mr. West was, in
this respect, singularly fortunate; for although the condescensions of
rank do not in themselves confer any power on talent, they have the effect
of producing that complacency of mind in those who are the objects of
them, which is at once the reward and the solace of intellectual exertion,
at the same time that they tend to mollify the spirit of contemporary
invidiousness. The day after, the fleet sailed; and when they had passed
the rock, the captains of the two men of war [Footnote: The two
frigates, the Shannon, Captain Meadow, since Lord Manvers, whose intimacy
still continues with Mr. West, and the Favourite sloop of war, Captain
Pownell.] who had charge of the convoy, came on board the American, and
invited Mr. Allen and Mr. West to take their passage in one of the
frigates; this, however, they declined, but every day, when the weather
was favourable, they were taken on board the one ship or the other, to
dine; and when the weather did not permit this to be done with pleasure to
the strangers, the officers sent them presents from their stock.

After touching at several parts of the coast of Spain, the ship arrived
safely at Leghorn, where mercantile enquiries detained Mr. Allen some
time, and West being impatient to proceed to Rome, bade him adieu. Prior
to his departure from Philadelphia, he had paid into the hands of old Mr.
Allen the money which he thought would be requisite for his expenses in
Italy, and had received from him a letter of credit on Messrs. Jackson and
Rutherford. When they were made acquainted with the object of his voyage,
and heard his history, they showed him a degree of attention beyond even
their general great hospitality, and presented him with letters to
Cardinal Albani, and several of the most distinguished characters for
erudition and taste in Rome; and as he was unacquainted with French or
Italian, they recommended him to the care of a French Courier, who had
occasion to pass that way.

When the travellers had reached the last stage of their journey, while
their horses were baiting, West walked on alone. It was a beautiful
morning; the air was perfectly placid, not a speck of vapour in the sky,
and a profound tranquillity seemed almost sensibly diffused over the
landscape. The appearance of Nature was calculated to lighten and elevate
the spirits; but the general silence and nakedness of the scene touched
the feelings with solemnity approaching to awe. Filled with the idea of
the metropolitan city, the Artist hastened forward till he reached an
elevated part of the high road, which afforded him a view of a spacious
champaign country, bounded by hills, and in the midst of it the sublime
dome of St. Peter's. The magnificence of this view of the Campagna
excited, in his imagination, an agitated train of reflections that partook
more of the nature of feeling than of thought. He looked for a spot to
rest on, that he might contemplate at leisure a scene at once so noble and
so interesting; and, near a pile of ruins fringed and trellissed with ivy,
he saw a stone that appeared to be part of a column. On going towards it,
he perceived that it was a mile-stone, and that he was then only eight
miles from the Capitol. In looking before him, where every object seemed
by the transparency of the Italian atmosphere to be brought nearer than it
was in reality, he could not but reflect on the contrast between the
circumstances of that view and the scenery of America; and his thoughts
naturally adverted to the progress of civilization. The sun seemed, to
his fancy, the image of truth and knowledge, arising in the East,
continuing to illuminate and adorn the whole earth, and withdrawing from
the eyes of the old world to enlighten the uncultivated regions of the
new. He thought of that remote antiquity when the site of Rome itself was
covered with unexplored forests; and passing with a rapid reminiscence
over her eventful story, he was touched with sorrow at the solitude of
decay with which she appeared to be environed, till he adverted to the
condition of his native country, and was cheered by the thought of the
greatness which even the fate of Rome seemed to assure to America. For he
reflected that, although the progress of knowledge appeared to intimate
that there was some great cycle in human affairs, and that the procession
of the arts and sciences from the East to the West demonstrated their
course to be neither stationary nor retrograde; he could not but rejoice,
in contemplating the skeleton of the mighty capital before him, that they
had improved as they advanced, and that the splendour which would precede
their setting on the shores of Europe, would be the gorgeous omen of the
glory which they would attain in their passage over America.

While he was rapt in these reflections, he heard the drowsy tinkle of a
pastoral bell behind him, and on turning round, he saw a peasant dressed
in shaggy skins, driving a few goats from the ruins. The appearance and
physiognomy of this peasant struck him as something more wild and
ferocious than any thing about the Indians; and, perhaps, the observation
was correctly philosophical. In the Indian, Nature is seen in that
primitive vigour and simplicity, in which the actions are regulated by
those feelings that are the elements of the virtues; but in the Italian
bandit, for such he had reason afterwards to think was the real character
of the goat-herd, he saw man in that second state of barbarity, in which
his actions are instigated by wants that have often a vicious origin.

Chap. VI.

    State of the stationary Society of Rome.--Causes which rendered the
    City a delightful temporary residence.--Defects of the Academical
    methods of study.--His introduction to Mr. Robinson.--Anecdote of
    Cardinal Albani.--The Cardinal's method of finding Resemblances, and
    curious mistake of the Italians.--The Artist's first visit to the
    Works of Art.

During the pontificate of Pope Rezzonico, the society of Rome had attained
a pitch of elegance and a liberality of sentiment superior to that of any
other city of Christendom. The theocratic nature of the government induced
an exterior decorum in the public form of politeness, which, to strangers
who took no interest in the abuses of the state, was so highly agreeable,
that it tended even to appease their indignation against the laxity of
private morals. If the traveller would forget that the name of
Christianity was employed in supporting a baneful administration to the
vices, or could withdraw his thoughts from the penury and suffering which
such an administration necessarily entailed on the people, he had
opportunities of access at Rome to the most various and delightful
exercises of the faculties of memory, taste, and judgment, in the company
of persons distinguished for their knowledge and genius. For, with all the
social intercourse for which Paris was celebrated in the reign of Louis
XV. the local objects at Rome gave a higher and richer tone to
conversation there; even the living vices were there less offensive than
at Paris, the rumours of them being almost lost in the remembrance of
departed virtue, constantly kept awake by the sight of its monuments and
vouchers. Tyranny in Rome was exercised more intellectually than in the
French Capital. Injustice and oppression were used more in the form of
persuasion; and though the crosier was not less pernicious than the
bayonet, it inflicted a less irritating injury. The virtuous endured with
patience the wrongs that their misguided judgment led them to believe were
salutary to their eternal welfare. But it ought to be observed, that the
immorality of the Romans was greatly exaggerated. Individuals redeemed by
their merits the reproach of universal profligacy; and strangers, by being
on their guard against the moral contagion, suffered a less dangerous
taint than in the Atheistical coteries of Paris. Many, in consequence, who
came prepared to be disgusted with the degenerated Romans, often bade them
adieu with sentiments of respect, and remembered their urbanity and
accomplishments with delightful satisfaction.

It was not, however, the native inhabitants of Rome who constituted the
chief attractions of society there, but the number of accomplished
strangers of all countries and religions, who, in constant succession,
came in pilgrimage to the shrine of antiquity; and who, by the
contemplation of the merits and glories of departed worth, often felt
themselves, as it were, miraculously endowed with new qualities. The
collision of minds fraught with learning, in that high state of excitement
which the genius of the place produced on the coldest imaginations,
together with those innumerable brilliant and transitory topics which were
never elicited in any other city, made the Roman conversations a
continual exercise of the understanding. The details of political
intrigue, and the follies of individuals, excited but little interest
among the strangers in Rome. It seemed as if by an universal tacit
resolution, national and personal peculiarities and prejudices were
forgotten, and that all strangers simultaneously turned their attention to
the transactions and affairs of former ages, and of statesmen and authors
now no more. Their mornings were spent in surveying the monuments raised
to public virtue, and in giving local features in their minds to the
knowledge which they had acquired by the perusal of those works that have
perpetuated the dignity of the Roman character. Their evenings were often
allotted to the comparison of their respective conjectures, and to
ascertain the authenticity and history of the relics which they had
collected of ancient art. Sometimes the day was consumed in the study of
those inestimable ornaments of religion, by which the fraudulent
disposition of the priesthood had, in the decay of its power, rendered
itself venerable to the most enlightened minds; and the night was devoted
to the consideration of the causes which contribute to the developement
of genius, or of the events which tend to stifle and overwhelm its powers.
Every recreation of the stranger in Rome was an effort of the memory, of
abstraction, and of fancy.--Society, in this elevated state of enjoyment,
surrounded by the greatest works of human creation, and placed amidst the
monuments of the most illustrious of mankind,--and that of the Quakers of
Pennsylvania, employed in the mechanical industry of felling timber, and
amid the sobriety of rural and commercial oeconomy, were like the extremes
of a long series of events, in which, though the former is the necessary
consequence of the latter, no resemblance can be traced in their
respective characteristics. In America all was young, vigorous, and
growing,--the spring of a nation, frugal, active, and simple. In Rome all
was old, infirm, and decaying,--the autumn of a people who had gathered
their glory, and were sinking into sleep under the disgraceful excesses of
the vintage. On the most inert mind, passing from the one continent to the
other, the contrast was sufficient to excite great emotion; on such a
character as that of Mr. West, who was naturally disposed to the
contemplation of the sublime and beautiful, both as to their moral and
visible effect, it made a deep and indelible impression. It confirmed him
in the wisdom of those strict religious principles which denied the
utility of art when solely employed as the medium of amusement; and
impelled him to attempt what could be done to approximate the uses of the
pencil to those of the pen, in order to render Painting, indeed, the
sister of Eloquence and Poetry.

But the course of study in the Roman schools was not calculated to enable
him to carry this grand purpose into effect; for the principles by which
Michael Angelo and Raphael had attained their excellence, were no longer
regarded. The study of Nature was deserted for that of the antique; and
pictures were composed according to rules derived from other paintings,
without respect to what the subject required, or what the circumstances of
the scene probably appeared to be. It was, therefore, not one of the least
happy occurrences in his life that he went to Rome when society was not
only in the most favourable state for the improvement of his mind, and for
convincing him of the deleterious influence of the arts when employed as
the embellishments of voluptuousness and luxury; but also when the state
of the arts was so mean, that the full effect of studying the antique
only, and of grouping characters by academical rules, should appear so
striking as to satisfy him that he could never hope for any eminence, if
he did not attend more to the phenomena of Nature, than to the productions
of the greatest genius. The perusal of the works of other painters, he was
sensible, would improve his taste; but he was convinced, that the design
which he had formed for establishing his own fame, could not be realised,
if, for a single moment, he forgot that their works, however exquisite,
were but the imitations and forms of those eternal models to which he had
been instinctively directed.

It was on the 10th of July, 1760, that he arrived at Rome. The French
Courier conducted him to a hotel, and, having mentioned in the house that
he was an American, and a Quaker, come to study the fine arts, the
circumstance seemed so extraordinary, that it reached the ears of Mr.
Robinson, afterwards Lord Grantham, who immediately found himself
possessed by an irresistible desire to see him; and who, before he had
time to dress or refresh himself, paid him a visit, and insisted that he
should dine with him. In the course of dinner, that gentleman inquired
what letters of introduction the Artist had brought with him; and West
having informed him, he observed it was somewhat remarkable that the whole
of them should be addressed to his most particular friends, adding, that
as he was engaged to meet them at a party in the evening, he expected West
would accompany him. This attention and frankness was acknowledged as it
deserved to be, and is remembered by the Artist among those fortunate
incidents which have rendered the recollection of his past life so
pleasant, as scarcely to leave a wish for any part of it to have been
spent otherwise than it was. At the hour appointed, Mr. Robinson conducted
him to the house of Mr. Crispigné, an English gentleman who had long
resided at Rome, where the evening party was held.

Among the distinguished persons whom Mr. West found in the company, was
the celebrated Cardinal Albani. His eminence, although quite blind, had
acquired, by the exquisite delicacy of his touch, and the combining powers
of his mind, such a sense of antient beauty, that he excelled all the
virtuosi then in Rome, in the correctness of his knowledge of the verity
and peculiarities of the smallest medals and intaglios. Mr. Robinson
conducted the Artist to the inner apartment, where the Cardinal was
sitting, and said, "I have the honour to present a young American, who has
a letter of introduction to your eminence, and who has come to Italy for
the purpose of studying the fine arts." The Cardinal fancying that the
American must be an Indian, exclaimed, "Is he black or white?" and on
being told that he was very fair, "What as fair as I am?" cried the
Cardinal still more surprised. This latter expression excited a good deal
of mirth at the Cardinal's expence, for his complexion was of the darkest
Italian olive, and West's was even of more than the usual degree of
English fairness. For some time after, if it be not still in use, the
expression of "as fair as the Cardinal" acquired proverbial currency in
the Roman conversations, applied to persons who had any inordinate conceit
of their own beauty.

The Cardinal, after some other short questions, invited West to come near
him, and running his hands over his features, still more attracted the
attention of the company to the stranger, by the admiration which he
expressed at the form of his head. This occasioned inquiries respecting
the youth; and the Italians concluding that, as he was an American, he
must, of course, have received the education of a savage, became curious
to witness the effect which the works of Art in the Belvidere and Vatican
would produce on him. The whole company, which consisted of the principal
Roman nobility, and strangers of distinction then in Rome, were interested
in the event; and it was arranged in the course of the evening that on the
following morning they should accompany Mr. Robinson and his protegé to
the palaces.

At the hour appointed, the company assembled; and a procession, consisting
of upwards of thirty of the most magnificent equipages in the capital of
Christendom, and filled with some of the most erudite characters in
Europe, conducted the young Quaker to view the master-pieces of art. It
was agreed that the Apollo should be first submitted to his view, because
it was the most perfect work among all the ornaments of Rome, and,
consequently, the best calculated to produce that effect which the company
were anxious to witness. The statue then stood in a case, enclosed with
doors, which could be so opened as to disclose it at once to full view.
West was placed in the situation where it was seen to the most advantage,
and the spectators arranged themselves on each side. When the keeper threw
open the doors, the Artist felt himself surprised with a sudden
recollection altogether different from the gratification which he had
expected; and without being aware of the force of what he said, exclaimed,
"My God, how like it is to a young Mohawk warrior." The Italians,
observing his surprise, and hearing the exclamation, requested Mr.
Robinson to translate to them what he said; and they were excessively
mortified to find that the god of their idolatry was compared to a
savage. Mr. Robinson mentioned to West their chagrin, and asked him to
give some more distinct explanation, by informing him what sort of people
the Mohawk Indians were. He described to him their education; their
dexterity with the bow and arrow; the admirable elasticity of their limbs;
and how much their active life expands the chest, while the quick
breathing of their speed in the chace, dilates the nostrils with that
apparent consciousness of vigour which is so nobly depicted in the Apollo.
"I have seen them often," added he, "standing in that very attitude, and
pursuing, with an intense eye, the arrow which they had just discharged
from the bow." This descriptive explanation did not lose by Mr. Robinson's
translation. The Italians were delighted, and allowed that a better
criticism had rarely been pronounced on the merits of the statue. The view
of the other great works did not awaken the same vivid feelings. Those of
Raphael, in the Vatican, did not at first particularly interest him; nor
was it until he had often visited them alone, and studied them by himself,
that he could appreciate the fulness of their excellence. His first view
of the works of Michael Angelo, was still less satisfactory: indeed, he
continued always to think, that, with the single exception of the Moses,
that Artist had not succeeded in giving a probable character to any of his
subjects, notwithstanding the masterly hand and mind which pervade the
weakest of his productions.

Among the first objects which particularly interested Mr. West, and which
he never ceased to re-visit day after day with increasing pleasure, were
the celebrated statues ascribed to Phidias, on the Monte Cavallo. The
action of the human figure appeared to him so majestic, that it seemed to
throw, as it were, a visible kind of awe into the very atmosphere, and
over all the surrounding buildings. But the smallness of the horse struck
him as exceedingly preposterous. He had often examined it before the idea
occurred to him that it was probably reduced according to some unknown
principle of antient art; and in this notion he was confirmed, by
observing something of the same kind in the relative proportion of human
figures and animals, on the different gems and bas-reliefs to which his
attention was subsequently directed. The antient sculptors uniformly
seemed to consider the human figure as the chief object, and sacrificed,
to give it effect, the proportions of inferior parts. The author of the
group on the Monte Cavallo, in the opinion of Mr. West, represented the
horse smaller than the natural size, in order to augment the grandeur of
the man. How far this notion, as the principle of a rule, may be sound, it
would be unnecessary, perhaps impertinent, to inquire here; but its
justness as applicable to the sculptures of antiquity, is abundantly
verified by the bas-reliefs brought from the Parthenon of Athens. It is,
indeed, so admitted a feature of antient art, as to be regarded by some
critics as having for its object the same effect in sculpture, which is
attained by light and shadow in painting.--In a picture, the Artist, by a
judicious obscurity, so veils the magnitude of the car in which he places
a victor, that notwithstanding its size, it may not appear the principal
object; but this artifice is denied to the sculptor, who is necessitated
to diminish the size of those things which are of least importance, in
order to give dignity to the predominant figures. Raphael, in making the
boat so small in the miraculous draught of fishes, is thought to have
injudiciously applied this rule of antient sculpture; for he ought to have
accomplished, by foreshortening, the same effect which he meant to produce
by diminishing the size. It should, however, be observed, that great
doubts are entertained if the statues on the Monte Cavallo were originally
integral parts of the same group; but although this doubt may be well
founded, it will not invalidate the supposed general principle of the
antient sculptors, corroborated, as it is, by innumerable examples.

In the evening, after visiting the palaces, Mr. Robinson carried Mr. West
to see a grand religious ceremony in one of the churches. Hitherto he was
acquainted only with the simple worship of the Quakers. The pomp of the
papal ceremonies was as much beyond his comprehension, as the overpowering
excellence of the music surpassed his utmost expectations. Undoubtedly, in
all the spectacles and amusements of Rome, he possessed a keener sense of
enjoyment, arising from the simplicity of his education, than most other
travellers. That same sensibility to the beauty of forms and colours which
had awakened his genius for painting, was, probably, accompanied with a
general superior susceptibility of the other organs as well as the sight;
for it is observed that a taste for any one of the fine arts is connected
with a general predilection for them all. But neither the Apollo, the
Vatican, nor the pomp of the Catholic ritual, excited his feelings to so
great a degree as the spectacle which presented itself to his view around
the portico of the church. Bred in the universal prosperity of
Pennsylvania, where the benevolence of the human bosom was only employed
in acts of hospitality and mutual kindness, he had never witnessed any
spectacle of beggary, nor had he ever heard the name of God uttered to
second an entreaty for alms. Here, however, all the lazars and the
wretched in Rome were collected together; hundreds of young and old in
that extreme of squalor, nakedness, and disease which affrights the
English traveller in Italy, were seen on all sides; and their
importunities and cries, for the love of God, and the mercy of Christ, to
relieve them, thrilled in his ears, and smote upon his heart to such a
degree, that his joints became as it were loosened, and his legs scarcely
able to support him. Many of the beggars knew Mr. Robinson, and seeing him
accompanied by a stranger, an Englishman, as they concluded the Artist to
be from his appearance, surrounded them with confidence and clamours.

       *       *       *       *       *

As they returned from the church, a woman somewhat advanced in life, and
of a better appearance than the generality of the beggars, followed them,
and Mr. West gave her a small piece of copper money, the first Roman coin
which he had received in change, the relative value of which to the other
coins of the country was unknown to him. Shortly afterwards they were
joined by some of the Italians, whom they had seen in the morning, and
while they were conversing together, he felt some one pull his coat, and
turned round. It was the poor woman to whom he had given the piece of
copper money. She held out in her hand several smaller pieces, and as he
did not understand her language, he concluded that she was chiding him for
having given her such a trifle, and coloured deeply with the idea. His
English friend, observing his confusion, inquired what he had given her,
and he answered that he did not know, but it was a piece of money which he
had received in change. Robinson, after a short conversation with the
beggar, told Mr. West that she had asked him to give her a farthing. "But
as you gave her a two-penny piece," said he, "she has brought you the
change." This instance of humble honesty, contrasted with the awful mass
of misery with which it was united, gave him a favourable idea of the
latent sentiments of the Italians. How much, indeed, is the character of
that people traduced by the rest of Europe! How often is the traveller in
Italy, when he dreads the approach of robbers, and prepares against
murder, surprised at the bountiful disposition of the common Italians, and
made to blush at having applied the charges against a few criminals to the
character of a whole people--without reflecting that the nation is only
weak because it is subdivided.

Chap. VII.

    Anecdote of a famous Impoverisatore.--West the subject of one of his
    finest effusions.--Anecdote of Cardinal Albani.--West introduced to
    Mengs.--Satisfactory result of Wests's first essay in
    Rome.--Consequences of the continual excitement which the Artist's
    feelings endured.--He goes to Florence for advice.--He accompanies Mr.
    Matthews in a tour.--Singular instance of liberality towards the
    Artist from several Gentlemen of Philadelphia.

It was not, however, the novelty, variety, and magnificence of the works
of art and antiquity in Rome, that kept Mr. West in a constant state of
high excitement; the vast difference in the manners of the people from
those of the inhabitants of America, acted also as an incessant stimulus
on his feelings and imagination: even that difference, great as it
happened to be, was rendered particularly interesting to him by incidents
arising out of his own peculiar situation. One night, soon after his
arrival in Rome, Mr. Gavin Hamilton, the painter, to whom he had been
introduced by Mr. Robinson, took him to a coffee-house, the usual resort
of the British travellers. While they were sitting at one of the tables,
a venerable old man, with a guitar suspended from his shoulder, entered
the room, and coming immediately to their table, Mr. Hamilton addressed
him by the name of Homer.--He was the most celebrated Improvisatore in
all Italy, and the richness of expression, and nobleness of conception
which he displayed in his effusions, had obtained for him that
distinguished name. Those who once heard his poetry, never ceased to
lament that it was lost in the same moment, affirming, that it often was
so regular and dignified, as to equal the finest compositions of Tasso
and Ariosto.--It will, perhaps, afford some gratification to the admirers
of native genius to learn, that this old man, though led by the fine
frenzy of his imagination to prefer a wild and wandering life to the
offer of a settled independence, which had been often made to him in his
youth, enjoyed in his old age, by the liberality of several Englishmen,
who had raised a subscription for the purpose, a small pension,
sufficient to keep him comfortable in his own way, when he became
incapable of amusing the public.

After some conversation, Homer requested Mr. Hamilton to give him a
subject for a poem. In the mean time, a number of Italians had gathered
round them to look at Mr. West, who they had heard was an American, and
whom, like Cardinal Albani, they imagined to be an Indian. Some of them,
on hearing Homer's request, observed, that he had exhausted his vein, and
had already said and sung every subject over and over. Mr. Hamilton,
however, remarked that he thought he could propose something new to the
bard, and pointing to Mr. West, said, that he was an American come to
study the fine arts in Rome; and that such an event furnished a new and
magnificent theme. Homer took possession of the thought with the ardour of
inspiration. He immediately unslung his guitar, and began to draw his
fingers rapidly over the strings, swinging his body from side to side, and
striking fine and impressive chords. When he had thus brought his motions
and his feelings into unison with the instrument, he began an
extemporaneous ode in a manner so dignified, so pathetic, and so
enthusiastic, that Mr. West was scarcely less interested by his appearance
than those who enjoyed the subject and melody of his numbers. He sung the
darkness which for so many ages veiled America from the eyes of Science.
He described the fulness of time when the purposes for which it had been
raised from the deep were to be manifested. He painted the seraph of
knowledge descending from heaven, and directing Columbus to undertake the
discovery; and he related the leading incidents of the voyage. He invoked
the fancy of his auditors to contemplate the wild magnificence of
mountain, lake, and wood, in the new world; and he raised, as it were, in
vivid perspective, the Indians in the chase, and at their horrible
sacrifices. "But," he exclaimed, "the beneficent spririt of improvement is
ever on the wing, and, like the ray from the throne of God which inspired
the conception of the Virgin, it has descended on this youth, and the hope
which ushered in its new miracle, like the star that guided the magi to
Bethlehem, has led him to Rome. Methinks I behold in him an instrument
chosen by heaven, to raise in America the taste for those arts which
elevate the nature of man,--an assurance that his country will afford a
refuge to science and knowledge, when in the old age of Europe they shall
have forsaken her shores. But all things of heavenly origin, like the
glorious sun, move Westward; and Truth and Art have their periods of
shining, and of night. Rejoice then, O venerable Rome, in thy divine
destiny, for though darkness overshadow thy seats, and though thy mitred
head must descend into the dust, as deep as the earth that now covers thy
antient helmet and imperial diadem, thy spirit, immortal and undecayed,
already spreads towards a new world, where, like the soul of man in
Paradise, it will be perfected in virtue and beauty more and more." The
highest efforts of the greatest actors, even of Garrick himself delivering
the poetry of Shakespeare, never produced a more immediate and inspiring
effect than this rapid burst of genius. When the applause had abated, Mr.
West being the stranger, and the party addressed, according to the common
practice, made the bard a present. Mr. Hamilton explained the subject of
the ode: though with the weakness of a verbal translation, and the
imperfection of an indistinct echo, it was so connected with the
appearance which the author made in the recital, that the incident has
never been obliterated from Mr. West's recollection.

While the Artist was gratifying himself with a cursory view of the works
of art, and of the curiosities, Mr. Hope, of Amsterdam, the father of the
gentlemen who have since become so well known in London for their taste in
the arts, and their superb collections of pictures and marbles, arrived in
Rome. Mr. West being introduced to him, accompanied him to Cardinal
Albani, to whom he had letters of introduction, and witnessed a proof of
the peculiar skill of his Eminence. The Cardinal requested Mr. Hope to
come near him, and according to his usual custom with strangers, drew his
hands over his face, observing that he was a German. In doing the same
thing to Mr. West, he recognized him as the young American.

At this time Mengs was in the zenith of his popularity, and West was
introduced to him at the Cardinal's villa. He appeared to be as much
struck as every other person, with the extraordinary circumstance of an
American coming to study the fine arts; and begged that Mr. West would
show him a speciman of his proficiency in drawing. In returning home, our
Artist mentioned to Mr. Robinson that as he had never learnt to draw, he
could not produce any sketch like those made by the other students; but
that he could paint a little, and if Mr. Robinson would take the trouble
to sit, he would execute his portrait to shew Mengs. The proposal was
readily acceded to, and it was also agreed, that except to two of their
most intimate acquaintances, the undertaking should be kept a profound
secret. When the picture was finished, it was so advantageous to the
Artist, that it tended to confirm the opinion which was entertained of his
powers, founded only on the strength of the curiosity which had brought
him from America. But, before shewing it to Mengs, it was resolved that
the taste and judgment of the public with respect to its merits should be

Mr. Crespigné, one of the two friends in the secret, lived as a Roman
gentleman, and twice a year gave a grand assembly at his house, to which
all the nobility and strangers in Rome, the most eminent for rank, birth,
and talents, were invited. It was agreed that the portrait should be
exhibited at one of his parties, which happened to take place soon after
it was finished. A suitable frame being provided, the painting was hung up
in one of the rooms. The first guests who arrived, were Amateurs and
Artists; and as it was known among them that Robinson was sitting to Mengs
for his portrait, it was at once thought to be that picture, and they
agreed that they had never seen any painting of the Artist so well
coloured. As the guests assembled, the portrait became more and more the
subject of attention, and Mr. West sat behind on a sofa equally agitated
and delighted by their strictures, which Mr. Robinson reported to him from
time to time. In the course of the evening Mr. Dance, an Englishman of
great shrewdness, was observed looking with an eye of more than common
scrutiny at the portrait, by Mr. Jenkins, another of the guests, who,
congratulating Robinson in getting so good a portrait from Mengs, turned
to Dance, and said, "The he must now acknowledge that Mengs could colour
as well as he could draw." Dance confessed that he thought the picture
much better coloured than those usually painted by Mengs, but added that
he did not think the drawing either so firm or good as the usual style of
that Artist. This remark occasioned some debate, in which Jenkins,
attributing the strictures of Dance to some prejudice which he had early
conceived against Mengs, drew the company around to take a part in the
discussion. Mr. Crespigné seizing the proper moment in their conversation
to produce the effect intended, said to Jenkins that he was mistaken, and
that Dance was in the right, for, in truth, the picture was not painted by
Mengs. By whom then, vociferated every one, "for there is no other painted
now in Rome capable of executing any thing so?" "By that young gentleman
there," said Mr. Crespigné, turning to West. At once all eyes were bent
towards him, and the Italians, in their way, ran and embraced him. Thus
did the best judges at once, by this picture, acknowledge him as only
second in the executive department of the art to the first painter then in
Rome. Mengs himself, on seeing the picture, expressed his opinion in terms
that did great honour to his liberality, and gave the Artist an advice
which he never forgot, nor remembered without gratitude. He told him that
the portrait showed that he had no occasion to learn to paint at Rome.
"You have already, sir," said he, "the mechanical part of your art: what I
would, therefore, recommend to you, is to see and examine every thing
deserving of your attention here, and after making a few drawings of about
half a dozen of the best statues, go to Florence, and observe what has
been done for Art in the collections there. Then proceed to Bologna, and
study the works of the Caracci; afterwards visit Parma, and examine,
attentively, the pictures of Corregio; and then go to Venice and view the
productions of Tintoretti, Titian, and Paul Veronese. When you have made
this tour, come back to Rome, and paint an historical composition to be
exhibited to the Roman public; and the opinion which will then be formed
of your talents should determine the line of our profession which you
ought to follow." This judicious advice, so different from those absurd
academical dogmas which would confine genius to the looking only to the
works of art, for that perfection which they but dimly reflect from
nature, West found accord so well with his own reflections and principles,
that he resolved to follow it with care and attention. But the thought of
being in Rome, and the constant excitement arising from extraordinary and
interesting objects, so affected his mind, accustomed to the sober and
uniform habits of the Quakers, that sleep deserted his pillow, and he
became ill and constantly feverish. The public took an interest in his
situation. A consultation of the best Physicians in Rome was held on his
case, the result of which was a formal communication to Mr. Robinson, that
his friend must immediately quit the capital, and seek relief from the
irritated state of his sensibility in quiet and retirement. Accordingly,
on the 20th of August he returned to Leghorn.

Messrs. Jackson and Rutherford, by whose most friendly recommendation he
had obtained so much flattering distinction at Rome, received him into
their own house, and treated him with a degree of hospitality that
merits for them the honour of being considered among the number of his
early patrons. Mr. (afterwards Sir John) Dick, then the British Consul
at Leghorn, and his lady, also treated him with great partiality, and
procured for him the use of the Imperial baths. His mind being thus
relieved from the restless ecstasy which he had suffered in Rome, and
the intensity of interest being diminished by the circumscribed nature
of the society of Leghorn, together with the bracing effects of
sea-bathing, he was soon again in a condition to resume his study in the
capital. But the same overpowering attacks on his feelings and
imagination soon produced a relapse of his former indisposition, and
compelled him to return to Leghorn, where he was again speedily cured of
his fever, but it left in its dregs a painful affection in the ancle,
that threatened the loss of the limb. The well-known Nanoni, an eminent
surgeon, who had introduced many improvements in the treatment of
diseased joints, was at this period resident in Florence, and Messrs.
Jackson and Rutherford wrote to Sir Horace Mann, then the British
Minister at the Ducal Court, to consult him relative to the case of Mr.
West: his answer induced them to advise the Artist to go to Florence.
After a painful period of eleven months confinement to his couch and
chamber, he was perfectly and radically cured.

A state of pain and disease is adverse to mental improvement; but there
were intervals in which Mr. West felt his anguish abate, and in which he
could not only participate in the conversation of the gentlemen to whose
kindness he had been recommended, but was able, occastionally, to exercise
his pencil. The testimonies of friendship which he received at this
perdiod from Sir Horace Mann, the Marquesses of Creni and Riccardi, the
late Lord Cooper, and many others of the British nobility then travelling
in Italy, made an indelible impression on his mind, and became a
stimulating motive to his wishes to excel in his art, in order to
demonstrate by his proficiency that he was not unworthy of their
solicitude. He had a table constructed so as to enable him to draw while
he lay in bed; and in that situation he amused and improved himself in
delineating the picturesque conceptions which were constantly presenting
themselves to his fancy.

When he was so far recovered as to be able to take exercise, and to endure
the fatigue of travelling, a circumstance happened which may be numbered
among the many fortunate accidents of his professional career. Mr.
Matthews, the manager of the important commercial concerns of Messrs.
Jackson and Rutherford, was one of those singular men who are but rarely
met with in mercantile life, combining the highest degree of literary and
elegant accomplishments with the best talents for active business. He was
not only confessedly one of the finest classical scholars in all Italy,
but, out of all comparison, the best practical antiquary, perhaps, then in
that country, uniting, along with the minutest accuracy of criticism, a
delicacy of taste in the perception of the beauty and judgment of the
antients, seldom found blended with an equal degree of classical
erudition. Affairs connected with the business of the house, and a wish to
see the principal cities of Italy, led Mr. Matthews, about the period of
Mr. West's recovery, to visit Florence, and it was agreed between them
that they should together make the tour recommended by Mengs.

In the mean time, the good fortune of West was working to happy effects in
another part of the world. The story of Mr. Robinson's portrait had made
so great a noise among the travellers in Italy, that Messrs. Jackson and
Rutherford, in sending back the ship to Philadelphia, in which the Artist
had come passenger, mentioned it in their letters to Mr. Allen. It is
seldom that commercial affairs are mingled with those of art, and it was
only from the Italian shore that a mercantile house could introduce such a
topic into their correspondence. It happened that on the very day this
letter reached Mr. Allen, Mr. Hamilton, then Governor of Pennsylvania, and
the principal members of the government, along with the most considerable
citizens of Philadelphia, were dining with him. After dinner, Mr. Allen
read the letter to the company, and mentioned the amount of the sum of
money which West had paid into his hands at the period of his departure
from America, adding that it must be pretty far reduced. But, said he with
warmth, "I regard this young man as an honour to the country, and as he is
the first that America has sent to cultivate the fine arts, he shall not
be frustrated in his studies, for I have resolved to write to my
correspondents at Leghorn, to give him, from myself, whatever money he may
require." Mr. Hamilton felt the force of this generous declaration, and
said, with equal animation, "I think exactly as you do, Sir, but you shall
not have all the honour of it to yourself, and, therefore, I beg that you
will consider me as joining you in the responsibility of the credit." The
consequence of this was, that upon West going, previously to leaving
Florence, to take a small sum of about ten pounds from the bankers to whom
he had been recommended by Messrs. Jackson and Rutherford, a letter was
brought in, while he was waiting for his money, and the gentleman who
opened it said to him, "that the contents of the letter would probably
afford him unexpected pleasure, as it instructed them to give him
unlimited credit." A more splendid instance of liberality is not to be
found even in the records of Florence. The munificence of the Medici was
excelled by that of the magistracy of Philadelphia.

Chap. VIII.

    The result of the Artist's experiment to discover the methods by which
    Titian produced his splendid colouring.--He returns to
    Rome.--Reflections suggested by inspecting the Egyptian
    Obelisk.--Considerations of the Author on the same subject; an
    anecdote of a Mohawk Indian who became an Actor at New York.--Anecdote
    of a Scottish Fanatic who arrived in Rome, to convert the
    Pope.--Sequel of the Adventure.--The Artist prepares to visit
    England.--Having completed his St. Jerome, after Corregio's famous
    picture, he is elected an Honorary Member of the Academy of Parma, and
    invited to Court.--He proceeds by the way of Genoa towards France.--
    Reflections on the State of Italy.--Adventure on reaching the French
    frontiers.--State of Taste in France.

From Florence the Artist proceeded to Bologna, and having staid some time
there, carefully inspecting every work of celebrity to which he could
obtain access, he went on to Venice, visiting in his route all the objects
which Mengs had recommended to his attention. The style of Titian, which
in breadth and clearness of colouring so much excels that of almost every
other painter, was the peculiar characteristic of the Venetian school
which interested him the most, and seemed to him, at first, involved in
inexplicable mystery. He was never satisfied with the explanations which
the Italian amateurs attempted to give him of what they called the
internal light of that master's productions. Repeated experiments,
however, enabled him, at last, to make the discovery himself. Indeed, he
was from the first persuaded that it was chiefly owing to the peculiar
genius of the Artist himself,--to an exquisite delicacy of sight which
enabled him to perceive the most approximate tints,--and not to any
particular dexterity of pencilling, nor to any superiority in the
materials of his colours. This notion led Mr. West to try the effect of
painting in the first place with the pure primary colours, and softening
them afterwards with the semi tints; and the result confirmed him in the
notion that such was probably the peculiar method of Titian. But although
this idea was suggested by his visits to the collections of Venice, he
was not perfectly satisfied with its soundness as a rule, till many years
after his arrival in London, and many unsuccessful experiments.

Having completed his tour to the most celebrated repositories of art in
Italy, and enriched his mind, and improved his taste, by the perusal
rather than the imitation of their best pieces, he returned to Rome, and
applied himself to a minute and assiduous study of the great ornaments of
that capital, directing his principal attention to the works of Raphael,
and improving his knowledge of the antient costume by the study of Cameos,
in which he was assisted by Mr. Wilcox, the author of the Roman
Conversations,--to whom he had been introduced by Mr. Robinson, at Mr.
Crespigné's, on the occasion of the exhibition of the Portrait,--a man of
singular attainments in learning, and of a serene and composed dignity of
mind and manners that rendered him more remarkable to strangers than even
his great classical knowledge.

Of all the monuments of antient art in Rome, the Obelisk brought from
Egypt, in the reign of Augustus, interested his curiosity the most, and
even for a time affected him as much as those which so agitated him by
their beauty. The hieroglyphics appeared to resemble so exactly the
figures in the Wampum belts of the Indians, that it occurred to him, if
ever the mysteries of Egypt were to be interpreted, it might be by the
aborigines of America. This singular notion was not, however, the mere
suggestion of fancy, but the effect of an opinion which his early friend
and tutor Provost Smith conceived, in consequence of attending the grand
meeting of the Indian chiefs, with the Governors of the British colonies,
held at East town, in Pennsylvania, in the year following the disastrous
fate of Bradock's army. The chiefs had requested this interview, in order
to state to the officers the wrongs and injuries of which they complained;
and at the meeting they evidently read the reports and circumstances of
their grievances from the hieroglyphical chronicle of the Wampum belts,
which they held in their hands, and by which, from the date of their grand
alliance with William Penn, the man from the ocean, as they called him,
they minutely related all the circumstances in which they conceived the
terms and spirit of the treaty had been infringed by the British, defying
the officers to show any one point in which the Indians had swerved from
their engagements. It seemed to Dr. Smith that such a minute traditionary
detail of facts could not have been preserved without some contemporary
record; and he, therefore, imagined, that the constant reference made to
the figures on the belts was a proof that they were chronicles. This
notion was countenanced by another circumstance which Mr. West had himself
often noticed. The course of some of the high roads through Pennsylvania
lies along what were formerly the war tracks of the Indians; and he had
frequently seen hieroglyphics engraved on the trees and rocks. He was told
that they were inscriptions left by some of the tribes who had passed that
way in order to apprize their friends of the route which they had taken,
and of any other matter which it concerned them to know. He had also
noticed among the Indians who annually visited Philadelphia, that there
were certain old chiefs who occasionally instructed the young warriors to
draw red and black figures, similar to those which are made on the belts,
and who explained their signification with great emphasis, while the
students listened to the recital with profound silence and attention. It
was not, therefore, extraordinary, that, on seeing similar figures on the
Egyptian trophy, he should have thought that they were intended to
transmit the record of transactions like the Wampum belts.--A language of
signs derived from natural objects, must have something universal in its
very nature; for the qualities represented by the emblematic figure,
would, doubtless, be those for which the original of the figure was most
remarkable: and, therefore, if there be any resemblance between the
Egyptian hieroglyphics and those used by the American Indians, the
probability is, that there is also some similar intrinsic meaning in their
signification. But the Wampum belts are probably not all chronicles; there
is reason to believe that some of them partake of the nature of calendars,
by which the Indians are regulated in proceedings dependant on the
seasons; and that, in this respect, they answer to the household Gods of
the patriarchal times, which are supposed to have been calendars, and the
figure of each an emblem of some portion of the year, or sign of the
Zodiac. It would be foreign to the nature of this work to investigate the
evidence which may be adduced on this subject, or to collect those various
and scattered hints which have given rise to the opinion, and with a
faint, but not fallacious ray, have penetrated that obscure region of
antient history, between the period when the devotion of mankind,
withdrawn from the worship of the Deity, was transferred to the adoration
of the stars, and prior to the still greater degradation of the human
faculties when altars were raised to idols.

The idea of the Indians being in possession of hieroglyphical writings, is
calculated to lead us to form a very different opinion of them to that
which is usually entertained by the world. Except in the mere enjoyments
of sense, they do not appear to be inferior to the rest of mankind; and
their notions of moral dignity are exactly those which are recommended to
our imitation by the literature of all antiquity. But they have a
systematic contempt for whatever either tends to increase their troubles,
to encumber the freedom of their motions, or to fix them to settled
habitations. In their unsheltered nakedness, they have a prouder
consciousness of their importance in the scale of beings, than the
philosophers of Europe, with all their multiplicity of sensual and
intellectual gratifications, to supply which so many of the human race are
degraded from their natural equality. The Indian, however, is not
deficient in mental enjoyments, or a stranger to the exercise of the
dignified faculties of our common nature. He delivers himself on suitable
occasions with a majesty of eloquence that would beggar the oratory of the
parliaments, and the pulpits of Christendom; and his poetry unfolds the
loftiest imagery and sentiment of the epic and the hymn. He considers
himself as the lord of the creation, and regards the starry heaven as his
canopy, and the everlasting mountain as his throne. It would be absurd,
however, to assert with Rousseau, that he is, therefore, better or happier
than civilized man; but it would be equally so to deny him the same sense
of dignity, the same feeling of dishonour, the same love of renown, or
ascribe to his actions in war, and his recreations in peace, baser motives
than to the luxurious warriors and statesmen of Europe. Before Mr. West
left America, an attempt was made to educate three young Indians at New
York; and their progress, notwithstanding that they still retained
something of their original wildness of character, exceeded the utmost
expectations of those who were interested in the experiment. Two of them,
however, in the end, returned to their tribe, but they were rendered
miserable by the contempt with which they were received; and the brother
of the one who remained behind, was so affected with their degradation,
that he came to the city determined to redeem his brother from the
thraldom of civilization. On his arrival he found he had become an actor,
and was fast rising into celebrity on the stage. On learning this
circumstance, the resolute Indian went to the theatre, and seated himself
in the pit. The moment that his brother appeared, he leapt upon the stage,
and drawing his knife, threatened to sacrifice him on the spot unless he
would immediately strip himself naked, and return with him to their home
in the woods. He upbraided him with the meanness of his disposition, in
consenting to make himself a slave. He demanded if he had forgotten that
the Great Spirit had planted the Indian corn for their use, and filled the
forests with game, the air with birds, and the waters with fish, that they
might be free. He represented the institutions of civilized society as
calculated to make him dependant on the labour of others, and subject to
every chance that might interrupt their disposition to supply his wants.
The actor obeyed his brother, and returning to the woods, was never seen
again in the town. [A]

It may, perhaps, not be an impertinent digression to contrast this
singular occurrence in the theatre of New York with another truly
European, to which Mr. West was a witness, in the Cathedral of St. Peter.
Among other intelligent acquaintances which he formed in Rome was the
Abaté Grant, one of the adherents of that unfortunate family, whom the
baseness of their confidential servants, and the factions of ambitious
demagogues, deprived, collectively, of their birthright. This priest,
though a firm Jacobite in principle, was, like many others of the same
political sentiments, liberal and enlightened, refuting, by his conduct,
the false and fraudulent calumnies which have been so long alleged against
the gallant men who supported the cause of the ill-fated Stuarts. On St.
Peter's day, when the Pope in person performs high mass in the cathedral,
the Abaté offered to take Mr. West to the church, as he could place him
among the ecclesiastics, in an advantageous situation to witness the
ceremony. Glad of such an offer, Mr. West willingly accompanied him. The
vast edifice; the immense multitude of spectators; the sublimity of the
music; and the effect of the pomp addressed to the sight, produced on the
mind of the Painter feelings scarcely less enthusiastic than those which
the devoutest of the worshippers experienced, or the craftiest inhabitant
of the Vatican affected to feel. At the elevation of the host, and as he
was kneeling beside the Abaté, to their equal astonishment he heard a
voice, exclaiming behind them in a broad Scottish accent, "O Lord, cast
not the church down on them for this abomination!" The surrounding Italian
priests, not understanding what the enthusiast was saying, listened with
great comfort to such a lively manifestation of a zeal, which they
attributed to the blessed effects of the performance. The Abaté, however,
with genuine Scottish partiality, was alarmed for his countryman, and
endeavoured to persuade him to hold his tongue during the ceremony, as he
ran the risk of being torn to pieces by the mob.

It appeared that this zealous Presbyterian, without understanding a word
of any civilized language, but only a dialect of his own, had come to Rome
for the express purpose of attempting to convert the Pope, as the shortest
way, in his opinion, of putting an end to the reign of Antichrist. When
mass was over, the Abaté, anxious to avert from him the consequences which
his extravagance would undoubtedly entail, if he continued to persevere in
it, entered into conversation with him. It appeared he had only that
morning arrived in Babylon, and being unable to rest until he had seen a
glimpse of the gorgeous harlot, he had not then provided himself with
lodgings. The Abaté conducted him to a house where he knew he would be
carefully attended; and he also endeavoured to reason with him on the
absurdity of his self-assumed mission, assuring him that unless he
desisted, and behaved with circumspection, he would inevitably be seized
by the Inquisition. But the prospect of Martyrdom augmented his zeal; and
the representations of the benevolent Catholic only stimulated his
enterprise; so that in the course of a few days, much to his own exceeding
great joy, and with many comfortable salutations of the spirit, he was
seized by the Inquisition, and lodged in a dungeon, On hearing this, the
Abaté applied to King James in his behalf, and by his Majesty's influence
he was released, and sent to the British Consul at Leghorn, on condition
of being immediately conveyed to his friends in Scotland. It happened,
however, that no vessel was then ready to sail, and the taste of
persecution partaking more of the relish of adventure than the pungency of
suffering, the missionary was not to be so easily frustrated in his
meritorious design; and, therefore, he took the first opportunity of
stealing silently back to Rome, where he was again arrested and confined.
By this time the affair had made some noise, and it was universally
thought by all the English travellers, that the best way of treating the
ridiculous madman was to allow him to remain some time in solitary
confinement in the dungeons of the Inquisition. When he had been
imprisoned about three months, he was again liberated, sent to Leghorn,
and embarked for England, radically cured of his inclination to convert
the Pope, but still believing that the punishment which he had suffered
for his folly would be recorded as a trial which he had endured in the
service of the faith.

In the mean time West was carefully furnishing his mind by an attentive
study of the costume of antiquity, and the beauties of the great works of
modern genius. In doing this, he regarded Rome only as an university, in
which he should graduate; and, as a thesis preparatory to taking his
degree among the students, he painted a picture of Cimon and Iphigenia,
and, subsequently, another of Angelica and Madoro. The applause which they
received justified the opinion which Mengs had so early expressed of his
talent, and certainly answered every object for which they were composed.
He was honoured, in consequence, with the marks of academical
approbation, usually bestowed on fortunate Artists. He then proposed to
return to America, with a view to cultivate in his native country that
profession in which he had already acquired so much celebrity. At this
juncture he received a letter from his father, advising him, as peace had
been concluded between France and England, to go home for a short time
before coming to America; for the mother country was at that period still
regarded as the home of her American offspring. The advice of his father
was in unison with his own wishes, and he mentioned his intention to Mr.
Wilcox. That gentleman, conceiving that he spoke of America as his home,
expressed himself with grief and surprise at a determination so different
from what he had expected; but, upon being informed of the ambiguity in
the phrase, he exclaimed that he could hardly have resolved, on quitting
Italy, more opportunely, for Dr. Patoune, a Scotish gentleman, of
considerable learning, and some taste in painting, was then returning
homeward, and waiting at that time in Rome, until he should be able to
meet with a companion. It was therefore agreed that West should be
introduced to him; and it was soon after arranged that the Doctor should
proceed to Florence, while the Artist went to take leave of his friends at
Leghorn, to express to them his gratitude for the advantages he had
derived from their constant and extraordinary kindness, which he estimated
so highly, that he could not think of leaving Italy without performing
this pleasing and honourable pilgrimage. It was also agreed between him
and his companion, that the Doctor should stop a short time at Parma,
until West should have completed a copy of the St. Jerome of Corregio,
which he had begun during his visit to that city with Mr. Matthews.

During their stay at Parma, the Academy elected Mr. West a member, an
honour which the Academies of Florence and Bologna had previously
conferred on him; and it was mentioned to the Prince that a young American
had made a copy of the St. Jerome of Corregio in a style of excellence
such as the oldest Academicians had not witnessed. The Prince expressed a
wish to see this extraordinary Artist, particularly when he heard that he
was from Pennsylvania, and a Quaker. Mr. West was, in consequence,
informed that a visit from him would be acceptable at Court: and it was
arranged that he should be introduced to His Highness by the chief
Minister. Mr. West thought that, in a matter of this kind, he should
regulate his behaviour by what he understood to be the practice in the
court of London; and, accordingly, to the astonishment of the whole of the
courtiers, he kept his hat on during the audience. This, however, instead
of offending the Prince, was observed with evident pleasure, and made his
reception more particular and distinguished; for His Highness had heard of
the peculiar simplicity of the Quakers, and of the singularly Christian
conduct of William Penn.

From Parma he proceeded to Genoa, and thence to Turin. Considering this
City as the last stage of his professional observations in Italy, his mind
unconsciously took a retrospective view of the different objects he had
seen, and the knowledge which he had acquired since his departure from
America. Although his art was always uppermost in his thoughts, and
although he could not reflect on the course of his observations without
pleasure and hope, he was often led to advert to the lamentable state into
which every thing, as well as Art, had fallen in Italy, in consequence of
the general theocratical despotism which over-spread the whole country,
like an unwholesome vapour, and of those minute subdivisions of territory,
in which political tyranny exercised its baleful influence even where the
ecclesiastical oppression seemed disposed to spare. He saw, in the
infamous establishment of the cicisbeo, the settled effect of that general
disposition to palliate vice, which is the first symptom of decay in
nations; and he was convinced that, before vice could be thus exalted into
custom, there must exist in the community which would tolerate such an
institution, a disregard of all those obligations which it is the pride of
virtue to incur, and the object of law to preserve. It seemed to him that
every thing in Italy was in a state of disease; and that the moral energy
was subsiding, as the vital flame diminishes with the progress of old age.
For although the forms and graces of the human character were often seen
in all their genuine dignity among the common people, still even the
general population seemed to be defective in that detestation of vice
found in all countries in a healthful state of morals, and which is often
strongest among the lowest of the vulgar, especially in what respects the
conduct of the great. He thought that the commonalty of Italy had lost the
tact by which the good and evil of actions are discriminated; and that,
whatever was good in their disposition, was constitutional, and
unconnected with any principle of religion, or sense of right. In the
Papal states, this appeared to be particularly the case. All the creative
powers of the mind seemed there to be extinct. The country was covered
with ruins, and the human character was in ashes. Sometimes, indeed, a few
embers of intellect were seen among the clergy; but the brightness of
their scintillation was owing to the blackness of death with which they
were contrasted. The splendour of the nobility struck him only as a more
conspicuous poverty than the beggary of the common people; and the perfect
contempt with which they treated the feelings of their dependants, seemed
to him scarcely less despicable than the apathy with which it was endured.
The innumerable examples of the effects of this moral paralysis to which
he was a witness on his arrival in Rome, filled him for some time with
indescribable anxiety, and all his veneration for the Roman majesty was
lost in reflections on the offences which mankind may be brought to commit
on one another. But at Genoa, Leghorn, and Venice, the Italians were seen
to less disadvantage. Commerce, by diffusring opulence, and interweaving
the interests of all classes, preserved in those cities some community of
feeling, which was manifested in an interchange of respect and
consideration between the higher and the lower orders; and Lucca he
thought afforded a perfect exception to the general degeneracy of the
country. The inhabitants of that little republic presented the finest view
of human nature that he had ever witnessed. With the manliness of the
British character they appeared to blend the suavity of the Italian
manners; and their private morals were not inferior to the celebrity of
their public virtues. So true it is, that man, under the police and
vigilance of despotism, becomes more and more vicious; while, in
proportion to the extension of his freedom, is the vigour of his private
virtue. When deprived of the right of exercising his own judgment, he
feels, as it were, his moral responsibility at an end, and naturally
blames the system by which he is oppressed, for the crimes which his own
unresisted passions instigate him to commit. To an Englishman the
remembrance of a journey in Italy is however often more delightful than
that of any other country, for no where else is his arrogance more
patiently endured, his eccentricities more humourously indulged, nor the
generosity of his character more publicly acknowledged.

In coming from Italy into France, Mr. West was particularly struck with
the picturesque difference in the character of the peasantry of the two
countries; and while he thought, as an Artist, that to give appropriate
effect to a national landscape it would not only be necessary to introduce
figures in the costume of the country, but in employments and recreations
no less national, he was sensible of the truth of a remark which occurs to
almost every traveller, that there are different races of the human
species, and that the nature of the dog and horse do not vary more in
different climates than man himself. In making the observation, he was
not, however, disposed to agree with the continental philosophers, that
this difference, arising from climate, at all narrowed the powers of the
mind, though it influenced the choice of objects of taste. For whatever
tends to make the mind more familiar with one class of agreeable
sensations than another, will, undoubtedly, contribute to form the cause
of that preference for particular qualities in objects by which the
characteristics of the taste of different nations is discriminated.
Although, of all the general circumstances which modify the opinions of
mankind, climate is, perhaps, the most permanent, it does not, therefore,
follow that, because the climate of France or Italy induces the
inhabitants to prefer, in works of art, certain qualities of the
excellence of which the people of England are not so sensible, the climate
of Great Britain does not, in like manner, lead the inhabitants to
discover other qualities equally valuable as sources of enjoyment. Thus,
in sculpture for example, it would seem that in naked figures the
inhabitants of a cold climate can never hope to attain that degree of
eminence which we see exemplified in the productions of the Grecian and
Italian sculptors; not that the Artists may not execute as well, but
because they will not so readily find models; or, what is perhaps more to
the point, they will not find a taste so capable of appreciating the
merits of their performances. In Italy the eye is familiar with the human
form in a state of almost complete nudity; and the beauty of muscular
expression, and of the osteological proportions of man, is there as well
known as that of the features and complexion of his countenance; but the
same degree of nakedness could not be endured in the climate of England,
for it is associated with sentiments of modesty and shame, which render
even the accidental innocent exposure of so much of the body offensive to
the feelings of decorum. It is not, therefore, just to allege, that,
because the Italians are a calm, persuasive, and pensive people, and the
French all stir, talk, and inconstancy, they are respectively actuated by
different moral causes. It will not be asserted that, though the sources
of their taste in art spring from different qualities in the same common
objects, any innate incapacity for excellence in the fine arts is induced
by the English climate, merely because that climate has the effect of
producing a different moral temperament among the inhabitants.

On the morning after arriving at the first frontier town, in coming from
Savoy into France, and while breakfast was preparing, Mr. West and his
companion heard the noise of a crowd assembled in the yard of the inn. The
Doctor rose and went to the window to inquire the occasion: immediately on
his appearance the mob became turbulent, and seemed to menace him with
some outrage.--The Peace of 1763 had been but lately concluded, and
without having any other cause for the thought, it occurred to the
travellers that the turbulence must have originated in some political
occurrence, and they hastily summoned the landlord, who informed them,
"That the people had, indeed, assembled in a tumultuous manner round the
inn on hearing that two Englishmen were in the house, but that they might
make themselves easy, as he had sent to inform the magistrates of the
riot." Soon after, one of the magistrates arrived, and on being introduced
by the landlord to the travellers, expressed himself to the following
effect: "I am sorry that this occurrence should have happened, because had
I known in time, I should, on hearing that you were Englishmen, have come
with the other magistrates to express to you the sentiments of respect
which we feel towards your illustrious nation; but, since it has not been
in our power to give you that testimony of our esteem; on the contrary,
since we are necessitated by our duty to protect you, I assure you that I
feel exceedingly mortified. I trust, however, that you will suffer no
inconvenience, for the people are dispersing, and you will be able to
leave the town in safety!" "This place," he continued, "is a manufacturing
town, which has been almost ruined by the war. Our goods went to the ocean
from Marseilles and Toulon; but the vigilance of your fleets ruined our
trade, and these poor people, who have felt the consequence, consider not
the real cause of their distress. However, although the populace do not
look beyond the effects which immediately press upon themselves, there are
many among us well acquainted with the fountain-head of the misfortunes
which afflict France, and who know that it is less to you than to
ourselves that we ought to ascribe the disgraces of the late war. You had
a man at the head of your government (alluding to the first Lord Chatham),
and your counsellors are men. But it is the curse of France that she is
ruled by one who is, in fact, but the agent and organ of valets and
strumpets. The Court of France is no longer the focus of the great men of
the country, but a band of profligates that have driven away the great.
This state of things, however, cannot last long, the reign of the
Pompadours must draw to an end, and Frenchmen will one day take a terrible
revenge for the insults which they suffer in being regarded only as the
materials of those who pander to the prodigality of the Court." This
singular address, made in the year 1763, requires no comment; but it is a
curious historical instance of the commencement of that, moral re-action
to oppression which subsequently has so fully realized the prediction of
the magistrate, and which, in its violence, has done so much mischief, and
occasioned so many misfortunes to Europe.

The travellers remained no longer in Paris than was necessary to inspect
the principal works of the French Artists, and the royal collections. Mr.
West, however, continued long enough to be satisfied that the true feeling
for the fine arts did not exist among the French to that degree which he
had observed in Italy. On the contrary, it seemed to him that there was an
inherent affectation in the general style of art among them, which
demonstrated, not only a deficiency of native sensibility, but an anxious
endeavour to conceal that defect. The characteristics of the French
School, and they have not yet been redeemed by the introduction of any
better manner, might, to a cursory observer, appear to have arisen from a
corrupted taste, while, in fact, they are the consequences only of that
inordinate national vanity which in so many different ways has retarded
the prosperity of the world. In the opinion of a Frenchman, there is a
quality of excellence in every thing belonging to France, merely because
it is French, which gives at all times a certain degree of superiority to
the actions and productions of his countrymen; and this delusive notion
has infested not only the literature and the politicks of the nation, but
also the principles of Art, to such a deep and inveterate extent, that the
morality of painting is not yet either felt or understood in that country.
In the mechanical execution, in drawing, and in the arrangement of parts,
the great French painters are probably equal to the Italians; but in
producing any other sentiment in the spectator than that of admiration at
their mechanical skill, they are greatly behind the English. Painting has
much of a common character with dramatic literature, and the very best
pictures of the French Artists have the same kind of resemblance to the
probability of Nature, that the tragedies of their great dramatic authors
have to the characters and actions of men. But in rejecting the
pretensions of the French to superiority either in the one species of art
or in the other, the rejection ought not to be extended too far. They are
wrong in their theory; but their practice so admirably accords with it,
that it must be allowed, were it possible for a people so enchanted by
self-conceit to discover that the true subjects of Art exist only in
Nature, they evince a capacity sufficient to enable them to acquire the
pre-eminence which they unfortunately believe they have already attained.
But these opinions, with respect to the peculiarities of the French taste,
though deduced from incidental remarks in conversations with Mr. West,
must not be considered as his. The respect which he has always entertained
towards the different members of his own profession never allows him to
express himself in any terms that might possibly be construed by malice or
by ignorance to imply any thing derogatory to a class which he naturally
considers among the teachers of mankind. He may think, indeed he has
expressed as much, that the style of the French Artists is not the most
perspicuous; and that it is, if the expression may be allowed, more
rhetorical than eloquent; but still he regards them as having done honour
to their country, and, in furnishing objects of innocent interest to the
minds of mankind, as having withdrawn so far the inclinations of the heart
from mere sensual objects. The true use of painting, he early thought,
must reside in assisting the reason to arrive at correct moral inferences,
by furnishing a probable view of the effects of motives and of passions;
and to the enforcement of this great argument his long life has been
devoted, whether with complete success it would be presumptuous in any
contemporary to determine, and injudicious in the author of these memoirs
to assert.

       *       *       *       *       *

[A] The following Extract from the Journal of a Friend, who has
lately travelled through the principal parts of the United States, will
probably be found interesting, as it tends to throw some degree of light
on the sentiments of the Indians; of which the little that is known has
hitherto never been well elucidated.

"One of my fellow-passengers was a settler in the new state of Tenessee,
who had come to Charleston with Horses for sale, and was going to
Baltimore and Philadelphia for the purpose of investing his money in an
assortment of goods suited to the western country. The ideas of civilized
and savage life were so curiously blended in this man, that his
conversation afforded me considerable amusement. Under the garb and
appearance of a methodist preacher, I found him a hunter and a warrior;
with no small portion of the adventurous spirit proper to both those
characters. He had served as a militia-man or volunteer under General
Jackson, in his memorable campaign against the Creek Indians in 1813; and
he related to me some interesting particulars of the principal and final
action which decided the fate of the war. The Indians had posted
themselves at a place called, in their language, _Talapoosie_, and by the
Americans, the Horse-shoe; a position of great natural strength, the
advantages of which they had improved to the best of their skill, by a
breast-work seven feet high, extending across the neck of land which
formed the only approach to their encampment. This seems to have been
viewed by the Creeks themselves as the last stand of their nation: for,
contrary to the usual practice of the Indians, they made every preparation
for defence, but none for retreat. Their resistance was proportionably
desperate and bloody. For several hours they supported a continued fire of
musketry and cannon without shrinking; till at length the American
General, finding that he had lost a great number of men, and that he
could not otherwise dislodge the enemy, gave orders for a general assault.
The breast-work was carried by storm; and the Indians, broken at all
points, and surrounded by superior numbers, were nearly all put to the
sword. Out of one thousand warriors who composed the Creek Army, scarcely
twenty made their escape. A body of Choctaw Indians, who attended the
American Army as auxiliaries, were the chief actors in this massacre, and
displayed their usual barbarous ferocity. It affords a remarkable
illustration of the savage character, that the whole of this bloody scene
passed in the most perfect silence on the part of the Indians: there was
no outcry, no supplication for mercy: each man met his fate without
uttering a word, singly defending himself to the last. The lives of the
women and children were spared, but many of the boys were killed in the
action, fighting bravely in the ranks with their fathers and elder
brothers. My Tenessee friend received four arrows from the bows of these
juvenile warriors, while in the act of mounting the breast-work.

"In hearing such a story, it is impossible not to be touched with a
feeling of sympathy for a high-minded but expiring people, thus gallantly
but vainly contending, against an overwhelming force, for their native
woods, and their name as a Nation; or to refrain from lamenting that the
settlement of the New World cannot be accomplished at a less price than
the destruction of the original and rightful proprietors of the soil."


The Life and Works of Benjamin West, Esq.

By John Galt, Esq.

Part II.

To Simon M'Gillivray, Esq.
This Work
Is inscribed, with every sentiment of esteem, by the Author.


Nearly the whole of this work was printed during the last illness of Mr.
West. The manuscript had long previously been read to him. My custom was,
to note down those points which seemed, in our conversations, to bear on
his biography, and, from time to time, to submit an entire chapter to his
perusal; afterwards, when the whole narrative was formed, it was again
carefully read over to him. Still, however, I am apprehensive that some
mistakes in the orthography of names may have been committed; for although
the same custom was strictly observed in preparing the manuscript of the
first part of his Memoirs for the press, yet, in perusing the proofs, he
found several errors of that kind. It was intended that he should have
read the proofs of this part also, but the progress of his disease
unfortunately rendered it impracticable.


_30th March, 1820_.


Although Mr. West was, strictly speaking, a self-taught artist, yet it
must be allowed that in his education he enjoyed great and singular
advantages. A strong presentiment was cherished in his family, that he
would prove an extraordinary man, and his first rude sketch in childhood
was hailed as an assurance of the fulfilment of the prediction of
Peckover. The very endeavours of his boyish years were applauded as
successful attainments; no domestic prejudices were opposed to the
cultivation of his genius; even the religious principles of the community
in which he lived were bent in his favour, from a persuasion that he was
endowed by Heaven with a peculiar gift; and whatever the defects of his
early essays may have been, it was not one of the least advantageous
circumstances of his youth, that they were seen only by persons, who,
without being competent judges of them, as works of art, were yet
possessed of such a decided superiority of intellect, that their
approbation in any case would have been esteemed great praise.

The incidents attending his voyage to Italy, and his introduction to the
artists, virtuosi, and travellers at Rome, were still more auspicious.
Taken in connection with his previous history, they form one of the most
remarkable illustrations of the doctrine of fortune, or destiny, that is
to be found in authentic biography. Without any knowledge of his abilities
or acquirements, his arrival in the capital of Christendom, the seat of
the arts, was regarded as an interesting event: his person was
contemplated as an object of curiosity; and a strong disposition to
applaud his productions, was excited by the mere accident of his having
come from America to study the fine arts. A prepossession so extraordinary
has no parallel. It would almost seem, as if there had been some
arrangement in the order of things that would have placed Mr. West in the
first class of artists, although he had himself mistaken the workings of
ambition for the consciousness of talent. Many men of no inconsiderable
fame have set out in their career with high expectations in their favour;
but few, of whom such hopes were entertained, have, by a succession of
works, in which the powers of the mind were seemingly unfolded with more
and more energy, so long continued to justify the presentiments of his
early friends. It is not, however, the object of this undertaking to form
any estimate of the genius of Mr. West, or of the merits of his works;
another opportunity, distinct from his memoirs, will be taken for that
purpose; but only to resume the narrative of his progress, in his
profession, by which it will appear that a series of circumstances no less
curious than those which tended to make him an artist, facilitated his
success, and placed him in that precise station in society, where, in this
country, at the time, there was the only chance of profitable employment
as an historical painter.


Part II.

Chap. I.

    Mr. West arrives in England.--Relative Condition of Artists in
    Society.--Mr. West's American Friends in this Country.--Of Governor
    Hamilton and Mr. Allen.--Circumstances favourable to their Reception
    in the Circles of Fashion.--Mr. West's Visit to Bath, and Excursions
    to see some of the Collections of Art in England.--He settles as a
    Portrait Painter.--Introduction to Burke and Dr. Johnson.--Anecdote of
    a Monk, the Brother of Mr. Burke.--Introduction to Archbishop
    Drummond.--Mr. West's Marriage.

Chap. II.

    Some Notice of Archbishop Drummond.--Mr. West paints a Picture for His
    Grace.--His Grace's Plan to procure Engagements for Mr. West as an
    Historical Painter.--Project for ornamenting St. Paul's Cathedral with
    Pictures.--Anecdote of Dr. Terrick, Bishop of London.--The
    Altar-piece of St. Stephen's Walbrook.--State of public Taste with
    respect to the Arts.--Anecdotes of Hogarth and Garrick.

Chap. III.

    Archbishop Drummond's Address in procuring for Mr. West the Patronage
    of the King.--Singular Court Anecdote of a Lady of Fashion.--Character
    of the King in his Youth.--Anecdotes of the King and Queen,--The
    King employs Mr. West to paint the Departure of Regulus.--Mr. West's
    Celebrity as a Skater.--Anecdote of Lord Howe.--His Fame as a Skater
    of great Service in his professional Success.

Chap. IV.

    The King's personal Friendship for Mr. West.--Circumstances which led
    to the Establishment of the Royal Academy.--First Exhibition of the
    Works of British Artists.--The Departure of Regulus finished, and
    taken to Buckingham House.--Anecdote of Kirby.--The Formation of the
    Royal Academy.--Anecdote of Reynolds.--The Academy instituted.

Chap. V.

    The Opening of the Royal Academy.--The Death of General
    Wolfe.--Anecdote of Sir Joshua Reynolds.--New Pictures ordered by the
    King.--Origin of the Series of Historical Pictures painted for Windsor
    Castle.--Design for a grand Chapel in Windsor Castle, to illustrate
    the History of revealed Religion.--His Majesty's Scruples on the
    Subject.--His confidential Consultation with several eminent
    Divines.--The Design undertaken.

Chap. VI.

    Singular Anecdote respecting the Author of the Letters of Junius,--Of
    Lachlan McLean.--Anecdote of the Duke of Grafton.--Of the Marquis of
    Lansdowne.--Of Sir Philip Francis; Critique on the Transfiguration of
    Raphael by Sir Philip Francis, and Objections to his Opinion.

Chap. VII.

    Observations on Mr. West's Intercourse with the King.--Anecdote of
    the American War.--Studies for the Historical Pictures at Windsor
    Castle.--Anecdote of the late Marquis of Buckingham.--Anecdote of Sir
    Joshua Reynolds; and of the Athenian Marbles.--Election of Mr. West to
    the Presidency of the Royal Academy.--His Speech to the Academicians
    on that occasion.

Chap. VIII.

    The first Discourse of Mr. West to the Students of the
    Academy.--Progress of the Arts.--Of the Advantages of Schools of
    Art.--On the Natural Origin of the Arts.--Of the Patronage which
    honoured the Patrons and the Artists.--Professional Advice.--Promising
    State of the Arts in Britain.

Chap. IX.

    Discourse to the Royal Academy in 1794.--Observations on the Advantage
    of drawing the Human Figure correctly.--On the Propriety of
    cultivating the Eye, in order to enlarge the Variety of our Pleasures
    derived from Objects of Sight.--On characteristic Distinctions in
    Art.--Illustrations drawn from the Apollo Belvidere, and from the
    Venus de Medici; comprehending critical Remarks on those Statues.

Chap. X.

    Discourse to the Academy in 1797--- On the Principles of Painting and
    Sculpture.--Of Embellishments in Architecture.--Of the Taste of the
    Ancients.--Errors of the Moderns.--Of the good Taste of the Greeks
    in Appropriations of Character to their Statues.--On Draiwing.--Of
    Light and Shade.--Principles of Colouring in Painting.
    --Illustration.--Of the Warm and Cold Colours.--Of Copying fine
    Pictures.--Of Composition.--On the Benefits to be derived from
    Sketching.--and of the Advantage of being familiar with the
    Characteristics of Objects in Nature.

Chap. XI.

    Discourse.--Introduction.--On the Philosophy of Character in Art.--Of
    Phidias.--Of Apelles.--Of the Progress of the Arts among the
    Moderns.--Of Leonardo da Vinci.--Of Michael Angelo, Raphael, and
    Bartolomeo.--Of Titian.--Of the Effects of Patronage.

Chap. XII.

    Discourse.--Introduction.--Of appropriate Character in Historical
    Composition.--Architecture among the Greeks and Romans.--Of the
    Athenian Marbles.--Of the Ancient Statues.--Of the Moses and Saviour
    of Michael Angelo.--Of the Last Judgment of Michael Angelo.--Of
    Leonardo da Vinci.--Of Bartolomeo.--Of Raphael.--Of Titian, and his
    St. Peter Martyr.--Of the different Italian Schools.--Of the Effects
    of the Royal Academy.--Of the Prince Regent's Promise to encourage the
    Fine Arts.

Chap. XIII.

    Mr. West's Visit to Paris.--His distinguished Reception by the
    Members of the French Government.--Anecdote of Mr. Fox.--Origin of
    the British Institution.--Anecdotes of Mr. Fox and Mr.
    Percival.--Anecdote of the King.--History of the Picture of Christ
    Healing the Sick.--Extraordinary Success attending the Exhibition of
    the Copy in America.

Chap. XIV.

    Reflections.--Offer of Knighthood.--Mr. Wyatt chosen President of the
    Academy.--Restoration of Mr. West to the Chair.--Intrigues respecting
    the Pictures for Windsor Castle.--Mr. West's Letter to the
    King.--Orders to proceed with the Pictures.--The King's Illness.--Mr.
    West's Allowance cut off,--and the Pictures countermanded.--Death of
    Mrs. West.--Death of the Artist.


The Life and Works of Benjamin West

Chap. I.

    Mr. West arrives in England.--Relative Condition of Artists in
    Society.--Mr. West's American Friends in this Country.--Of Governor
    Hamilton and Mr. Allen,--- Circumstances favourable to their Reception
    in the Circles of Fashion.--Mr. West's Visit to Bath, and Excursions
    to see some of the Collections of Art in England.--He settles as a
    Portrait Painter.--Introduction to Burke and Dr. Johnson.--Anecdote
    of a Monk, the Brother of Mr. Burke.--Introduction to Archbishop
    Drummond.--- Mr West's Marriage.

Mr. West arrived in England on the 20th of August, 1763. The sentiments
with which he approached the shores of this island, were those of a
stranger visiting interesting scenes, mingled with something of the
solicitude and affections of a traveller returning home. He had no
intention of remaining in London: he was only desirous to see the country
of his ancestors, and his mind, in consequence, was more disengaged from
professional feelings than at any period from that in which his genius
was first awakened. He considered his visit to England as devoted to
social leisure, the best kind of repose after mental exertion; but the
good fortune which had hitherto attended him in so remarkable a manner,
still followed him, and frustrated the intentions with which he was at
that time actuated.

Those who have at all attended to what was then the state of the arts in
this country, and more particularly to the relative condition of artists
in society, and who can compare them with the state of both at the present
period, will not hesitate to regard the arrival of Mr. West as an
important event. In the sequel of this work, it may be necessary to allude
to the moral and political causes which affect the progress of the fine
arts, and opportunities will, in consequence, arise to show how meanly
they were considered, how justly, indeed, it may be said, they were
rejected, not only by the British public in general, but even by the
nobility. A few eminent literary characters were sensible of their
importance, and lamented the neglect to which they were consigned; but the
great body of the intelligent part of the nation neither felt their
influence, nor were aware of their importance to the commerce and renown
of the kingdom. Artists stood, if possible, lower in the scale of society
than actors; for Garrick had redeemed the profession of the latter from
the degradation to which it had been consigned from the time of the
Commonwealth; but Reynolds, although in high repute as a portrait-painter,
and affecting a gentlemanly liberality in the style of his living, was not
so eminently before the public eye as to induce any change of the same
consequence towards his profession.

Mr. West found, on his arrival in London, several American families who
had come across the Atlantic after the peace to visit their relations,
and he had the unexpected pleasure of hearing that Mr. William Allen,
Governor Hamilton, and Dr. Smith, his earliest friends and patrons, were
in this country.

Mr. Allen, like many others in the colonies at that time, was both a
professional man and a merchant. He held indeed the dignified office of
chief justice in Pennsylvania, and was a person of powerful and extensive
connections in the mother-country. Hamilton, who had been many years
governor, was chiefly indebted to him for the rank which he enjoyed, in
consequence of having married his sister.

The naval and military officers who had occasion, during the war, to visit
Philadelphia, found in the houses of the governor and Mr. Allen a cordial
hospitality which they never forgot. Many of these officers were related
to persons of distinction in London, and being anxious to testify to the
Americans their grateful sense of the kindness which they had experienced,
rendered the strangers objects of hospitable solicitude and marked respect
in the first circles of the metropolis. Mr. West, accordingly, on his
arrival, participated in the advantages of their favourable reception,
and before he was known as an artist, frequented the parties of several of
the highest characters in the state.

His first excursion from London was to Hampton Court to see the Cartoons
of Raphael. Soon after, he visited Oxford, Blenheim, and Corsham; whence
he proceeded to Bath, where Mr. Allen was at that time residing. Here he
remained about a month; and in returning to town made a short tour, in the
course of which he inspected the collections of art at Storehead,
Fonthill, Wilton House, the Cathedral of Salisbury, and the Earl of
Radnor's seat at Longford. At Reading he staid some time with his
half-brother, Mr. Thomas West, the eldest son of his father. When he
returned to London he was introduced by Mr. Patoune, his travelling
companion from Rome, to Reynolds, and a friendship commenced between them
which was only broken by death. He also, much about the same time, formed
an acquaintance with Mr. Richard Wilson, the landscape painter, to whom
indeed he had brought very warm letters of introduction, from some of
that great artist's friends and admirers in Italy.

The first lodgings which Mr. West occupied, in his professional capacity,
were in Bedford-Street, Covent-Garden, where, when it was understood that
he intended to practise, he was visited by all the artists of eminence
then in London, and welcomed among them with a cordiality that reflected
great honour on the generosity of their dispositions. In this house the
first picture which he painted in England was executed. The subject was
Angelica and Medora, which, with the Cymon and Iphiginia, painted at
Rome, and a portrait of General Moncton, (who acquired so much celebrity
by his heroic conduct as second in command under General Wolfe at
Quebec,) by the advice of Reynolds and Wilson, he sent to the exhibition
in Spring Gardens in 1764.

While he was engaged on the picture of Angelica and Medora, Dr. Markham,
then Master of Westminster-School, paid him a visit and invited him to a
dinner, at which he introduced him to Dr. Johnson, Mr. Burke; Mr.
Chracheroide, and Mr. Dyer. On being introduced to Burke he was so much
surprised by the resemblance which that gentleman bore to the chief of the
Benedictine monks at Parma, that when he spoke he could scarcely persuade
himself he was not the same person. This resemblance was not accidental;
the Protestant orator was, indeed, the brother of the monk.

It always appeared to Mr. West that there was about Mr. Burke a degree of
mystery, connected with his early life, which their long intercourse,
subsequent to the introduction at Dr. Markham's, never tended to explain.
He never spoke of any companions of his boyhood, nor seemed to have any of
those pleasing recollections of the heedless and harmless days of youth,
which afford to most men of genius some of the finest lights and breaks of
their fancy; and his writings corroborate the observation. For, although
no prose writer ever wrote more like a poet than this celebrated man, his
imagery is principally drawn from general nature or from art, and but
rarely from any thing local or particular.

The conversation after dinner chiefly turned, on American subjects, in
which Mr. Burke, as may well be supposed, took a distinguished part, and
not more delighted the Artist with the rich variety and affluence of his
mind, than surprised him by the correct circumstantiality of his
descriptions; so much so, that he was never able to divest himself of an
impression received on this occasion, that Mr. Burke had actually been in
America, and visited the scenes, and been familiar with many of the places
which he so minutely seemed to recollect. Upon a circumstance so singular,
and so much at variance with all that has hitherto been said respecting
the early history of this eminent person, it is needless to dilate. The
wonder which it may excite I have no means of allaying; but I should not
omit to mention here, when Mr. Burke was informed that Mr. West was a
Quaker, that he observed, he had always regarded it among the most
fortunate circumstances of his life, that his first preceptor was a
member of the Society of Friends.

Dr. Markham in 1765 introduced Mr. West to Dr. Newton, Bishop of Bristol,
Dr. Johnson, Bishop of Worcester, and Dr. Drummond, Archbishop of York.
Dr. Newton engaged him to paint the Parting of Hector and Andromache, and
afterwards sat to him for his portrait, in the back ground of which a
sketch of this picture was introduced: and for the Bishop of Worcester he
painted the Return of the Prodigal Son. The encouragement which he thus
received from these eminent divines was highly creditable to their taste
and liberality, and is in honourable contrast to the negligence with which
all that concerned the fine arts were treated by the nobility and opulent
gentry. It is, however, necessary to mention one illustrious exception.
Lord Rockingham offered Mr. West a regular, permanent engagement of £700
per annum to paint historical subjects for his mansion in Yorkshire: but
the Artist on consulting his friends found them unanimously of opinion,
that although the prospect of encouragement which had opened to him ought
to make him resolve to remain in England, he should not confine himself to
the service of one patron, but trust to the public. The result of this
conversation was a communication to Dr. Smith and Mr. Allen, of the
attachment he had formed for the lady whom he afterwards married, and that
it was his intention to return to America in order to be united to her. In
consequence of this, an arrangement took place, by which the father of Mr.
West came over to this country with the bride, and the marriage was
solemnised on the 2d of September, 1765, in the church of St. Martin in
the Fields.

Chap. II.

    Some Notice of Archbishop Drummond.--Mr. West paints a Picture for His
    Grace.--His Grace's Plan to procure Engagements for Mr. West as an
    Historical Painter.--Project for ornamenting St. Paul's Cathedral with
    Pictures.--Anecdote of Dr. Terrick, Bishop of London.--The Altarpiece
    of St. Stephens, Walbrook.--State of public Taste with respect to the
    Arts.--Anecdotes of Hogarth and Garrick.

In Archbishop Drummond Mr. West found one of the most active and efficient
patrons that he had yet met with. This eminent prelate was esteemed, by
all who enjoyed the pleasure of his acquaintance, for a peculiar dignity
of mind, and a liberality of sentiment that reflected lustre on his
exalted rank. He had in his youth travelled on the Continent, and
possessing an innate sensibility to the moral influence of the fine arts,
had improved his natural taste by a careful inspection of every celebrated
work to which he could obtain access. He lamented that in this great,
flourishing, and triumphant nation, no just notion of the value of the
fine arts was entertained; and on all occasions, when a suitable
opportunity presented itself, he never failed to state this opinion, and
to endeavour to impress it on others. He frequently invited Mr. West to
his table; and the Artist remarked that he seemed to turn the conversation
on the celebrity which the patronage of the arts had in all ages reflected
on the most illustrious persons and families, addressing himself with
particular emphasis to his sons. In the course of one of these
conversations, he engaged Mr. West to paint for him the story of Agrippina
landing with the ashes of Germanicus, and sent one of the young gentlemen
to the library for the volume in which Tacitus describes the
circumstances. Having read the passage, he commented on it at some length,
in order to convey to Mr. West an idea of the manner in which he was
desirous the subject should be treated.

The painter, on returning home, felt his imagination so much excited by
the historian's description, and the remarks of the Archbishop, that he
immediately began to compose a sketch for the picture, and finished it
before going to bed. Next morning he carried it to His Grace, who, equally
surprised and delighted to find his own conception so soon embodied in a
visible form, requested the Artist to proceed without delay in the
execution of the picture.

In the interim, the Archbishop endeavoured, by all the means in his power,
to procure encouragement for Mr. West to devote himself exclusively to
historical composition; and with this view he set on foot a scheme to
raise three thousand guineas to constitute a fund, which would be a
sufficient inducement for the Artist, in the first instance, to forego, at
least for a time, the drudgery of portrait painting. But the attempt
failed: so little was the public disposed to patronise historical subjects
from the pencil of a living artist, that after fifteen hundred pounds were
subscribed, it was agreed to relinquish the undertaking. As this fact is
important to the history of the progress of the arts in this country, I
present my readers with a copy of the subscription-paper, with the names
and amount of the sums attached to them, by the respective subscribers,

In 1766 Mr. West made a proposal to his friend Bishop Newton, who was then
Dean of St. Paul's, to present a gratuitous offering to the Cathedral, by
painting a religious subject to fill one of the large spaces which the
architect of the building had allotted for the reception of pictures; and
speaking on the design one day after dinner at the Bishop's when Reynolds
was present, he said that the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai would make
an appropriate subject. Reynolds was delighted with the idea of decorating
St. Paul's by the voluntary offerings of artists, and offered to paint a
Nativity as his contribution. A formal proposal was in consequence made to
the Dean and Chapter, who embraced it with much satisfaction. But Dr.
Terrick, the Bishop, felt some degree of jealousy at the design being
adopted, without consulting him, and set himself so decidedly against it
that it was necessarily abandoned. Dr. Newtorn had, in his capacity of
Dean, obtained (without reflecting that Terrick had a veto over all) the
consent of the other curators of the Cathedral, namely, of the Lord Mayor,
the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the King. "But," exclaimed Dr. Terrick,
with the energy of an ancient martyr, "I have heard of the proposition,
and as I am head of the Cathedral of the metropolis, I will not suffer the
doors to be opened to introduce popery." It is to be hoped that the
declaration proceeded from the fear implied, and not because Dr. Newton
omitted to ask his consent before applying to the King and the Archbishop.

Mr. West was, however, too deeply impressed with the advantage which would
accrue to the arts by inducing the guardians of the Church to allow the
introduction of pictures, to be discouraged by the illiberality of the
Bishop of London. He therefore made a proposal to paint an Altar-piece for
the beautiful church of St. Stephen's, Walbrook, and it was accepted. In
the same year his friend, Mr. Wilcox, gave him a commission to execute
another sacred subject, which he presented to the Cathedral of Rochester,
and it is placed over the communion-table. In these biographical sketches
it cannot be expected that a history of all Mr. West's numerous works
should be related. It is the history of the Artist, not of his works, that
is here written; and, therefore, except where the incidents connected with
them are illustrative of the state of public feeling towards the arts, it
is unnecessary to be more particular. I have, however, prepared a complete
catalogue of his designs, with such remarks concerning them as must
satisfy any want that may be felt by this systematic omission in the
narrative. I should, however, mention that, in this stage of his career,
the two of his earliest pictures, which attracted the greatest share of
public attention, were _the Orestes and Pylades_, and _the Continence of
Scipio_. He had undertaken them on speculation, and the applause which
they obtained, when finished, were an assurance of his success and reward.
His house was daily thronged with the opulent and the curious to see them;
statesmen sent for them to their offices; princes to their bedchambers,
and all loudly expressed their approbation, but not one ever enquired the
price; and his imagination, which had been elevated in Italy to emulate
the conceptions of those celebrated men who have given a second existence
to the great events of religion, history, and poetry, was allowed in
England to languish over the unmeaning faces of portrait-customers. It
seemed to be thought that the genius of the Artist could in no other way
be encouraged, than by his friends sitting for their own likenesses, and
paying liberally for them. The moral influence of the art was unfelt and
unknown; nor can a more impressive instance of this historical truth be
adduced, than the following anecdote of Hogarth, which Garrick himself
related to Mr. West.

When that artist had published the plates of the Election, he wished to
dispose of the paintings, and proposed to do so by a raffle of two hundred
chances, at two guineas the stake; to be determined on an appointed day.
Among a small number of subscribers, not half what Hogarth expected,
Garrick had put down his name; and when the day arrived he went to the
artist's house to throw for his chance. After waiting a considerable time
no other person appeared, and Hogarth felt this neglect not only as
derogatory to his profession, but implying that the subscription had
something in it of a mendicant character. Vexed by such a mortifying
result of a plan which he had sanguinely hoped would prove, at least, a
morning's amusement to the fashionable subscribers, he insisted that, as
they had not attended, nor even sent any request to him to throw for them,
that Garrick should go through the formality of throwing the dice; but
only for himself. The actor for some time opposed the irritated artist;
but at last consented. Instead, however, of allowing Hogarth to send them
home, he begged that they might be carefully packed up, until his servant
should call for them; and on returning to his house, he dispatched a note
to the painter, stating that he could not persuade himself to remove works
so valuable and admired, without acquitting his conscience of an
obligation due to the author and to his own good fortune in obtaining
them. And knowing the humour of the person he addressed, and that if he
had sent a cheque for the money it would in all probability be returned,
he informed him that he had transferred two hundred guineas at his
bankers, which would remain at the disposal of Hogarth or his heirs,
whether it was or was not then accepted. The charge of habitual parsimony
against Garrick was not well founded; and this incident shows that he knew
when to be properly munificent. In the acquisition and management of his
affluent fortune, it would have been more correct to have praised him for
a judicious system of economy, than to have censured him for meanness. It
ought to have been considered, that he was professionally required to deal
with a class of persons not famed for prudence in pecuniary concerns, and
to whom the methodical disbursements of most private gentlemen would
probably have appeared penurious.

Chap. III.

    Archbishop Drummond's Address in procuring for Mr. West the Patronage
    of the King.--Singular Court Anecdote of a Lady of Fashion.--Character
    of the King in his Youth.--Anecdotes of the King and Queen.--The King
    employs Mr. West to paint the Departure of Regulus.--Mr. West's
    Celebrity as a Skater,--Anecdote of Lord Howe.--His Fame as a Skater
    of great Service in his professional Success.

The coldness with which Archbishop Drummond's scheme for raising three
thousand guineas had been received by the persons to whom he had applied,
and the prejudice which he found almost universally entertained against
the efforts of living genius, chagrined him exceedingly. He regarded the
failure as a stigma on the age, and on his country; and, as a public man,
he thought it affected himself personally. With this feeling, he declared
to the gentlemen who had exerted themselves in the business, that he saw
no way of engrafting a taste for the fine arts on the British public,
unless the King could be so far engaged in the attempt, as to make it
fashionable to employ living artists, according to the bent of their
respective talents. But, about this period, the affair of Wilkes agitated
the nation; and the Duke of Portland and Lord Rockingham, who were among
the most strenuous of Mr. West's friends, being both of the Whig party,
undervalued the importance attached to His Majesty's influence and
countenance. The Archbishop was not, however, discouraged by their
political prejudices; on the contrary, he thought that His Majesty was one
of those characters who require to be personally interested in what it is
desired they should undertake; and he resolved to make the attempt. The
address with which His Grace managed the business, evinced great knowledge
of human nature, and affords a pleasing view of the ingenuousness of the
King's disposition.

When the picture of Agrippina was finished, the Archbishop invited the
most distinguished artists and amateurs to give him their opinion of the
work; and satisfied by the approbation which they all expressed, he went
to court, and took an opportunity of speaking on the subject to the King,
informing His Majesty, at the same time, of all the circumstances
connected with the history of the composition; and on what principle he
had always turned his conversations with Mr. West to excite an interest
for the promotion of the arts in the minds of his family. The dexterity
with which he recapitulated these details produced the desired effect. The
curiosity of the King was roused, and he told the Archbishop that he would
certainly send for the Artist and the picture.

This conversation probably lasted longer than the usual little
reciprocities of the drawing-room; for it occasioned a very amusing
instance of female officiousness. A lady of distinguished rank, having
overheard what passed, could not resist the delightful temptation of being
the first to communicate to Mr. West the intelligence of the honour that
awaited him. On quitting the palace, instead of returning home, she went
directly to his house, and, without disclosing her name, informed him of
the whole particulars of the conversation which had passed between the
Archbishop and the King. In the evening, Barnard, who had been an
attendant on the King from the cradle, and who was not more attached to
His Majesty, than he was himself in return affectionately beloved, came to
Mr. West, and requested him to be in attendance next morning at the
Queen's house, with the picture of Agrippina. In delivering the message,
this faithful servant was prompted by his own feelings to give the Artist
some idea of His Majesty's real character, which at that time was very
much misrepresented to the public; and Mr. West during the long term of
forty years of free and confidential intercourse with the King, found the
account of Barnard to be in every essential and particular point correct.

The King was described to him as a young man of great simplicity and
candour of disposition, sedate in his affections, and deeply impressed
with the sanctity of principle; scrupulous in forming private friendships;
but, when he had taken any attachment, not easily swayed from it, without
being convinced of the necessity and propriety of so doing.

At the time appointed, Mr. West was in attendance with the picture; and
His Majesty came into the room where he was waiting. After looking at it
some time with much apparent satisfaction, he enquired if it was in a
proper light; and, on being told that the situation was certainly not the
most advantageous, he conducted the Artist through several apartments
himself, till a more satisfactory place was found. He then called several
of the domestics into the room, and, indeed, assisted them himself to
remove the picture. When the servants had retired, and he had satisfied
himself with looking at it, he went out of the apartment and brought in
the Queen, to whom he introduced the Artist with so much warmth, that Mr.
West felt it at the moment as something that might be described as

The Queen, though at this period very young, possessed a natural
graciousness of manner, which her good sense and the consciousness of her
dignity rendered peculiarly pleasing; so that our Artist was not only
highly gratified by the unexpected honour of this distinguished
introduction, but delighted with the affability and sweetness of her

When Their Majesties had examined the picture, the King observed that he
understood the same subject had seldom been properly treated. Mr. West
answered, that it was, indeed, surprising it should have been neglected by
Poussin, who was so well qualified to have done it justice, and to whose
genius it was in so many respects so well adapted. His Majesty then told
the Queen the history of the picture before them, dwelling with some
expressions of admiration on the circumstance of the sketch having been
made in the course of one evening after the artist had taken coffee with
the Archbishop of York, and shown to His Grace the next morning. Turning
briskly round to Mr. West, he said, "There is another noble Roman subject
which corresponds to this one, and I believe it also has never been well
painted; I mean the final departure of Regulus from Rome. Don't you think
it would make a fine picture?" The Artist replied, that it was undoubtedly
a magnificent subject. "Then," said His Majesty, "you shall paint it for
me;" and, ringing the bell in the same moment, ordered the attendant who
answered to bring the volume of Livy in which the event is related,
observing to the Queen, in a sprightly manner, that the Archbishop had
made one of his sons read to Mr. West; but "I will read to him myself the
subject of my picture;" which, on the return of the servant with the book,
he did accordingly. And the Artist was commanded to come with the sketch
as soon as possible.

The Archbishop was highly delighted at the successful result of his
scheme, and augured from the event the happiest influence to the progress
of the arts; nor has his patriotic anticipations been unrewarded; for,
without question, so great and so eminent a taste for the fine arts as
that which has been diffused throughout the nation, during the reign of
George the Third, was never before produced in the life-time of one
monarch, in any age or country.

But in relating the different incidents which contributed to bring Mr.
West into favourable notice, there is one of a peculiar nature, which
should not be omitted. During winter, at Philadelphia, skating was one of
the favourite amusements of the youth of that city, and many of them
excelled in that elegant exercise. Mr. West, when a boy, had, along with
his companions, acquired considerable facility in the art; and having
become exceedingly fond of it, made himself, as he grew up to manhood, one
of the most accomplished skaters in America. Some of the officers at that
time quartered there, also practised the amusement; and, among others,
Colonel Howe, who afterwards succeeded to the title of his elder brother,
and who, under the name of General Howe, is so well known in the
disastrous transactions of the subsequent civil war, which ended in
establishing the independence of the United States. In the course of the
winter preceding Mr. West's departure for Italy, they had become
acquainted on the ice.

In Italy Mr. West had no opportunity of skating; but when he reached
Lombardy, where he saw so much beautiful frozen water, he regretted that
he had not brought his skates with him from America. The winter, however,
which succeeded his arrival in England, proved unusually severe; and one
morning, when he happened to take a walk in St. James's park, he was
surprised to see a great concourse of the populace assembled on the canal.
He stopped to look at them, and seeing a person who lent skates on hire,
he made choice of a pair, and went on the ice. A gentleman who had
observed his movements, came up to him as he retired to unbuckle the
skates, and said, "I perceive, Sir, you are a stranger, and do not perhaps
know that there are much better places than this for the exercise of
skating. The Serpentine River, in Hyde Park, is far superior, and the
basin in Kensington Gardens still more preferable. Here, only the populace
assemble; on the Serpentine, the company, although better, is also
promiscuous; but the persons who frequent the basin in the Gardens are
generally of the rank of gentlemen, and you will be less annoyed among
them than at either of the other two places."

In consequence of this information, on the day following, Mr. West
resolved to visit the Gardens; and, in going along Piccadilly with that
intention, bought a pair of skates, which, on reaching the margin of the
ice, he put on, After a few trial-movements on the skirts of the basin,
like a musician tuning his violin before attempting a regular piece of
composition, he dashed off into the middle of the company, and performed
several rounds in the same style which he had often practised in America.
While engaged in this manner, a gentleman called to him by name; and, on
stopping, he found it was his old acquaintance Colonel Howe.

The Colonel immediately came up, and exclaimed, "Mr. West, I am truly glad
to see you in this country, and at this time. I have not heard of you
since we parted on the wharf at Philadelphia, when you sailed for Italy;
but I have often since had occasion to recollect you. I am, therefore,
particularly glad to see you here, and on the ice; for you must know that,
in speaking of the American skaters, it has been alleged, that I have
learnt to draw the long bow among them; but you are come in a lucky moment
to vindicate my veracity."

He then called to him Lord Spencer Hamilton, and some of the Cavendishes,
who were also on the ice, and introduced Mr. West to them as one of the
American skaters, of whom they had heard him so often speak, and would not
credit what he had said of their performance; and he requested Mr. West to
show them what, in Philadelphia, was called the Salute. Mr. West had been
so long out of practice, that he was at first diffident of attempting this
difficult and graceful movement: but, after a few trials, and feeling
confidence in himself, he at last performed it with complete success. Out
of this trivial incident, an acquaintance arose between him and the young
noblemen present. They spoke of his talents as a skater; and their praise,
in all their usual haunts, had such an effect, that, in the course of a
few days, prodigious crowds of the fashionable world, and of all
descriptions of people, assembled to see the American skater. When it was
afterwards known to the public that he was an artist, many of the
spectators called at his rooms; and he, perhaps, received more
encouragement as a portrait-painter on account of his accomplishment as a
skater, than he could have hoped for by any ordinary means to obtain.

Chap. IV.

    The King's personal Friendship for Mr. West.--Circumstances which led
    to the Establishment of the Royal Academy.--First Exhibition of the
    Works of British Artists.--The Departure of Regulus finished, and
    taken to Buckingham House.--Anecdote of Kirby.--The Formation of the
    Royal Academy.--Anecdote of Reynolds.--The Academy instituted.

The King, at the period when he was pleased to take Mr. West under his own
particular patronage, possessed great conversational powers, and a
considerable tincture of humour. He had read much, and his memory was
singularly exact and tenacious: his education had, indeed, been conducted
with great prudence, and, independent of a much larger stock of literary
information than is commonly acquired by princes, he was fairly entitled
to be regarded as an accomplished gentleman. For the fine arts he had not,
perhaps, any natural taste; he had, however, been carefully instructed in
the principles of architecture by Chambers, of delineation by Moser, and
of perspective by Kirby; and he was fully aware of the lustre which the
arts have, in all ages, reflected on the different countries in which the
cultivation of them has been encouraged to perpetuate the memory of great
events. His employment of Mr. West, although altogether in his private
capacity, was therefore not wholly without a view to the public advantage,
and it is the more deserving of applause, as it was rather the result of
principle than of personal predilection.

When Mr. West had made a sketch for the Regulus, and submitted it to His
Majesty, after some conversation, as to the dimensions, the King fixed on
an advantageous part of the walls in one of the principal apartments, and
directed that the picture should be painted of a size sufficient to fill
the whole space. During the time that the work was going on, the Artist
was frequently invited to spend the evening at Buckingham-house, where he
was often detained by the King as late as eleven o'clock, on topics
connected with the best means of promoting the study of the fine arts in
the kingdom. It was in these conversations that the plan of the Royal
Academy was digested; but it is necessary to state more particularly the
different circumstances which co-operated at this period to the formation
of that valuable institution.

At the annual exhibitions of the paintings and drawings, which obtained
the premiums of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Agriculture,
and Commerce, it was then customary with artists to send occasionally
their works to be exhibited with those of the competitors, as a convenient
method of making themselves known to the public. But the visitors hearing
from the newspapers only of the pictures which had gained the prizes,
concluded that they were the best in the exhibition; and the works of the
matured artists were overlooked in the attention paid to the efforts of
juvenile emulation. This neglect mortified the artists, and induced them
to form themselves into an association for the exhibition of their own
productions. The novelty of this plan attracted much attention, and
answered the expectations of those with whom it originated. Such was the
state of things with the artists when Mr. West came to England; and to the
first exhibition, after his arrival, he sent, as I have already mentioned,
three pictures. The approbation which these works obtained, induced the
association to elect him one of the directors, and he held this situation
till, the society beginning to grow rich by the receipts of the
exhibitions, the management of its concerns became an object of ambition.
This association was incorporated in 1765, under the designation of the
Incorporated Artists.

Chambers and Payne, who were leading members in the Society, being both
architects, were equally desirous that the funds should be laid out in the
decoration of some edifice adapted to the objects of the institution. This
occasioned so much debate, division, and rivalry, among their respective
partisans, that Mr. West was induced to resign the office of director, and
to withdraw along with Mr. Reynolds (afterwards Sir Joshua) and others,
disgusted with the bickering animosities which disgraced the proceedings
at their meetings. This transaction made some noise at the time, and it
happened on the very day when Mr. West waited on the King, with his sketch
of the Departure of Regulus, that the newspapers contained some account of
the matter. His Majesty enquired the cause and particulars of the schism,
and Mr. West, in stating what they were, mentioned that the principles of
his religion made him regard such proceedings as exceedingly derogatory to
the professors of the arts of peace.

This led the King to say that he would gladly patronise any association
which might be formed more immediately calculated to improve the arts. Mr.
West, after retiring from the palace, communicated this to Chambers and
Moser, and, upon conferring on the subject with Mr. Coats, it was agreed
that the four should constitute themselves a committee of the dissenting
artists, to draw up the plan of an academy. When this was mentioned to His
Majesty, he not only approved of their determination, but took a great
personal interest in the scheme, and even drew up several of the laws
himself with his own hand. Nor should one remarkable circumstance be
omitted; he was particularly anxious that the whole design should be kept
a profound secret, being apprehensive that it might be converted into some
vehicle of political influence.

In the mean time the picture of the Departure of Regulus was going
forward, and it was finished about the time that the code of rules for the
academy was completed. The incorporated artists were also busy, and had
elected as their president Mr. Kirby, who had been preceptor in
perspective to the King, and who had deservedly gained great celebrity by
his treatise on the principles of that branch of art. Kirby, having free
access to the royal presence, and never hearing from His Majesty any thing
respecting the academy, was so satisfied in his own mind that the rumours,
respecting such an institution being intended, were untrue, that, in his
inaugural address from the chair, he assured the incorporated artists
there was not the slightest intention entertained of establishing a Royal
Academy of Art.

When the Departure of Regulus was finished, the King appointed a time for
Mr. West to bring the picture to Buckingham-house. The Artist having
carried it there, His Majesty, after looking at it some time, went and
brought in the Queen by the hand, and seated her in a chair, which Mr.
West placed in the best situation for seeing the picture to advantage.
While they were conversing on the subject, one of the pages announced Mr.
Kirby; and the King consulted Her Majesty in German about the propriety of
admitting him at that moment. Mr. West, by his residence among the German
inhabitants of Lancaster in America, knew enough of the language to
understand what they said, and the opinion of the Queen was that Kirby
might certainly be admitted, but for His Majesty to take his own pleasure.
The attendant was in consequence ordered to show him in, and Mr. West was
the more pleased at this incident, as it afforded him an advantageous
opportunity of becoming personally known to Kirby, with whom, on account
of his excellent treatise, he had for some time been desirous to become

When Kirby looked at the picture he expressed himself with great warmth
in its praise, enquiring by whom it had been painted; upon which the King
introduced Mr. West to him. It would perhaps be doing injustice to say
that the surprise with which he appeared to be affected on finding it the
production of so young a man, had in it any mixture of sinister feeling;
but it nevertheless betrayed him into a fatal indiscretion. As a preceptor
to the King, he had been accustomed to take liberties which ought to have
terminated with the duties of that office; he, however, inadvertently
said, "Your Majesty never mentioned any thing of this work to me." The
tone in which this was uttered evidently displeased the King, but the
discretion of the unfortunate man was gone, and he enquired in a still
more disagreeable manner, "Who made this frame?" Mr. West, anxious to turn
the conversation, mentioned the maker's name; but this only served to
precipitate Mr. Kirby into still greater imprudence, and he answered
somewhat sharply, "That person is not Your Majesty's workman;" and naming
the King's carver and gilder said, "It ought to have been made by him."
The King appeared a good deal surprised at all this, but replied in an
easy good-humoured way, "Kirby, whenever you are able to paint me a
picture like this, your friend shall make the frame." The unhappy man,
however, could not be restrained, and he turned round to Mr. West, and in
a tone which greatly lessened the compliment the words would otherwise
have conveyed, said, "I hope you intend to exhibit this picture." The
Artist answered, that as it was painted for His Majesty, the exhibition
must depend on his pleasure; but that, before retiring, it was his
intention to ask permission for that purpose. The King immediately said,
"Assuredly I shall be very happy to let the work be shown to the
public."--"Then, Mr. West," added Kirby, "you will send it to my
exhibition," (meaning to the exhibition of the Incorporated Artists).
"No," interposed the King, firmly, "it must go to my exhibition,--to the
Royal Academy." Poor Kirby was thunderstruck; but only two nights before,
in the confidence of his intercourse with the King, he had declared that
even the design of forming such an institution was not contemplated. His
colour forsook him, and his countenance became yellow with mortification.
He bowed with profound humility, and instantly retired, nor did he long
survive the shock.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the day following, a meeting of the artists who had separated
themselves from the incorporated association, was to be holden in the
evening at the house of Wilton the sculptor, in order to receive the code
of laws, and to nominate the office-bearers of the Academy. In the course
of the morning, Mr. Penny, who was intended to be appointed professor of
painting, called on Mr. West and mentioned that he had been with Reynolds,
and that he thought, for some unfathomable reason or another, that
distinguished artist would not attend the meeting. Soon after, Moser
likewise called, and stated the same thing. Mr. West was much perplexed at
this information; for it had been arranged with the King that Reynolds,
although not in the secret, nor at all consulted in the formation of the
Academy, should be the president. He therefore went immediately to his
house, and finding him disengaged, mentioned, without alluding to what he
had heard, the arrangements formed for instituting an academy, and that a
meeting of thirty artists named by the King, of the forty members of which
it was intended the Academy should consist, was that evening to take place
at Wilton's. Reynolds was much surprised to hear matters were so far
advanced, and explained to Mr. West that Kirby had assured him in the most
decided manner, that there was no truth whatever in the rumour of any such
design being in agitation, and that he thought it would be derogatory to
attend a meeting, constituted, as Kirby represented it, by persons who had
no sanction or authority for doing what they had undertaken. To this Mr.
West answered, "As you have been told by Mr. Kirby that there is no
intention to form any institution of the kind, and by me that there is,
that even the rules are framed, and the officers condescended on, yourself
to be president, I must insist on your going with me to the meeting, where
you will be satisfied which of us deserves to be credited in this

In the evening, at the usual hour, Mr. West went to take tea with
Reynolds, before going to the meeting, and it so fell out, either from
design or accident, that it was not served till a full hour later than
common, not indeed till the hour fixed for the artists to assemble at
Wilton's, so that, by the time they arrived there, the meeting was on the
point of breaking up, conceiving that as neither Reynolds nor West had
come, something unexpected and extraordinary must have happened. But on
their appearing, a burst of satisfaction manifested the anxiety that had
been felt, and without any farther delay the company proceeded to carry
into effect the wishes of the King. The code of laws was read, and the
gentlemen recommended by the King to fill the different offices being
declared the officers, the code of laws was accepted. Reynolds was
declared president, Chambers treasurer, Newton secretary, Moser keeper,
Penny professor of painting, Wale professor of perspective, and Dr.
William Hunter professor of anatomy. A report of the proceedings was made
to His Majesty next morning, who gave his sanction to the election, and
the Academy was thus constituted. The academicians afterwards met and
chose a council to assist the president, and visitors to superintend the
schools in three branches of art, painting, sculpture, and architecture.
Thus, on the 10th December, 1768, under the title of the Royal Academy of
the Arts in London, that Institution, which has done more to excite a
taste for the fine arts in this country, than any similar institution ever
did in any other, was finally formed and established.

Chap. V.

    The opening of the Royal Academy.--The Death of General
    Wolfe.--Anecdote of Sir Joshua Reynolds.--New Pictures ordered by the
    King.--Origin of the Series of Historical Pictures painted for Windsor
    Castle.--Design for a grand Chapel in Windsor Castle, to illustrate
    the History of revealed Religion.--His Majesty's Scruples on the
    Subject.--His confidential Consultation with several eminent
    Divines.--The Design undertaken.

When the Academy was opened, the approbation which _the Regulus_ received
at the exhibition gratified the King, and he resolved to give Mr. West
still farther encouragement. Accordingly, he soon after sent for him, and
mentioned that he wished him to paint another picture, and that the
subject he had chosen was Hamilcar making his son Hannibal swear
implacable enmity against the Romans. The painting being finished it was
earned to Buckingham-house, and His Majesty, after looking at it with
visible satisfaction, said, that he thought Mr. West could not do better
than provide him with suitable subjects to fill the unoccupied pannels of
the room in which the two pictures were then placed.

       *       *       *       *       *

About this period, Mr. West had finished his Death of Wolfe, which excited
a great sensation, both on account of its general merits as a work of art,
and for representing the characters in the modern military costume. The
King mentioned that he heard much of the picture, but he was informed that
the dignity of the subject had been impaired by the latter circumstance;
observing that it was thought very ridiculous to exhibit heroes in coats,
breeches, and cock'd hats. The Artist replied, that he was quite aware of
the objection, but that it was founded in prejudice, adding, with His
Majesty's permission, he would relate an anecdote connected with that
particular point.

       *       *       *       *       *

"When it was understood that I intended to paint the characters as they had
actually appeared in the scene, the Archbishop of York called on Reynolds
and asked his opinion, the result of which was that they came together to
my house. For His Grace was apprehensive that, by persevering in my
intention, I might lose some portion of the reputation which he was
pleased to think I had acquired by his picture of Agrippina, and Your
Majesty's of Regulus; and he was anxious to avert the misfortune by his
friendly interposition. He informed me of the object of their visit, and
that Reynolds wished to dissuade me from running so great a risk. I could
not but feel highly gratified by so much solicitude, and acknowledged
myself ready to attend to whatever Reynolds had to say, and even to adopt
his advice, if it appeared to me founded on any proper principles.
Reynolds then began a very ingenious and elegant dissertation on the state
of the public taste in this country, and the danger which every attempt at
innovation necessarily incurred of repulse or ridicule; and he concluded
with urging me earnestly to adopt the classic costume of antiquity, as
much more becoming the inherent greatness of my subject than the modern
garb of war. I listened to him with the utmost attention in my power to
give, but could perceive no principle in what he had delivered; only a
strain of persuasion to induce me to comply with an existing prejudice,--a
prejudice which I thought could not be too soon removed. When he had
finished his discourse, I begged him to hear what I had to state in reply,
and I began by remarking that the event intended to be commemorated took
place on the 13th of September, 1758, in a region of the world unknown to
the Greeks and Romans, and at a period of time when no such nations, nor
heroes in their costume, any longer existed. The subject I have to
represent is the conquest of a great province of America by the British
troops. It is a topic that history will proudly record, and the same truth
that guides the pen of the historian should govern the pencil of the
artist. I consider myself as undertaking to tell this great event to the
eye of the world; but if, instead of the facts of the transaction, I
represent classical fictions, how shall I be understood by posterity! The
only reason for adopting the Greek and Roman dresses, is the picturesque
forms of which their drapery is susceptible; but is this an advantage for
which all the truth and propriety of the subject should be sacrificed? I
want to mark the date, the place, and the parties engaged in the event;
and if I am not able to dispose of the circumstances in a picturesque
manner, no academical distribution of Greek or Roman costume will enable
me to do justice to the subject. However, without insisting upon
principles to which I intend to adhere, I feel myself so profoundly
impressed with the friendship of this interference, that when the picture
is finished, if you do not approve of it, I will consign it to the closet,
whatever may be my own opinion of the execution. They soon after took
their leave, and in due time I called on the Archbishop, and fixed a day
with him to come with Reynolds to see the painting. They came accordingly,
and the latter without speaking, after his first cursory glance, seated
himself before the picture, and examined it with deep and minute attention
for about half an hour. He then rose, and said to His Grace, Mr. West has
conquered. He has treated his subject as it ought to be treated. I retract
my objections against the introduction of any other circumstances into
historical pictures than those which are requisite and appropriate; and I
foresee that this picture will not only become one of the most popular,
but occasion a revolution in the art."

       *       *       *       *       *

On Mr. West pausing, the King said, "I wish that I had known all this
before, for the objection has been the means of Lord Grosvenor getting the
picture; but you shall make a copy for me." His Majesty then entered into
some further conversation respecting subjects for paintings to adorn the
apartment; and Mr. West suggested that the Death of Epaminondas would, as
a classic subject, and with Grecian circumstances, make a suitable
contrast with the Death of Wolfe. The King received this idea with
avidity; and the conversation being pursued further on the same topic, the
Artist also proposed the Death of the Chevalier Bayard for another
picture, which would serve to illustrate the heroism and peculiarities of
the middle ages. Two pannels were still unprovided; and Mr. West, with
submission to His Majesty, begged that he might be allowed to take the
incident of Cyrus liberating the Family of the King of Armenia for the
one, and of Segestus, and his daughter, brought before Germanicus, for
the other. The King was much pleased with the latter idea; a notion being
entertained by some antiquaries that the Hanoverian family are the
descendants of the daughter.

During the time that our Artist was engaged in these works, he was
frequently at the palace with the King; and His Majesty always turned the
conversation on the means of promoting the fine arts, and upon the
principles which should govern artists in the cultivation of their genius.
In one of these conversations, Mr. West happened to remark, that he had
been much disgusted in Italy at seeing the base use to which the talents
of the painters in that country had been too often employed; many of their
noblest efforts being devoted to illustrate monkish legends, in which no
one took any interest, while the great events in the history of their
country were but seldom touched. This led to some further reflections; and
the King, recollecting that Windsor-Castle had, in its present form,
been erected by Edward the Third, said, that he thought the achievements
of his splendid reign were well calculated for pictures, and would prove
very suitable ornaments to the halls and chambers of that venerable
edifice. To this incident, the arts are indebted for the series of
pictures which bring the victories of Cressy and Poictiers, with the other
triumphal incidents of that time, again, as it were, into form and being,
with a veracity of historical fact and circumstance which render the
masquerades by Vario even a greater disgrace to St. George's Hall than
they are to the taste of the age in which they were painted.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the execution of these different historical subjects, the King took a
great personal interests, and one piece became the cause of another, until
he actually acquired a feeling like enthusiasm for the arts. When he had
resolved to adorn Windsor-Castle with the achievements and great events of
the reign of Edward the Third, he began to think that the tolerant temper
of the age was favourable to the introduction of pictures into the
churches: at the same time, his scrupulous respect for what was
understood to be the usage, if not the law, relative to the case,
prevented him for some time from taking any decisive step. In the course
of different conversations with Mr. West, on this subject, he formed the
design of erecting a magnificent oratory, or private chapel, in the Horns'
Court of Windsor-Castle, for the purpose of displaying a pictorial
illustration of the history of revealed religion. But, before engaging in
this superb project, he thought it necessary to consult some eminent
members of the Church, who enjoyed his confidence, as to the propriety of
the design. Accordingly, he desired Mr. West to draw up a list of subjects
from the Bible, susceptible of pictorial representation, which Christians,
of all denominations, might contemplate without offence to their tenets;
and he invited Dr. Hurd, afterwards Bishop of Worcester, Dr. Douglas,
Bishop of Salisbury, the Dean of Windsor, and several other dignitaries,
along with the Artist, to consider the business. He explained to the
meeting his scruples, declaring that he did not, in a matter of this kind,
owing to his high station in the state, feel himself a free agent; that he
was certainly desirous of seeing the churches adorned with the endeavours
of art, and would deem it the greatest glory of his reign to be
distinguished, above all others in the annals of the kingdom, for the
progress and successful cultivation of the arts of peace. "But, when I
reflect," said His Majesty, "how the ornaments of art in the churches were
condemned at the Reformation, and still more recently in the unhappy times
of Charles the First, I am anxious to govern my own wishes not only by
what is right, but by what is prudent, in this matter. If it is conceived
that I am tacitly bound, as Head of the Church of England, to prevent any
such ornaments from being introduced into places of worship; or if it be
considered as at all savouring in any degree of a popish practice, however
decidedly I may myself think it innocent, I will proceed no farther in the
business. But, if the church may be adorned with pictures, illustrative of
great events in the history of religion, as the Bible itself often is with
engravings, I will gladly proceed with the execution of this design."
Little else passed at this interview; but he requested the churchmen to
examine the matter thoroughly; and appointed a particular day for them to
report to him the result of their investigation: presenting to them, at
the same time, a paper, containing a list of thirty-five subjects which he
had formed with the Artist, for the decorations of the intended chapel.

On the day appointed, Mr. West again met those eminent members of the
hierarchy in the royal presence: when Dr. Hurd reported to His Majesty,
that they had very seriously considered the important business which had
been confided to them; that, having bestowed on it their gravest
attention, they were unanimously of opinion, that the introduction of
paintings into the chapel, which His Majesty intended to erect, would, in
no respect whatever, violate the laws or usages of the Church of England;
and that, having examined the list of subjects, which he proposed should
constitute the decorations, there was not one of them, but, which properly
treated, even a Quaker might contemplate with edification. This
inadvertent observation attracted the King's attention; and he said, that
the Quakers were a body of Christians for whom he entertained the very
highest respect, and that he thought, but for the obligations of his
birth, he should himself have been a Quaker; and he particularly enlarged
on their peaceful demeanour and benevolence towards one another.

       *       *       *       *       *

The result of this conference was, that Mr. West immediately received
instructions to make designs from the list of subjects; and afterwards
with the King himself, he assisted to form an architectural plan of the
chapel, which it was proposed should be ninety feet in length by fifty in
breadth. When some progress had been made in the paintings, Mr. Wyat, who
had succeeded Sir William Chambers as the royal architect, received orders
to carry this plan into execution; and the grand flight of steps in the
great staircase, executed by that architect, was designed to lead
immediately to a door which should open into the royal closet, in the new

Chap. VI.

    Singular Anecdote respecting the Author of the Letters of Junius.--Of
    Lachlan M'Lean.--Anecdote of the Duke of Grafton.--Of the Marquis of
    Lansdowne.--Of Sir Philip Francis; Critique on the Transfiguration of
    Raphael by Sir Philip Francis, and Objections to his opinion.

By the eminent station which Mr. West has so long held among the artists,
and admirers of the fine arts, in this country, he became personally
acquainted with almost every literary man of celebrity; and being for many
years a general visitor at the literary club, immortalised as the haunt of
Johnson, Burke, Garrick, Goldsmith, and Reynolds, he acquired, without
particularly attending to the literature of the day, an extensive
acquaintance with the principal topics which, from time to time, engaged
the attention of men of letters. An incident, however, of a curious
nature, has brought him to be a party, in some degree, with the singular
question respecting the mysterious author of the celebrated letters of
Junius. On the morning that the first of these famous invectives appeared,
his friend Governor Hamilton happened to call, and enquiring the news, Mr.
West informed him of that bold and daring epistle: ringing for his servant
at the same time, he desired the newspaper to be brought in. Hamilton read
it over with great attention, and when he had done, laid it on his knees,
in a manner that particularly attracted the notice of the painter, who was
standing at his easel. "This letter," said Hamilton, in a tone of vehement
feeling, "is by that damned scoundrel M'Lean."--"What M'Lean?" enquired
Mr. West.--"The surgeon of Otway's regiment: the fellow who attacked me so
virulently in the Philadelphian newspaper, on account of the part I felt
it my duty to take, against one of the officers, a captain, for a
scandalous breach of the privileges of hospitality, in seducing the wife
of a very respectable man. This letter is by him. I know these very words:
I may well remember them," and he read over several phrases and sentences
which M'Lean had employed against him. Mr. West then informed the
Governor, that M'Lean was in this country, and that he was personally
acquainted with him. "He came over," said Mr. West, "with Colonel Barry,
by whom he was introduced to Lord Shelburn, (afterwards Marquis of
Lansdowne,) and is at present private secretary to His Lordship."

Throughout the progress of the controversy with Junius, Hamilton remained
firm in his opinion, that the author was no other than the same Lachlan
M'Lean, but at the literary club the general opinion ascribed the letters
for some time to Samuel Dyer. The sequel of this anecdote is curious.
M'Lean, owing to a great impediment in his utterance, never made any
figure in conversation; and passed with most people as a person of no
particular attainments. But when Lord Shelburn came into office, he was
appointed Under Secretary of State, and subsequently nominated to a
Governorship in India: a rapidity of promotion to a man without family or
parliamentary interest, that can only be explained by a profound
conviction, on the part of his patron, of his superior talents, and
perhaps, also, from a strong sense of some peculiar obligation. M'Lean
sailed for India in the Aurora frigate, and was lost, in the wreck of
that ship, on the coast of Africa. That the letters of Junius were not
ascribed to him by any party is not surprising, for his literary talents
were unknown to the public; but the general opinion of all men at the
time was that they were the production of some person in connection with
Lord Shelburn.

Upon this subject, I hold no particular opinion of my own; nor, indeed,
should I have perhaps noticed the circumstance at all, but for a recent
most ingenious publication which has ascribed these celebrated letters to
the late Sir Philip Francis. One thing, however, merits attention in this
curious controversy. In the Monthly Magazine for July, 1813, there is an
interesting account of a conversation between Sir Richard Phillips and the
Marquis of Lansdowne on this subject; in which His Lordship speaks of the
obligation to secrecy imposed on himself in the question as having been
removed by death; an incidental expression that at once intimated a
knowledge of the author, and that he was dead at the time when this
conversation took place. The importance of the matter, as an object of
literary curiosity, will excuse the introduction, in an abbreviated form,
of what passed at that interview, as well as of some minor circumstances
connected with the question.

During the printing of Almon's edition of Junius, in which he endeavoured
to show that the letters were written by a Mr. Walter Boyd, Sir Richard
Phillips, the publisher of that work, sought opinions among the characters
then surviving, whose names had been mixed with the writings of Junius;
and he addressed himself particularly to the Duke of Grafton, the Marquis
of Lansdowne, Mr. Horne Tooke, and Mr. Grattan. Through two friends of the
Duke of Grafton he was informed, "that His Grace had endeavoured to live
down the calumnies of Junius, and to forget the name of the author; and
that, at the period of the publication, offers were made to him of legal
evidence on which to convict the author of a libel; but that, as he had
then treated the man with contempt, he should decline to disturb him after
so great a lapse of time." From this communication it would seem, that the
Duke believed that he knew the author, and also that he was still alive.

Sir Richard, on calling upon the Marquis of Lansdowne, to whom he was
personally known, found him in his sick chamber, suffering under a general
breaking up of the constitution, but in his usual flow of spirits,
anecdote, and conversation. On mentioning Almon's new edition of Junius,
and that the editor had fixed on Boyd as the author, the Marquis
exclaimed, "I thought Almon had known better: I gave him credit for more
discernment: the world will, however, not be deceived by him; for there is
higher evidence than his opinion. Look at Boyd's other writings: he never
did write like Junius; and never could write like Junius. Internal
evidence destroys the hypothesis of Almon." Sir Richard then said, that
many persons had ascribed these letters to His Lordship; and that the
world at large conceived that, at least, he was not unacquainted with the
author. The Marquis smiled, and said, "No, no: I am not equal to Junius:
I could not be the author; but the grounds of secrecy are now so far
removed by death, and changes of circumstances, that it is unnecessary the
author of Junius should much longer be unknown. The world are curious
about him; and I could make a very interesting publication on the subject.
I knew Junius; and I knew all about the writing and production of those
letters. But look at my own condition now: I don't think I can live
another week: my legs, my strength, tell me so; but the doctors, who
always flatter sick men, assure me I am in no immediate danger. They order
me into the country, and I am going there. If I live over the summer,
which, however, I do not expect, I promise you a very interesting pamphlet
about Junius. I will put my name to it: I will set that question at rest
for ever."

Sir Richard looked at the swollen limbs and other symptoms threatening
the dissolution of this distinguished nobleman; and, convinced that he
was, in truth, never likely to see him again, and that the secret of
Junius might be lost with him, turned the conversation to the various
persons who had, at different times, been named as the Junius; and, after
mentioning five or six whose respective pretensions the Marquis treated
as ridiculous, His Lordship said, "It is of no use to pursue the matter
further at this time. I will, however, tell you this for your guide,
Junius has never yet been publicly named. None of the parties ever
guessed at as Junius were the true Junius. Nobody has ever suspected him.
I knew him, and knew all about it; and I pledge myself, if these legs
will permit me, to give you a pamphlet on the subject, as soon as I feel
myself equal to the labour." Sir Richard soon after took his leave; and
about a week after the Marquis expired.

From Horne Tooke no information could be obtained: whenever Junius was
mentioned, he lost the balance of his mind, and indulged himself in so
much vanity, conceit, and ingenuity, that it was almost useless to speak
with him on the subject.

Mr. Grattan wrote a very candid denial of any knowledge of the matter, in
a letter which was printed in the preface to Almon's edition.

Of the pretension afterwards set forward for Dr. Wilmot, I believe it was
never entertained or supported by any good evidence: Dr. Francis, the
father of Sir Philip, had been long before mentioned, but for what reason
I have never been able to ascertain. The answer of Sir Philip himself on
the subject is, however, curiously equivocal, at least it so strikes me;
although it is generally considered as a decided denial. It is as follows:
"The great civility of your letter induces me to answer it, which, with
reference merely to its subject-matter, I should have declined. Whether
you will assist in giving currency to a silly, malignant falsehood, is a
question for your own discretion: to me it is a matter of perfect
indifference." But notwithstanding all this, an amusingly mysterious
circumstance has, I am informed, transpired since the death of Sir Philip.
In a box, it is said, which he carefully deposited with his banker's, and
which was not to be opened till after his death, a copy of the
publication, "Junius identified," with a common copy of the letters of
Junius, were found. I shall offer no comment on this occurrence, for even
granting that it was true, it might have been but a playful trick--if Sir
Philip Francis was, in any respect, a humorist. But I have already
digressed too far from the immediate object of my work; and I cannot make
a better amends to my readers than by inserting here a short paper,
written by that eminent person, and addressed to Mr. West. It is a
critique on the Transfiguration by Raphael, in which Sir Philip evinces
considerable ingenuity, by attempting not only to explain a defect in the
composition, felt by every man of taste, in the midst of the delight
which, in other respects, it never fails to produce, but to show that, so
far from being any defect, it is in fact a great beauty.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Transfiguration by Raphael._

The title of this picture is a misnomer. The picture itself tells you it
is _the Ascension_. The Transfiguration is another incident, which
happened long before the Ascension, and is recited in the ninth chapter of
St. Luke:--"When the countenance of Jesus was changed, and he became
[Greek: etethon] and his clothing was _white_, and lightened." The robe of
the ascending Christ is BLUE.

The painter brings different incidents together to constitute one plot.
The picture consists of three separate groupes, combined and united in one
scheme or action.

I. Jesus ascending perpendicularly into the air, clothed in blue raiment,
and attended by two other figures.

II. Some of his disciples on the Mount, who see the ascent, and lie
dazzled and confounded by the sight.

III. A number of persons at the bottom of the Mount, who appear to look
intently on a young man possessed by a devil, and convulsed. None of them
see the Ascension but the young man, or rather the devil, who was in him,
does see it. On all similar occasions, those fallen angels know the
Christ, and acknowledge him. The other figures are agitated with
astonishment and terror, variously and distinctly expressed in every one
of them, at sight of the effect which they see is made upon him by some
object which _they_ do not see.

This is the sublime imagination, by which the lower part of the picture is
connected with the upper.


_13th July, 1816._

But although it must be confessed that this comment is exceedingly
ingenious, in so far as it explains the painter's design in representing
the demoniac boy, as the connecting link between the action on the Mount,
and the groupe at the foot of it; yet, upon an examination of the picture,
it will be found that it does not exhibit the Ascension, but the
Transfiguration; and I beg leave to refer to a letter, from my friend Mr.
M'Gillivray, in the Appendix which seems to me as perfectly satisfactory
on the subject as any thing of the kind I ever met with. Mr. West was of
the same opinion as Mr. M'Gillivray; but in conversing with him on the
subject, he did not enter into so distinct an explanation of his reasons
for dissenting from the speculation of Sir Philip Francis. In criticism,
however, whether the matter in question be works of art, or of literature,
the best opinion is exactly that which is the most reasonable; and the
point at issue here, is not one in which an artist's judgment can be
allowed greater weight than that of any other man.

Chap. VII.

    Observations on Mr. West's Intercourse with the King.--Anecdote of the
    American War.--Studies for the Historical Pictures at Windsor
    Castle.--Anecdote of the late Marquis of Buckingham.--Anecdote of Sir
    Joshua Reynolds; and of the Athenian Marbles.--Election of Mr. West to
    the Presidency of the Royal Academy.--His Speech to the Academicians
    on that occasion.

While Mr. West was engaged on the series of religious and historical works
for the King, he had frequent opportunities of becoming acquainted with
political incidents, that a man less intent on his art, and more ambitious
of fortune, might have turned to great advantage. This was particularly
the case during the American War, for His Majesty knowing the Artist's
connections with that country, and acquaintance with some of the most
distinguished of the rebels, often conversed with him on the subject; and
on different occasions Mr. West was enabled to supply the King with more
circumstantial information respecting some important events than was
furnished by the official channels. I do not consider myself at liberty,
nor this a fit place, to enter upon subjects so little in unison with the
arts of peace, or the noiseless tenour of an artist's life; but, among
other curious matters that may be thrown out for the investigation of the
future historian, is an opinion which prevailed among some of the best
informed in America, that when General Washington was appointed to the
supreme command of the army, it was with the view and intention of
effecting a reconciliation between the two countries. A communication to
this purpose is said to have been made by that illustrious man, which
communication was never answered, nor ever laid formally before the Privy
Council, at least not until more than six weeks after it had been
received, and then it was too late. America was lost; and millions spent,
and thousands sacrificed afterwards in vain. Whether, indeed, the King
ever did know the whole affair, may be doubted.

The mind of Mr. West, however, had no enjoyment in political cabals, in
the petty enmities of partizans, or the factious intrigues of party
leaders. He was by his art wholly enchanted, and saw in the prospect
before him an adequate recompense in fame for all his exertions, his days
of labour, and his nights of study. The historical pictures for Windsor
Castle cost him many a patient hour of midnight research; for the means to
assist his composition, especially in architecture, and the costume of the
time, were then far from being so easy of access as they are at present. A
long period of preference for classic literature, and the illustration of
the Greek and Roman story, had withdrawn the public taste from the no less
glorious events of our own annals. To mark, therefore, the epoch, and
manners of the age of Poictiers and Cressy, of the Institution of the
Garter, and the other heroic and magnificent incidents of the reign of
Edward the Third, with that historical truth which the artist thought
essential to historical painting, required the inspection of many an
ancient volume, and much antiquarian research. In the composition for the
Institution of the Garter, the late Marquis of Buckingham offered several
suggestions, which were adopted; and on His Lordship mentioning to the
King, that Mr. West was descended of the Delawarre family, the head of
which bore a distinguished part in the great events of that time, His
Majesty ordered Mr. West to insert his own portrait among the spectators
represented in the gallery, and immediately over the shield bearing the
arms of the Earl of Delawarre. Mr. West himself was not, at that period,
acquainted with the descent of his pedigree; but it happened in a
conversation one day with Lord Buckingham, that His Lordship enquired from
what part of England his family had been originally, and upon Mr. West
telling him, His Lordship said, that the land which his ancestors had
formerly possessed was become his by purchase; and that the Wests of Long
Crandon were sprung from the ancient Earls of Delawarre.

But, except the historical information required for his pictures, in which
he was indefatigable, until master of all that could be obtained, Mr.
West, following the early and wise advice of Dr. Smith of Philadelphia,
wasted none of his time in other literary pursuits. Among his learned and
ingenious cotemporaries, however, he acquired a general knowledge of the
passing literature of the day, and in consequence, there are few authors
of any celebrity, especially the cotemporaries of Johnson, of whom he does
not possess interesting anecdotes, as well as an acquaintance with the
merit which they were severally allowed to possess.

One day at Sir Joshua Reynolds, after dinner when Dr. Johnson, Goldsmith,
and Burke were present, the conversation turned on the degree of
excellence which sculpture attained among the Greeks. It was observed
incidentally, that there was something in the opinion of the ancients, on
this subject, quite inexplicable; for, in the time of Alexander the Great,
although painting was allowed to have been progressive, sculpture was said
to have declined, and yet the finest examples of the art, the Apollo and
Venus, were considered as the works of that period. Different theories
were sported on this occasion, to explain this seeming contradiction;
none of them, however, were satisfactory. But, on the arrival of the
Athenian marbles, which Lord Elgin brought to this country, Mr. West was
convinced, at the first sight of them, of the justness of ancient
criticism, and remembered the conversation alluded to.

Perhaps I may be allowed to mention here, without impropriety, that I was
at Athens when the second cargo of these celebrated sculptures was
dispatched; that I took some interest in getting the vessel away; and that
I went with her myself to the island of Idra. Two circumstances occasioned
this interference on my part;--an Italian artist, the agent of Lord Elgin,
had quarrelled about the marbles with Monsieur Fauvelle, the French
Consul, a man of research and taste, to whom every traveller that visited
Athens, even during the revolutionary war, might have felt himself
obliged. Fauvelle was, no doubt, ambitious to obtain these precious
fragments for the Napoleon Museum at Paris; and, certainly, exerted all
his influence to get the removal of them interdicted. On the eve of the
departure of the vessel, he sent in a strong representation on the
subject to the governor of the city, stating, what I believe was very
true, that Lord Elgin had never any sufficient firman or authority for the
dilapidations that he had committed on the temples. Luseri, the Italian
alluded to, was alarmed, and called on me at the monastery of the Roman
propaganda, where I then resided; and it was agreed between us, that if
any detention was attempted, I should remonstrate with the governor, and
represent to him that such an arrest of British property would be
considered as an act of hostility. But our fears were happily removed. No
notice was taken by the governor of Monsieur Fauvelle's remonstrance. In
the evening I embarked on board the vessel at the Pireus, and next morning
was safely landed on the island of Idra, where the vessel, after remaining
a day or two, sailed for Malta.

But to return to the biographical narrative. On the death of Sir Joshua
Reynolds, in 1791, Mr. West was unanimously elected President of the Royal
Academy. The choice was not more a debt of gratitude on the part of the
Institution, to one who had essentially contributed to its formation, than
a testimony of respect deservedly merited by the conduct and genius of the
Artist who, when the compass, number, and variety of his pictures are
considered, was, at that period, decidedly the greatest historical painter
then living, who had been born a British subject. This event, at once so
honourable to his associates and himself, was confirmed by the sanction of
His Majesty on the 24th of March, 1792; on which occasion, on taking the
chair, Mr. West addressed the Academicians to the following effect:--

       *       *       *       *       *


"The free and unsolicited choice with which you have called me to fill
this chair, vacated by the death of that great character, Sir JOSHUA
REYNOLDS, is so marked an instance of your friendship and good opinion,
that it demands the immediate acknowledgment of my thanks, which I beg you
to accept.

"I feel more sensibly the dignity to which you have raised me, as I am
placed in succession after so eminent a character, whose exalted
professional abilities, and very excellent discourses delivered under this
roof, have secured a lasting honor to this Institution and to the
country; while his amiable dispositions, as a man, will make his loss to
be long regretted by all who had the happiness to know him.

"HIS MAJESTY having been graciously pleased to approve and confirm the
choice which you have made of me as your President, it becomes my duty, as
far as my humble abilities will permit, to study and pursue whatever may
be the true interest, the prosperity, and the glory of this ACADEMY. In
the prosecution of this duty, I can make no doubt of success, when I
reflect that all the departments and classes of this Institution are
filled with men of established professional reputation, selected from
professors of the three great branches of art, which constitute the
objects of your studies and, when I see this union of abilities
strengthened by many ingenious productions of other able artists, who,
although they have not as yet the honour of belonging to this body, will,
nevertheless, enable us to maintain the accustomed brilliancy of our
Exhibitions, and, consequently, to secure to us the approbation of a
liberal and judicious public.

"The Exhibitions are of the greatest importance to this Institution; and
the Institution is become of great importance to the country. Here
ingenious youth are instructed in the art of design; and the instruction
acquired in this place, has spread itself through the various manufactures
of this country, to which it has given a taste that is able to convert the
most common and simple materials into rare and valuable articles of
commerce. Those articles the British merchant sends forth into all the
quarters of the world, where they stand preeminent over the productions of
other nations.

"But important as this is, there is another consequence of a more exalted
kind; I mean, the cultivating of those higher excellences in refined art,
which have never failed to secure to nations and to the individuals who
have nourished them, an immortality of fame, which no other circumstances
have been equally able to perpetuate. For it is by those higher and more
refined excellences of painting, sculpture, and architecture, that Grecian
and Roman greatness are transmitted down to the age in which we live, as
if it was still in existence. Many centuries have elapsed since Greeks and
Romans have been overthrown and dissolved as a people; but other nations,
by whom similar refinements were not cultivated, are erased from the face
of the earth, without leaving any monument or vestige to give the
demonstration that they were ever great.

"It may, therefore, be fairly assumed, that an ACADEMY, whose objects and
effects are so enlightened and extensive as those which are prosecuted
here, is highly worthy of the protection of a patriot-king, of a dignified
nobility, and of a wise people.

"Another circumstance, permit me, gentlemen, to mention, because I can
speak of it with peculiar satisfaction, as important to the best
interests of this Institution, and with the fullest assurance of its
truth, from the personal knowledge I have had of you all, and the intimacy
in which I have stood with most of you; it is this, that I have ever found
you steadily determined to support the regulations under which this
ACADEMY has been governed, and brought to its present conspicuous
situation, and by an attention to which, we shall always be sure to go on
with the greatest prudence and advantage.

"It is a matter of no less satisfaction to me, when I say, that I have
always observed your bosoms to glow with gratitude and loyal affection to
our August Founder, Patron, and Benefactor. I am convinced, it is your
wish to retain His friendship, and the friendship of every branch of His
Illustrious Family. I know these to be your sentiments, and they are
sentiments in which I participate with you. In every situation of my life
it shall be my invariable study to demonstrate my duty to my sovereign, my
love for this Institution, and my zeal for the cultivation of genius, and
the growth of universal virtue."

Mr. West having thus been raised to the head of an institution, embracing
within itself the most distinguished artists at that time in the world, it
might be proper to pause here to review the merits of the works and
exertions by which he acquired this eminent honour, had he not, since that
time, attained still more distinction in his profession. I shall, however,
for the present, suspend the consideration of his progress, as an artist,
to trace his efforts, in the situation of President of the Royal Academy,
to promote the improvement of the pupils, by those occasional discourses,
which, in imitation of the excellent example of Sir Joshua Reynolds, he
deemed it an essential part of his duty to deliver.

Chap. VIII.

    The first Discourse of Mr. West to the Students of the
    Academy.--Progress of the Arts.--Of the Advantages of Schools of
    Art.--On the Natural Origin of the Arts.--Of the Patronage which
    honoured the Patrons and the Artists.--Professional Advice.--Promising
    State of the Arts in Britain.

Mr. West's first discourse to the students of the Royal Academy was
delivered on the 10th of December, 1792, on the occasion of the
distribution of the prizes. Without ostensibly differing in his views from
Sir Joshua Reynolds, who by his lectures acquired, as an author, a degree
of celebrity equal to his fame as an artist, the new President confined
himself more strictly to professional topics. He recalled to the
remembrance of his auditors the circumstances in which the Academy
originated, and reminded them of the encouragement which the efforts of
artists had received from the countenance which the King had given to the
arts. "Let those," said he, "who have traced the progress of the fine
arts, say among what people did the arts rise, from such a state as that
in which they were in this country about forty years ago, to the height
which they have attained here in so short a period. In ancient Greece,
from the retreat of Xerxes, when they were in their infancy, to the age of
Alexander the Great, when they reached their maturity, we find a period of
no less than one hundred and fifty years elapsed. In Rome we can make no
calculation directly applicable; for among the Romans the habit of
employing Greek artists, and the rage of collecting, suffered no distinct
traces to be left of the progress of the arts among them. Even in
architecture, to which their claims were most obviously decided, we see
not sufficiently the gradations of their own peculiar taste and genius.
But in modern Italy, leaving out of view the age of Cimabue, and even that
of Giotto, and dating from the institution of the Academy of St. Luke at
Florence, it required a hundred and fifty years to produce a Michael
Angelo, a Raphael, and a Bramante."

Mr. West, after a few general observations on the necessary union between
moral conduct and good taste, adverts to the alleged influence which such
institutions as the Royal Academy have in producing mannerism in the
students, than which nothing can be more obnoxious to the progress of
refined art. "But," said he, "while I am urging the advantage of freedom
and nature in study to genius, let me not be misunderstood. There is no
untruth in the idea that great wits are allied to great eccentricity.
Genius is apt to run wild if not brought under some regulation. It is a
flood whose current will be dangerous if it is not kept within proper
banks. But it is one thing to regulate its impetuosity, and another very
different to direct its natural courses. In every branch of art there are
certain laws by which genius may be chastened; but the corrections gained
by attention to these laws amputate nothing that is legitimate, pure, and
elegant. Leaving these graces untouched, the schools of art have dominion
enough in curbing what is wild, irregular, and absurd.

"A college of art founded in this part of the world cannot be expected,
like a college of literature, to lay before its young members all that may
be necessary to complete their knowledge and taste. What is to be had from
books may be obtained almost every where; but the books of instruction by
which the artist alone can be perfected, are those great works which still
remain immoveable in that part of the world, where the fine arts in modern
times have been carried to their highest degree of perfection. I trust a
period will come, when this Academy will be able to send the young artist,
not from one spot or one seminary to another, but to gather improvement
from every celebrated work of art wherever situated. But the progress and
all future success of the artist must depend upon himself. He must be in
love with his art or he will never excel in it.

"That the arts of design were among the first suggestions vouchsafed by
Heaven to mankind, is not a proposition at which any man needs to start.
This truth is indeed manifested by every little child, whose first essay
is to make for itself the resemblance of some object to which it has been
accustomed in the nursery.

"In the arts of design were conveyed the original means of communicating
ideas, which the discoverers of countries show us to have been seized
upon, as it were involuntarily, by all the first stages of society.
Although the people were rude in knowledge and in manners, yet they were
possessed of the means by which they could draw figures of things, and
they could make those figures speak their purposes to others as well as to
themselves. The Mexicans conversed in that way when Cortes came among
them; and the savages of North America still employ the same means of
communicating intelligence.

"When, therefore, you have taken up the arts of design as your profession,
you have embraced that which has not only been sanctioned by the
cultivation of the earliest antiquity, but to which their is no antiquity
prior, except that of the visible creation.

"Religion itself in the earlier days of the world, would probably have
failed in its progress without the arts of design, for religion was then
emblematic; and what could an emblematic theology do without the aid of
the fine arts, and especially the art of sculpture? Religion and the arts,
in fact, sprung up together, were introduced by the same people, and went
hand in hand, first through the continent of Asia, then through Egypt,
next through Greece and her colonies, and in process of time through every
part of Italy, and even to the north of Europe. In the pagodas of India,
in some caverns of Media, and among various ruins in Persia, are still to
be seen the early monuments of emblematic art, and wrought in all the
possible difficulties of skill.

"When in the space of two thousand years, after the erection of some of
those monuments, the fine arts came to be established in Greece in a
better spirit as to taste, a higher estimation could not be annexed to any
circumstance in society, than was given to the arts by the wise and
elegant inhabitants of that country. They regarded them as their public
records, as the means of perpetuating all public fame, all private
honour, and all valuable instruction. The professors of them were
considered as public characters who watched over the events that were
passing, and who had in their hands the power of embodying them for ever.
And is not this still the case with the artists of every country, how
varied soever may be its maxims, or its system of action, from those of
Greece? Is the artist indeed not that watchman who observes the great
incidents of his time, and rescues them from oblivion?

"When he turns from these views to contemplate the patronage which has
been given to the fine arts, will he have less reason to esteem his
profession,--a profession so richly cherished by all the greatest
characters of the earth? and which in return has immortalised its patrons.
Posterity has never ceased to venerate the names of the Cosmos and
Lorenzos who sought art, and fostered to their full maturity the various
talents of their countrymen. The palace of the Medici, still existing in
Florence, exhibits not only in its treasures the proofs of their
munificence, but also within its walls those apartments and offices for
artists, in every branch which those great men considered requisite to the
decoration of their residence. And history has immortalised the solicitude
with which the vast fortune of the family, acquired originally in
honourable commerce, and rising gloriously to sovereign power, was made
contributory to the nourishing of the arts and literature; of every thing
that was intellectual, liberal, and great."

Mr. West then continued to enumerate the honour which the successive
illustrious patrons of the fine arts have acquired, deducing from it
motives of emulation to the young students to strive for similar
distinction, that their names may be mingled with those illustrious races
and families to whom Heaven is pleased to give superior eminence and
influence in human affairs. In doing this he took occasion to animadvert
on the base adulation of the artists of France in the age of Louis XIV.;
or rather of the dishonour which the patronage of that monarch has drawn
upon himself, by the unworthy manner in which he required the artists to
gratify his personal vanity. He then proceeded to give some professional
advice. "I wish," said he, "to leave this impression on the minds of all
who hear me, that the great alphabet of our art is the human figure. By a
competent knowledge of that figure the painter will be enabled to give a
more just character and motion to that which he intends to delineate. When
that motion is actuated by passion, and combined with other figures,
groups are formed. These groups make words, and these words make
sentences; by which the painter's tablet speaks a universal language;" and
he concluded with saying, "Gentlemen, It is a great treasure and a great
trust which is put into our hands. The fine arts were late before they
crossed the British Channel, but now we may fairly pronounce that they
have made their special abode with us. There is nothing in this climate
unpropitious to their growth; and if the idea has been conceived in the
world, enough has been done by the artists of Great Britain to disprove
it. I know that I am speaking to the first professional characters in
Europe in every branch of elegant art, as well as those who are most
distinguished in taste and judgment. If there be diffused through this
country a spirit of encouragement equal to the abilities which are ripe to
meet it, I may venture to predict that the sun of our arts will have a
long and glorious career."

Chap. IX.

    Discourse to the Royal Academy in 1794.--Observations on the Advantage
    of drawing the Human Figure correctly.--On the Propriety of
    cultivating the Eye, in order to enlarge the Variety of our Pleasures
    derived from Objects of Sight.--On characteristic Distinctions in
    Art.--Illustrations drawn from the Apollo Belvidere, and from the
    Venus de Medici; comprehending critical Remarks on those Statues.

The prizes in the Royal Academy being distributed every second year, on
the 10th of December, 1794, Mr. West delivered another Discourse, in which
he took a more scientific view of the principles of the fine arts, than in
the desultory observations which constituted the substance of his first
lecture. As it contained much valuable information, mixed up with remarks
incidental to the occasion, I have taken the liberty of abstracting the
professional instruction from the less important matter, in order to give
what deserves to be preserved and generally known in a concise and an
unbroken form.

"It may be assumed," said Mr. West, "as an unquestionable principle, that
the artist who has made himself master of the drawing of the human figure,
in its moral and physical expression, will succeed not only in
portrait-painting, but in the delineation of animals, and even of still
life, much better than if he had directed his attention to inferior
objects. For the human figure in that point of consideration, in which it
becomes a model to art, is more beautiful than any other in nature; and is
distinguished, above every other, by the variety of the phenomena which it
exhibits, arising from the different modifications of feeling and passion.
In my opinion, it would, therefore, be of incalculable advantage to the
public, if the drawing of the human figure were taught as an elementary
essential in education. It would do more than any other species of oral or
written instruction, to implant among the youth of the noble and opulent
classes that correctness of taste which is so ornamental to their rank in
society; while it would guide the artizan in the improvement of his
productions in such a manner, as greatly to enrich the stock of
manufactures, and to increase the articles of commerce; and, as the sight
is perhaps the most delightful of all our senses, this education of the
eye would multiply the sources of enjoyment.

"The value of the cultivated ear is well understood; and the time bestowed
on the acquisition of the universal language of music, is abundantly
repaid by the gratification which it affords, although not employed in the
communication of knowledge, but merely as a source of agreeable sensation.
Were the same attention paid to the improvement of the eye, which is given
to that of the ear, should we not be rewarded with as great an increase of
the blameless pleasures of life,--from the power of discriminating hues
and forms,--as we derive from the knowledge of musical proportions and
sounds? The cultivation of the sense of sight would have such an effect in
improving even the faculty of executing those productions of mechanical
labour which constitute so large a portion of the riches of a commercial
and refined people, that it ought to be regarded among the mere operative
classes of society as a primary object in the education of their
apprentices. Indeed, it may be confidently asserted, that an artizan,
accustomed to an accurate discrimination of outline, will, more readily
than another not educated with equal care in that particular, perceive the
fitness or defects of every species of mechanical contrivance; and, in
consequence, be enabled to suggest expedients which would tend to enlarge
the field of invention. We can form no idea to ourselves how many of the
imperfections in the most ingenious of our machines and engines would have
been obviated, had the inventors been accustomed to draw with accuracy.

"But, to the student of the fine arts, this important branch of education
will yield but few of the advantages which it is calculated to afford,
unless his studies are directed by a philosophical spirit, and the
observation of physical expression rendered conducive to some moral
purpose. Without the guidance of such a spirit, painting and sculpture
are but ornamental manufactures; and the works of Raphael and Michael
Angelo, considered without reference to the manifestations which they
exhibit of moral influence, possess no merit beyond the productions of the
ordinary paper-hanger.

"The first operation of this philosophical spirit will lead the student to
contemplate the general form of the figure as an object of beauty; and
thence instruct him to analyse the use and form of every separate part;
the relation and mutual aid of the parts to each other; and the necessary
effect of the whole in unison.

"By an investigation of this kind, he will arrive at what constitutes
character in art; and, in pursuing his analysis, he will discover that the
general construction of the human figure in the male indicates strength
and activity; and that the form of the individual man, in proportion to
the power of being active, is more or less perfect. In the male, the
degree of beauty depends on the degree of activity with which all the
parts of the body are capable of performing their respective and mutual
functions; but the characteristics of perfection of form in the female are
very different; delicacy of frame and modesty of demeanour, with less
capability to be active, constitute the peculiar graces of woman.

"When the student has settled in his own mind the general and primary
characteristics, in either sex, of the human figure, the next step will
enable him to reduce the particular character of his subject into its
proper class, whether it rank under the sublime or the beautiful, the
heroic or the graceful, the masculine or the feminine, or in any of its
other softer or more spirited distinctions. For the course of his studies
will have made him acquainted with the moral operations of character, as
they are expressed upon the external form; and the habit of
discrimination, thus acquired, will have taught him the action or attitude
by which all moral movements of character are usually accompanied. By this
knowledge of the general figure, this habitual aptitude to perceive the
beauty and fitness of its parts, and of the correspondence between the
emotions of the mind and the actions of the body, he will find himself in
possession of all that Zeuxis sought for in the graces of the different
beautiful women whom he collected together, that he might be enabled to
paint a proper picture of Helen; and it is the happy result of this
knowledge which we see in the Apollo Belvidere and the Venus de Medici,
that renders them so valuable as objects of study.

"But the student must be always careful to distinguish between objects of
study and objects of imitation; for the works which will best improve his
taste and exalt his imagination, are precisely those which he should least
endeavour to imitate; because, in proportion to their appropriate
excellences, their beauties are limited in their application.

"The Apollo is represented by the mythologists as a perfect man, in the
vigour of life; tall, handsome and animated; his locks rising and floating
on the wind; accomplished in mind and body; skilled in the benevolent art
of alleviating pain; music his delight, and poetry and song his continual
recreation. His activity was shown in dancing, running, and the manly
exercises of the quoit, the sling, and the bow. He was swift in his
pursuits, and terrible in his anger.--Such was the Pythian Apollo; and
were a sculptor to think of forming the statue of such a character, would
he not determine that his body, strong and vigorous from constant
exercise, should be nobly erect; that, as his lungs were expanded by
habits of swiftness in the chase, his chest should be large and full; that
his thighs, as the source of movement in his legs, should have the
appearance of enlarged vigour and solidity; and that his legs, in a
similar manner, should also possess uncommon strength to induce and
propagate the action of the feet? The nostrils ought to be elevated,
because the quick respirations of running and dancing would naturally
produce that effect; and, for the same reason, the mouth should appear to
be habitually a little open. While his arms, firm and nervous by the
exercise of the quoit, the sling, and the bow, should participate in the
general vigour and agility of the other members;--and would not this be
the Apollo Belvidere?

"Were the young artist, in like manner, to propose to himself a subject in
which he would endeavour to represent the peculiar excellences of woman,
would he not say, that these excellences consist in a virtuous mind, a
modest mien, a tranquil deportment, and a gracefulness in motion? And, in
embodying the combined beauty of these qualities, would he not bestow on
the figure a general, smooth, and round fulness of form, to indicate the
softness of character; bend the head gently forward, in the common
attitude of modesty; and awaken our ideas of the slow and graceful
movements peculiar to the sex, by limbs free from that masculine and
sinewy expression which is the consequence of active exercise?--and such
is the Venus de Medici. It would be utterly impossible to place a person
so formed in the attitude of the Apollo, without destroying all those
amiable and gentle associations of the mind which are inspired by
contemplating 'the statue which enchants the world.'

"Art affords no finer specimens of the successful application of the
principles which I have laid down than in those two noble productions."

Chap. X.

    Discourse to the Academy in 1797.--On the Principles of Painting and
    Sculpture.--Of Embellishments in Architecture.--Of the Taste of the
    Ancients.--Errors of the Moderns.--Of the good Taste of the Greeks in
    Appropriations of Character to their Statues.--On Drawing.--Of Light
    and Shade.--Principles of Colouring in Painting.--Illustration.--Of
    the Warm and Cold Colours.--Of Copying fine Pictures.--Of
    Composition.--On the Benefits to be derived from Sketching;--and of
    the Advantage of being familiar with the Characteristics of Objects
    in Nature.

In the discourse which Mr. West delivered from the chair of the Academy in
1797, he resumed the subject which he had but slightly opened, in that of
which the foregoing chapter contains the substance. I shall therefore
endeavour in the same manner, and as correctly as I can, to present a view
of the mode in which he treated his argument, and as nearly as possible in
his own language.

"As the foundation of those philosophical principles," said Mr. West, "on
which the whole power of art must rest, I wish to direct the attention of
the student, especially in painting and sculpture, to an early study of
the human figure, with reference to proportion, expression, and character.

"When I speak of painting and sculpture, it is not my intention to pass
over architecture, as if it were less dependent on philosophical
principles, although what I have chiefly to observe with respect to it
relates to embellishment;--a branch of art which artists are too apt to
regard as not under the control of any principle, but subject only to
their own taste and fancy. If the young architect commences his career
with this erroneous notion, he will be undone, if there is any just
notions of his art in the country.

"It is, therefore, necessary, as he derives his models from the ancients,
that he should enquire into the origin of those embellishments with which
the architects of antiquity decorated their various edifices. In the
prosecution of his enquiries, he will find that the ornaments of temples
and mausolea, may be traced back to the periods of emblematic art, and
become convinced that the spoils of victims, and instruments of sacrifice,
were appropriate ornaments of the temple; while urns, containing the ashes
of the dead, and the tears of the surviving friends, were the invariable
decorations of the mausoleum. The good taste of the classic ancients
prevented them from ever intermixing the respective emblems of different
buildings, or rather, in their minds custom preserved them from falling
into such an incongruous error, as to place the ornaments belonging to the
depositaries of the dead on triumphal arches, palaces, and public offices.
They considered in the ornaments the character and purpose of the edifice;
and they would have been ashamed to have thought it possible that their
palaces might be mistaken for mausolea, or their tombs for the mansions of

"Is the country in which we live free from the absurdities which confound
these necessary distinctions? Have we never beheld on the porticoes of
palaces, public halls, or places of amusement, the skins of animals
devoted to the rites of the pagan religion, or vases consecrated to the
ashes of the dead, or the tears of the living? Violations of sense and
character, in this respect, are daily committed. We might, with as much
propriety, adorn the friezes of our palaces and theatres with the skulls
and cross thigh-bones of the human figure, which are the emblems of death
in every country throughout modern Europe!

"I do not here allude to any particular work, nor do I speak of this want
of principle as general. It is indeed impossible that I can be supposed to
mean the latter; for we have among us men distinguished in the profession
of architecture, who would do honour to the most refined periods of
antiquity. But all are not equally chaste; and in addressing myself to the
young, it is my duty to guard them against those deviations from good
taste, which, without such a caution, they might conceive to be sanctioned
by some degree of example. It is my wish to preserve them from the
innovations of caprice and fashion, to which the public is always prone;
and to assure the youth of genius, that while he continues to found the
merit of his works on true principles, he will always find,
notwithstanding the apparent generality of any fashion, that there is no
surer way, either to fame or fortune, than by acting in art, as well as
life, on those principles which have received the sanction of experience,
and the approbation of the wise of all ages.

"I shall now return to the consideration of painting and sculpture.

"The Greeks, above all others, afford us the best and most decided proofs
of the beauty arising from the philosophical consideration of the subject
intended to be represented. To all their deities a fixed and appropriate
character was given, from which it would have perhaps been profanity to
depart. This character was the result of a careful consideration of the
ideal beauty suitable to the respective attributes of the different
deities. Thus in their Jupiter, Neptune, Hercules, Vulcan, Mars, and
Pluto; the Apollo, Mercury, Hymen, and Cupid, and also in the goddesses
Juno, Minerva, Venus, Hebe, the Nymphs and Graces; appeared a vast
discrimination of character, at the same time as true an individuality as
if the different forms had been the works of Nature herself.

"In your progress through that mechanical part of your professional
education, which is directed to the acquisition of a perfect knowledge of
the human figure, I recommend to you a scrupulous exactness in imitating
what is immediately before you, in order that you may acquire the habit of
observing with precision every object that presents itself to your sight.
Accustom yourselves to draw all the deviations of the figure, till you are
as much acquainted with them as with the alphabet of your own language,
and can make them with as much facility as your letters; for they are
indeed the letters and alphabet of your profession, whether it be painting
or sculpture.

"These divisions consist of the head, with its features taken in three
points of view, front, back, and profile; the neck in like manner, also
the thorax, abdomen, and pelvis; thigh, knee, leg, ankle, the carpus,
metacarpus, and toes; the clavicula, arm, fore-arm, wrist, carpus,
metacarpus, and fingers. While you are employed on these, it would be
highly proper to have before you the osteology of the part on which you
are engaged, as in that consists the foundation of your pursuit. And, in
this period of your studies, I recommend that your drawings be
geometrical, as when you draw and study a column with its base and
capital. At the same time you should not neglect to gain a few points in
perspective, particularly so far as to give effect to the square and
cylinder, in order to know what constitutes the vanishing point, and point
of distance, in the subject you are going to draw.

"After you have perfected yourselves in the parts of the figure, begin to
draw the Greek figures entire, with the same attention to correctness as
when you drew the divisions in your earlier lessons. Attend to the
perspective according to the vanishing point opposite to your eye. You
will naturally seek to possess your mind with the special character of the
figure before you;--and of all the Grecian figures, I would advise you to
make from the Apollo and Venus a general measurement or standard for man
and woman, taking the head and its features, as the part by which you
measure the divisions of those figures.

"Light and shade must not be neglected; for what you effect in drawing by
the contour of the figure, light and shade must effect with the
projections of those parts which front you in the figure. Light and shade
there produce what becomes outline to another drawing of the same object
in a right angle to the place where you sit.

"It seems not impossible to reduce to the simplicity of rule or principle,
what may have appeared difficult in this branch of art to young students,
and may have been too often pursued at random by others. All forms in
nature, both animate and inanimate, partake of the round form more than
of any other shape; and when lighted, whether by the sun or flame, or by
apertures admitting light, must have two relative extremes of light and
shadow, two balancing tints, the illuminated and the reflected, divided by
a middle tint or the aerial. The effect of illumination by flame or
aperture, differs from that of the sun in this respect; the sun
illuminates with parallel rays, which fall over all parts of the
enlightened side of the subject, while the light of a flame or an aperture
only strikes directly on the nearest point of the object, producing an
effect which more or less resembles the illumination of the sun in
proportion to the distance and dimensions of the object.

"Let us then suppose a ball to be the object on which the light falls, in
a direction of forty-five degrees or the diagonal of a square, and at a
right angle from the ball to the place where you stand. One half of the
ball will appear illuminated, and the other dark. This state of the two
hemispheres constitutes the two masses of light and shadow. In the centre
of the mass of light falls the focus of the illumination in the ball;
between the centre of the illumination and the circle of the ball, where
the illumination, reaches its extremity, lies what may be called the
transparent tint; and between it and the dark side of the ball lies the
serial or middle tint. The point of darkness, the extreme of shade, is
diametrically opposite to the focus of illumination, between which and
the aerial tint lies the tint of reflection. If the ball rests on a
plain, it will throw a shadow equal in length to one diameter and a
quarter of the ball. That shadow will be darker than the shade on the
ball, and the darkest part will be where the plain and ball come in
contact with each other.

"This simple experiment, whether performed in the open sun-shine, or with
artificial illumination, will lead you to the true principles of light and
shade over all objects in nature, whether mountains, clouds, rocks, trees,
single figures, or groups of figures. It would therefore be of great use,
when you are going to give light and shade to any object, first to make
the experiment of the ball, and in giving that light and shade, follow the
lessons with which it will furnish you.

"You will find that this experiment will instruct you, not only in the
principles of light and shade, but also of colours; for that there is a
corresponding hue with respect to colours is not to be disputed. In order
to demonstrate this, place in the ball which you have illuminated, the
prismatic colours, suiting their hues to those of the tints. Yellow will
answer to the focus of illumination, and the other secondary and primary
hues will fall into their proper places. Hence, on the enlightened side of
a group or figure, you may lay yellow, orange, red, and then violet, but
never on the side where the light recedes. On that side must come the
other prismatic colours in their natural order. Yellow must pass to green,
the green to blue, and the blue to purple. The primary colours of yellow,
orange, and red, are the warm colours, and belong to the illuminated side
of objects; the violet is the intermediate, and green, blue, and purple
are the cold colours, and belong to the retiring parts of your

"On the same principle, and in the same order, must be placed the tints
which compose the fleshy bodies of men and women, but so blended with
each other, as to give the softness appropriate to the luminous quality
and texture of flesh; paying attention, at the same time, to reflections
on its surface from other objects, and to its participation of their
colours. The latter is a distinct circumstance arising from accident.

"When the sun illuminates a human body, in the same manner as the ball,
the focus of the illumination in that body will partake of the yellow; and
the luminous or transparent tint, will have the orange and the red. These
produce, what is called, the carnation. The pure red, occasioned by the
blood, lies in the lips, cheeks, joints, and extremities of the figure,
and no where else. On the receding side of the focus is the local colour
of the flesh, and on the receding side of that is the greenish tint; in
the shade will fall the cold or bluish, and in the reflection will fall
the tint of purple. The most perfect tint of ground, from which to relieve
this arrangement of colours, is either blue, grey, or purple, for those
colours partake of the complexion of the watery sky in which the rainbow
appears, or the ground which best exhibits the prismatic colours.

"In acquiring a practical knowledge of the happiest manner of distributing
your colours according to nature, it will assist you, if you will copy
with attention some pieces of Titian, Correggio, Reubens, and Vandyke; the
masters in whose works you will most eminently find the system pursued,
which I have endeavoured to illustrate by the simple image of the ball.

"Having passed from the antique school, to that in which you draw after
the living figure, still adhere to that scrupulous exactness of drawing
with which you first set out; marking with precision the divisions of the
figure. After you have made yourselves acquainted with the drawing of the
living figure, you must then begin to enlarge your lines, and to give
softness and breadth, to direct your attention to what constitutes style
and character, and to discriminate these from what constitutes manner.

"To assist you in this nice discrimination, consult the prints and works
of Michael Angelo, Raphael, and Hannibal Carracci. In them you will find
the strongest and purest evidence of style and character, yet all
differing from each other, and all equally brought out of nature. I do not
recommend them with a view that you should adopt the style and character
of any of them; but to show from those great examples, that style and
character, although ever founded in nature, are as various as the
individual genius of every artist; that they are as free to you as they
were to those masters; that if you will consult your own mind, you will
draw forth a style and character of your own, and therefore no man can
ever be excused for sinking into a mannerist.

"And I cannot omit to observe here, that in the order of your studies,
your mental powers should be cherished and brought into action by reading
and reflection, but not until you have acquired practical facility in your
art. Too often it happens, and I have seen it with concern, that the
presumption of youth, or the errors of instruction, have reversed this
order, and have carried many to attempt essays of research and learning,
before they were well grounded in the principles of professional practice.
What other consequences can follow from such a course, but that the
student will turn in discontent from his own productions, because they
fall short of the ideas in his mind; and induce him, perhaps, to abandon,
with disgust, a profession in which he might have shone with distinction,
had he taken a right method of cultivating his own powers!

"The great masters were all at an early age great in the mechanical
department of their art, before they established any name by their
philosophical style and character. Michael Angelo, when a mere youth,
modelled and drew in a manner which astonished his own master. Raphael, at
not more than nineteen years of age, rivalled his instructor, Pietro
Perugino, in his executive talent; and, owing to this, he was enabled, at
the age of only twenty-five, to send forth his two great works, _the
Dispute on the Sacrament_, and _the School of Athens_. Guido, Bernini, and
many others of the first class, pursued the same course of study, and
were in the full possession of their powers very young. Vandyke, before he
was twenty years old, assisted Reubens in his greatest works; and on a
certain occasion, when the pupils of Reubens were amusing themselves in
the absence of their master, one of them happened to fall against 'the
Mother,' in the Descent from the Cross, which Vandyke repaired in a manner
so admirable, that when the painter came next to the picture, he expressed
himself surprised at the excellence of his own work, and said, that he
thought he had not done that arm so well. In a word, wherever we find the
executive power high at an early age, whether in painting or sculpture, we
have an assurance of future excellence, which nothing but indolence can
prevent. And, to give that early facility correctness of execution,
remember and pursue the great maxim of Apelles:--

  "'_Nulla dies, sine linea._'

"The young artist may, indeed, draw lines every day and every hour with
advantage, whether it be to amuse himself in society or in the fields. He
should accustom himself to sketch every thing, especially what is rare and
singular in nature. Let nothing of the animate creation on the earth, or
in the air, or in the water, pass you unnoticed; especially those which
are distinguished for their picturesque beauty, or remarkable for dignity
of form or elegance of colour. Fix them distinctly in your sketch-book and
in your memory. Observe, with the same contemplative eye, the landscape,
the appearance of trees, figures dispersed around, and their aerial
distance, as well as lineal forms. In this class of observations, omit not
to observe the light and shade, in consequence of the sun's rays being
intercepted by clouds or other accidents. Besides this, let your mind be
familiar with the characteristics of the ocean; mark its calm dignity when
undisturbed by the winds, and all its various states between that and its
terrible sublimity when agitated by the tempest. Sketch with attention its
foaming and winding coasts with distant land, and that awful line which
separates it from the Heavens. Replenished with these stores, your
imagination will then come forth as a river, collected from little
springs, spreads into might and majesty. The hand will then readily
execute what it has been so practised in acquiring; while the mind will
embrace its subjects with confidence, by being so well accustomed to
observe their picturesque effect."

Chap. XI.

    Discourse.--Introduction.--On the Philosophy of Character in Art.--Of
    Phidias.--Of Apelles.--Of the Progress of the Arts among the
    Moderns.--Of Leonardo da Vinci.--Of Michael Angelo, Raphael, and
    Bartolomeo.--Of Titian.--Of the Effects of Patronage.

It is not my intention to give all the discourses which Mr. West addressed
to the students of the Academy, but only those which contain, what may be
called, illustrations of the principles of his art. The following,
however, is so interesting and so various in its matter, that it would be
improper in me to make any attempt to garble or abridge it, beyond
omitting the mere incidental notice of temporary circumstances.

"The discourse which I am about to deliver, according to usual custom on
the return of this day, must be considered as addressed more immediately
to those among the students, who have made so much progress in art, as to
be masters of the human figure, of perspective, and of those other parts
of study, which I have heretofore recommended as the elements of painting
and sculpture; and who are therefore about to enter on the higher paths of
professional excellence. It will consequently be my object, now, to show
how that excellence is to be attained; and this will best be done, as I
conceive, by showing how it has been attained by others, in whom that
excellence has been most distinguished in the ancient and modern world. By
pursuing the principles on which they moved, you have the best
encouragement in their illustrious example, while, by neglecting those
principles, you can have no more reason to hope for such success as they
met with, than you can think of reaching a distant land, without road or
compass to direct your steps.

"The ground which I shall propose for your attention is this--to
investigate those philosophical principles on which all truth of character
is founded, and by which that sublime attainment, the highest refinement
in art, and without which every thing else is merely mechanical, may be
brought to a decided point, in all the variety by which it is
distinguished through the animated world.

"On this ground, and on this alone, rose Phidias and Apelles to the
celebrity which they held among the Greeks; and among the Italians,
Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Raphael, Titian, Correggio, and some
others, who became the completest models in sculpture and painting. Their
predecessors, indeed, in both countries, had for a considerable time been
preparing the way, but not having equally studied the best means, or those
means not having been equally before them, it was reserved of course for
the great characters I have mentioned, to unite philosophical with
professional truth, and to exhibit to the world in their works the
standards of style. From the same source arose another consequence, ever
worthy and pleasing to be mentioned;--the exhibition of those perfections
was always accompanied by that ardent patronage, which not only cheered
their minds, and invigorated their powers, but has left a glory on their
country, which no subsequent events have been able to obliterate, and
which never will be obliterated in any country where the sublimity of art,
involving the most refined embellishments of civilized life, is cherished
by those who are in a capacity to cherish it.

"In a very early period of the arts in Greece, we meet with a circumstance
which shows the advantages derived from consulting with philosophy, if it
does not also show the origin and outset of those advantages. The
circumstance to which I allude is, that in the period when the sculptors
contented themselves with the stationary forms and appearance of figures,
in imitation of their predecessors, the Egyptians; at that time they began
to submit their works to the judgment of philosophers, one of whom, being
called in to survey a statue, which a sculptor, then eminent, was going to
expose to public view, remarked, that the human figure before him wanted
motion, or that expression of intellect and will, from which motion and
character too must arise; for man had a soul and mind, which put him at
the head of the animal creation, and, therefore, without that soul and
mind, the form of man was degraded.

"This observation touched the point, then, necessary to be obviated, in
order to overcome the primitive rudeness which still attached to
sculpture; and without the application of the principle contained in the
observation, sculpture and painting too might have stood still for ages.
And from what other source than the principles of philosophic study, or,
in other words, from reflection on the moral powers or passions of man,
their several effects, as produced in their workings on the human figure,
could that improvement be obtained? It was the constant employment of the
philosophic mind, to study those causes and effects, and to reduce them to
a more distinct display for the truth and utility of their own writings.
The philosophers were, therefore, the most likely to assist the artist in
those displays of character which tended to illustrate the truth of his
own works. Nor on this account is it any disparagement to the artists of
those days, when philosophic studies were confined to particular classes
of men, that this moral view of art was not sufficiently taken up by the
more mechanical part of the profession.

"Thus, however, the opening was made to the important expression of
character. And the lesson suggested by the philosopher alluded to, is not
confined to the Greeks alone. I wish, young gentlemen, to leave it in all
its force upon your minds. For if the figures you design, whether singly
or in groups, have not their actions correspondent to what their minds
appear to be pursuing, they will suit any other subject as well as that in
which they are placed. This remark is the more worthy of attention, as it
does not apply to any of the figures of the Grecian masters whom I have
mentioned. The figure by Phidias on Monte Cavallo at Rome, the Apollo, the
Laocoon, the Venus, the Hercules, and the fighting gladiator, are all
perfect on the just principles I have mentioned. There is no room for
amendment; their propriety is unquestionable; their truth eternal. And so
in the works of modern art, we see the same truth and perfection in the
Capella Sestina by Michael Angelo, in the Supper by Leonardo da Vinci at
Milan, in the Cartoons by Raphael, the St. Peter Martyr by Titian, and the
Note by Correggio.

"Having mentioned the figure on Monte Cavallo, representing, as you all
know, a young man curbing a horse, I cannot help stopping to remark, that
if any work of sculpture ever demonstrated more strongly the value of
uniting philosophic science with that of art, for the production of
character, it is that work by Phidias. Never did the power of art express
more evidently than is done in the head of the young man, that every
feature is moved by an internal mental power, and corresponds in the most
perfect truth with what we see to be the labouring passion. When we view
it in front we are astonished that the mouth does not speak. No observer
ever thinks that the head is a block of stone. But the whole group is
masterly on the most refined principles of science. It was intended to be
seen at an elevated point, as well as at a distant one. All its forms,
therefore, are grand without the minutiae of parts; its effects are
striking and momentary; and in every circumstance considered, it is
plainly the work of consummate genius and science united.

"Was it possible that in an age which gave a Phidias to the Greeks,
there should not have been a Pericles to reward, by his patronage, merit
so exalted?

"We may carry the same reflections into the progress of the pencil. As the
Greeks became refined in their minds, they gained an Apelles to paint, and
an Alexander to patronise. We are not enabled now to speak of the works of
that great master. His figure of Alexander, in the character of young
Ammon, is described as his master-piece. Such was the expression with
which the hand grasped the thunder-bolt, that it seemed actually to start
from the pannel. The expression and force of character given to the whole,
was equally marvellous. And when we consider the refinement to which the
human mind had then arrived among the Greeks, the immense value which
they put upon the works of that artist, and that they were too wise to
devote their applause to things which fell short of consummate excellence,
we cannot doubt but it was by the cultivation of the public mind that the
arts reached such attainments among them. What must have been their
exquisite state when the simple line drawn by Protogenes,--in the
consciousness of his acknowledged perfection, and which was intended to
announce the man who drew it, as much as if he had told his name,--was so
far excelled by another simple line over it by Apelles, that the former at
once confessed himself outdone? Those two lines, simple as they were, were
by no means trifling in their instruction. They gave us, as it were, an
epitome of the progress which the arts had long been making in Greece. For
if the drawing of a simple line, of such a master as Protogenes, who was
conceived by many to hold the first pencil in the world, was surpassed, to
his great surprise, by another, how high must refinement have been raised
by the exertions of the artists in a period so emulous of perfection!

"The stages in the progress of modern art, have been frequently
distinguished by ages similar to those which succeed one another in the
human growth. We may safely assert, that in the infantine and youthful
period of modern art, literature and science were only seen in their
infancy and growth. The opening of nature displayed in the works of
Massaccio; the graces exhibited in those of Lorenzo Ghiberti; and the
advancement in perspective made by one or two others, kept pace nearly
with that progress in philosophy which appeared in the best writings of
those days. As the one took a larger step in the next stage or period, the
other stepped forth in a like degree at the same time; so that in Leonardo
da Vinci we see the great painter and the great philosopher: his painting
most clearly refined in its principles, and enlarged in its powers by his
philosophical studies. As a philosopher, and especially in those parts of
knowledge which were most interesting to his profession, he laid that
foundation of science which has ever since been adopted and admired. As a
painter, he not only went far beyond his predecessors, but laid down those
principles of science in the expression of individual character, and of a
soul and figure specifically and completely appropriated to each other,
which opened the way to the greatness acquired by those who followed him
in his studies. In that point of excellence, Leonardo da Vinci was
original; and it was the natural result of a mind like his, formed to
philosophical investigation, and deeply attentive to all the variety of
appearances by which the passions are marked in the human countenance and
frame. These he traced to their sources: he found them in their radical
principles, and by his knowledge of these principles, his expression of
character became perfected.

"The _nature_ exhibited by Massaccio had not gone to that extent of
expression. It however spoke a soul: he drew forth an inward mind on the
outward countenance: he gave a character; but that character was not so
discriminated as to become the index of one particular passion more than
another; or to decide, for instance, the head of Jupiter from that of a
Minerva: so at with the aid, of different types, it should not befit a
Saviour or a Magdalene.

"We must take along with us in this review, that the splendid patronage of
the house of Medici came forward, to meet, and to cherish the happy
advancements made by the masters of those days; so that Florence, which
was then the greatest seat of the arts, was no less brilliant and
illustrious in the generosity which strove to perpetuate them, than in the
genius by which they had been cultivated.

"Leonardo da Vinci, by the principles which he so effectually realised,
has always been considered as having established the manly as well as the
graceful age of modern art. But manhood is never so fixed as to be
incapable of progress. The manhood then attained in art was capable of
farther advancement beyond the growth which the powers of Da Vinci had
given it. This was eminently illustrated by the sublimity of style which
was attained by the genius of Michael Angelo and of Raphael;--quality
equally original in both, although issuing from different principles. In
the former, it was founded on that force and grandeur, allied to poetic
spirit, which rises above all that is common, and leaves behind it all
that is tame and simply correct; which, not content with engaging the
senses, seizes on the imagination, while it never departs from truth. In
the latter, it was made up of the beautiful and graceful, which attracts
by the assemblage of whatever is most perfect and elevated in the
character or subject.

"Raphael coming somewhat later than Michael Angelo on the theatre of art,
had the advantage of many of that master's works, as well as of all the
improvements which had been made before. His life was a short one, and the
first studies of it were almost lost in the dry school of Pietro Perugino.
But he soon found his way to the philosophy of Leonardo da Vinci, and to
the profound principles on which his admirable expression of character is
founded. The dignity of drapery, and of light and shade, opened by
Bartolomeo, invited his studies; and the sublimity of the human figure in
the sculptures of his cotemporary, Michael Angelo, fastened on his
contemplation. Thus he entered at once, as it were, into the inheritance
of whatever excellencies had been produced before him. With these
advantages he was called to adorn the apartments of the Vatican. And can
we wonder that his first works there, at the age of seven-and-twenty, were
the Dispute on the Sacrament, and the School of Athens?

"But what was it that contributed very much to the production of those
works? It was not the profound studies of Raphael's mind, but the spirit
of the age which warmed those studies.--It was a great age, in which
learning and science were become diffused, at least throughout Europe:--a
great age replete with characters studious of philosophy; and, therefore,
fond of the instruction conveyed by the arts;--fond of those high and
more profound compositions which entered into the spirit of superior
character, and made some study and research necessary to develope their
beauties. To meet the taste of such an age, the two first public works of
Raphael, above mentioned, were well suited, inasmuch as they were
intended to convey the comparative views of theology and human science,
or, in other words, the improvement of the human mind arising from the
two great sources of national wisdom and revealed light. It must not also
be forgotten, that while the spirit of the age was warming his mind to
the peculiar dignity of theme and style which marks his works, the
generous and noble patronage of the papal court was exerting its utmost
power to immortalise him, and every other great master that arose within
the circle of its influence. Their merit and their fame found as animated
a protector in Leo X. as Phidias experienced in Pericles, or Apelles in
Alexander the Great.

"As the Florentine and Roman schools were thus gradually refined in the
excellence of design and character, by the aid of philosophical studies;
so the Venetian masters were equally indebted to the like studies, without
which, they would never have reached their admirable system of colouring.
If any have conceived otherwise, they have taken a very superficial view
of their system. Where is there greater science concerned than in the
whole theory of colours? It employed the investigation of Newton; and
shall that pass for a common or easy attainment which took up so much of
his profound studies? The Venetian masters had been long working their way
to the radical principles of this science, not only for a just and perfect
arrangement of their colouring, but for that clear and transparent system
in the use of it, which have equally marked that school in the days of its
maturity under Titian. He it was who established, on unerring principles,
founded on nature and truth, that accomplished system which John Bellini
had first laboured to discover, and in which Giorgioni had made further
advancements. Besides his zeal in his profession, Titian was born in that
higher rank of life which might be supposed to give him an easier access
to the elegant studies of philosophic science; and he had prosecuted, with
great ardour, the science of chemisty, the better to understand the
properties of colour, their homogeneous blendings, purity, and duration;
as well as the properties of oils, gums, and other fluids, which might
form the fittest vehicles to convey his colours upon canvass.

"The elegant Charles V. was to Titian in liberal pratronage what Leo X.
was to Raphael. That munificent prince carried him into Spain, where his
works laid the foundation of the Spanish school in painting, and gave a
relish for that art to all the succeeding monarchs.

"What has been remarked respecting Titian and the Venetian school, is
equally true of that of Correggio among the Lombard painters. The mind of
Correggio appears evidently, by his works, to have been profoundly
enlightened; and especially in the philosophical arrangement and general
doctrine of colours. What has been said by some concerning the low
circumstances of his fortune, (which is not true,) neither proves the
obscurity of his birth, nor that philosophical researches were out of his
reach, or beside his emulation. The truth is, that he was born of a very
honourable family, and was accomplished in the elegancies of life; not
that it is necessary for any man to have the advantages of birth, in
order to become enlightened by science in any way whatever. The patronage
which attended him was of the most elevated kind, being dispensed by the
illustrious houses of Mantua and Modena, as well as by the institution of
the Doma of Parma. But what is by no means less worthy of our notice is,
that of all the masters who have risen up in any of the schools of Italy,
not one has been the means of giving success and reputation to those who
have followed any of their respective styles equally with Correggio. The
ineffable softness, sweetness, and grace in his paintings, have never
varied in their effects with the course of time. And they who have since
partaken of these powers in his style, have very generally become great
masters, (distinguished by none of the excesses which have sometimes
attended the imitation of other models,) and successful in gainng the
approbation and favour of the world.

"The paths pursued by those great examples must become yours, young
gentlemen, or you can neither be eminent in colouring, nor sure in the
execution of your art. It is possible, that by habits of practice, handed
over from one to another, or by little managements in laying colours on
the canvass, where little or nothing of the general science has been
studied and attained, many may so far succeed as to avoid glaring errors,
and a violation of those first principles which have their foundation in
nature. But that success is at all times extremely hazardous and dependent
on chance. More frequently it has introduced invincible conflicts between
the primary and secondary colours, to the ruin of harmony and aerial
perspective, and to the overthrow of the artist, whenever the picture is
glanced upon by the eye of scientific discernment. Contemptible are the
best of such managements, ever in the hands of those that know them best,
compared with a full and masterly possession of the philosophy by which
this part of your art must be guided. If the ordonnance of colour, on each
figure and on the whole, is not disposed according to the immutable laws
of the science, no fine effect, or accordant tones of colours, can
possibly be produced. There is, therefore, but one way to make sure of
success, and to raise your characters in this point, and that is by making
yourselves masters of the whole philosophy of colours, as Titian and
Correggio did, and some others, in whose works, from first to last, the
minutest scrutiny will never find a colour misplaced or prejudiced by its
disposition with others.

"To be perfect, is the emulation which belongs to those arts in which you
are engaged, and the anxious hope of the country in which you live. To
animate you to that perfection, is the object of what I have now addressed
to you. I am persuaded it is your ambition to be perfect. This Academy
looks with pleasure on the progress of your studies, as it may look with
pride on the high and cultivated state to which the arts have been raised
among us ever since they have had the establishment of a regular school.
It is no flattery to the present æra in Britain to say, that in no age of
the world have the arts been carried in any country to such a summit as
they now hold among us, in so short a period as half a century at most.
Among the Greeks some centuries had elapsed, amidst no little emulation
in the arts, before they obtained an Apelles. In modern Italy, without
going as far back as we might, it took up a century from the appearance of
Massaccio to the perfection of a Raphael. If, then, the British school has
risen so much more speedily to that celebrity in art, which it is too well
known and established to need any illustration here, what should hinder
her professors from becoming the most distinguished rivals of the fame
acquired by the Greeks and Italians, with a due perseverance in the
studies which lead to perfection, and with those encouragements and
support of patronage which are due to genius?

"As the source of that patronage, we look up with affectionate gratitude
to the benign and flattering attention of our most gracious Sovereign, to
whose regard for the elegant arts, and munificent disposition to cherish
every enlargement of science, and improvement of the human mind, his
people are indebted for this public seminary, his own favoured
Institution, and the first which this country has ever been so fortunate
as to see established. Under his royal patronage and support, this Academy
has risen to its present strength and flourishing condition. His
patronage, which would be improperly estimated by mere expenditure, in a
country not similar in the latitude of government, or in the controul over
revenue, to ancient Greece or modern Italy, but properly by its diffusive
influence, has been the source of every other patronage in the country;
has inspired that refined taste and ardour for elegant arts, which have
given in fact a new character to the people, and has raised within and
without this Academy that body of distinguished men, whose works have
contributed to immortalise his reign, as his love for the arts has become
the means of immortalising them.

"The patronage which has flowed from other quarters, deserves very
honourable mention; and is of so much importance, that without it the
spirit of art must droop, and the very profession of it be contracted in
every situation whatever. It is not by the influence and support of any
individual character, how elevated soever, or how warm soever in his
attachment to taste and elegance, that the extent of professional talents
spread through a country, can be effectually sustained with adequate
encouragements. It is the wealthy and the great, who are commonly trained
by their situations to the perception of what is elegant and refined, that
must come forward in such an illustrious undertaking. It is only they who
can meet every where the merit, let it be disseminated as it may, which is
entitled, to distinction. Without the patronage of such, the arts could
never have obtained their high meridian in Greece and Italy. Had not the
communities and rich individuals in Greece taken the arts under their
protection, not all the encouragement of Pericles, or of Alexander the
Great, could have drawn forth that immense body of painting and sculpture
which filled the country. Had the patronage of Italy rested with the popes
and princes, unaccompanied by those munificent supports which flowed from
the churches and convents, as well as from private individuals of rank and
wealth, the galleries of that country could never have been so superbly
filled as they were, nor could those collections have been made from
thence, which have filled so many galleries and cabinets elsewhere.

"These facts are not to be denied; but they also lead us to another
lesson, which is, that the patronage so generally dispensed was for the
protection of living genius, and that they by whom it was so dispensed
sought no other collections than the works of native and living artists.
On any other ground there can be no such thing as patronage. Nothing else
is worthy of that name. The true and generous patron of great works
selects those which are produced by the talents existing around him. By
collecting from other countries, he may greatly enrich himself, but can
never give celebrity to the country in which he lives. The encouragement
extended to the genius of a single artist, though it may produce but one
original work, adds more to the celebrity of a people, and is a higher
proof of true patriotic ardour, and of a generous love for the progress of
art, than all the collections that ever were made by the productions of
other countries, and all the expenditures that ever were bestowed in
making them. Did the habits of our domestic circumstances, like those of
Italy, permit the ingenious student to have access to those works of
established masters, procured by the spirit of their noble and wealthy
possessors, and of many distinguished amateurs on the most liberal terms,
and with the honourable purpose of forming the taste, as well as enriching
the treasures, of the country, every thing would then be done, which is
wanting to complete the public benefit of such collections, and the
general gratitude to which they who have made them would be entitled. So
abundant are the accomplished examples in art already introduced among us,
that there would then be no necessity for students to run to other
countries for those improvements which their own can furnish.

"It cannot be improper at any time to make these remarks; while it must
also be observed, that the patronage held forth by many great and noble
characters needs no spur; and the means projected by other spirited
individuals in opulent stations, for extending and perpetuating the works
of British masters, fall short in no degree of the most fervid energies
and examples, of which any country has been able to boast.

"It is your duty, young gentlemen, to become accomplished in your
professions, that you may keep alive those energies and examples of
patronage, when you come to draw the attention of the world to your own
works. It is by your success that the arts must be carried on and
preserved here. Patronage can only be expected to follow what is eminently
meritorious, and more especially that general patronage diffused through
the more respectable ranks of society, which is to professional merit,
what the ocean is to the earth;--the great fund from whence it must ever
be refreshed, and without whose abundance, conveyed through innumerable
channels, every thing must presently become dry, and all productions cease
to exist."

Chap. XII.

    Discourse.--Introduction.--Of appropriate Character in Historical
    Composition.--Architecture among the Greeks and Romans.--Of the
    Athenian Marbles.--Of the Ancient Statues.--Of the Moses and Saviour
    of Michael Angelo.--Of the Last Judgment of Michael Angelo.--Of
    Leonardo da Vinci.--Of Bartolomeo.--Of Raphael.--Of Titian, and his
    St. Peter Martyr.--Of the different Italian Schools.--Of the Effects
    of the Royal Academy.--Of the Prince Regent's Promise to encourage the
    Fine Arts.

After a careful examination of all the remaining notes of Mr. West, it
appeared to me, that the discourse which he delivered on the 10th of
December, 1811, was the only one that required particular notice, after
those which I have already introduced. In some respects it will, perhaps,
be deemed the most interesting of the whole.

"The few points," said the President, "upon which I mean to touch in the
present Discourse, are those which more immediately apply to the
students, who are generously striving to attain excellence in the first
class of refined art,--historical painting.

"Whether their exertions are directed to painting, or the sister arts,
architecture and sculpture, the first thing they must impress upon their
minds, and engraft upon every shoot of their fancy, is that of the
appropriate character, by which the subject they are about to treat, is
distinguished from all other subjects. On this foundation, all the points
of refined art which are, in the truest sense, intellectual, invariably
rest; for without justness of character the works of the pencil can have
but little value, and can never entitle the artist to the praise of a
well-governed genius, or of possessing that philosophical precision of
judgment, which is the source of excellence in the superior walk of his
profession. At the same time, let it be indelibly fixed in your minds,
that when decided character is to be given, that character must be
accompanied by correctness of outline, whether it be in painting or in
sculpture. Any representation of the human figure, in the higher
department of art, wanting these requisites, is, to the feelings of the
educated artist, deficient in that, for the loss of which no other
excellency can compensate.

"Architecture.--This department of art received its decided character from
the Greeks. They distinctly fixed the embellishments to the several
orders; and, by their adaptation of these embellishments and orders, their
buildings obtained a distinct and appropriate character, which declared
the uses for which they were erected.

"The Romans, in their best era of taste, copied their Grecian instructors
in that appropriate character of embellishment which explained, at a
glance, the use of their respective buildings; but, in their latter ages,
they declined from this original purity; and it is the fragments of that
corruption, in which they lost the characteristic precision of the Greeks,
that we have seen of late years employed upon many of our buildings. The
want of mental reflection in employing the orders of architectures with a
rational precision as to character, produces the same sort of deficiency
which we find in an historical picture; where, although each figure, in
correct proportion, be well drawn, with drapery elegantly folded, yet, not
being employed appropriately to the subject, affords no satisfaction to
the spectator.

"The Greeks were in architecture what they were in sculpture; and it is to
them you must look for the original purity of both. We feel rejoiced, that
the exertions recently made by a noble personage to enrich our studies in
both of these departments of art are such, that we may say, London has
become the Athens for study. It is the mental power displayed in the Elgin
marbles that I wish the juvenile artist to notice. Look at the equestrian
groups of the young Athenians in this collection, and you will find in
them that momentary motion which life gives on the occasion to the riders
and their horses. The horse we perceive feels that power which the impulse
of life has given to his rider; we see in him the animation of his whole
frame; in the fire of his eyes, the distention of his nostrils, and in the
rapid motion of his feet, yielding to the guidance of his rider, or in the
speeding of his course: they are, therefore, in perfect unison with the
life in each. At this moment of their animation, they appear to have been
turned into stone by some majestic power, and not created by the human
hand. The single head of the horse, in the same collection, seems as if it
had, by the same influence, been struck into marble, when he was exerting
all the energy of his motion.

"These admirable sculptures, which now adorn our city, are the union of
Athenian genius and philosophy, and illustrate my meaning respecting the
mental impression which is so essentially to be given to works of refined
art. It was this point which the Grecian philosophers wished to impress on
the minds of their sculptors, not to follow their predecessors the
Egyptians in sculpture, who represented their figures without motion,
although nearly perfect in giving to them the external form. 'It is the
passions,' said they, 'with which man is endowed, that we wish to see in
the movements of your figures.' This advice of the philosophers was felt
by the sculptors, and the Athenian marbles are the faithful records of the
efficacy of that advice.

"That you may distinctly perceive and invariably distinguish what we mean
by appropriate character in art, particularly in sculpture, I would class
with these sculptures, the Hercules, the Apollo, the Venus, the Laocoon,
and the Gladiator. In these examples you will find what is appropriate in
character to subject, united with correctness of outline; and it is this
combination of truths which has arrested the attention of an admiring
world, ever since they were produced; and which will attract to them the
admiration of after ages, so long as the workings of the mind on the
external form can be contemplated and understood.

"Now let us see what works there are since the revival of art in the
modern world, which rest on the same basis of appropriate character and
correctness of outline, with those of the ancient Greeks.

"The Moses which the powers of Michael Angelo's mind has presented to our
view, claims our first attention. In this statue the points of character,
in every mode of precise, determinate, and elevated expression, have been
carried to a pitch of grandeur which modern art has not since excelled. In
this figure of Moses, Michael Angelo has fixed the unalterable standard of
the Jewish lawgiver,--a character delineated and justified by the text in
inspired sculpture. The character of Moses was well suited to the grandeur
of the artist's conceptions, and to the dreadful energy of his feelings.
Accordingly, in mental character, this figure holds the first station in
modern art; and I believe we may venture to say, had no competitor in
ancient, except those of the Jupiter and Minerva by Phidias. But the
Saviour, all meekness and benevolence, which Michael Angelo made to
accompany the Moses, was not in unison with his genius. The figure is
mean, but slightly removed from an academical figure, and in no point
appropriate to the subject: so are most of the single figures of the
artist, in his great work on the Day of Judgment; but his groups in that
composition are every where in character, and have not their rivals
either in painting or sculpture. His Bacchus claims our admiration, as
being appropriate to the subject, by the same excellence in delineation
which distinguish the groups in the Day of Judgment. No person can have a
higher veneration than I have for that grandeur of character impressed on
the figures by Michael Angelo; but it is the fitness of the characters and
of the action to the subject, to which I wish to draw your attention, and
not to pour out praise on those points, in which he and other eminent
masters are deficient. On this occasion, I must therefore be permitted to
repeat, that most of the single figures in his great work of the Day of
Judgment, are deficient in the fitness of appropriate character, and in
the fitness of appropriate action to the subject; although as single
figures they demand our admiration. But excellent as they are, they are
but the ingenious adaptation of legs, arms, and heads, to the celebrated
Torso, which bears his name, and which served as the model to most of his
figures. All figures in composition, however excellent they may be in
delineation, which have not their actions and expressions springing from
the subject in which they are the actors, can only be considered as
academical efforts, without the impress of mental power, and without any
philosophical attention to the truth of the subject which the artist
intended to illustrate.

"Leonardo da Vinci is the first who had a full and right conception of the
principle which I wish to inculcate, and he has shown it in his picture of
the Last Supper. But it is necessary to distinguish what parts of the
picture deserve consideration. It is the decision, the appropriate
character of the apostles to the subject; the significance of expression
in their several countenances, and the diversity of action in each figure;
their actions seemingly in perfect unison with their minds, and their
figures individually in unison with their respective situations; some are
confused at the words spoken by our Saviour: "There is one amongst you who
shall betray me;" others are thrown under impressions of a different
feeling. In this respect the picture has left us without an appeal,
either to nature or to art. But Da Vinci failed in the head of our
Saviour. He has failed in his attempt to combine the almost incompatible
qualities of dignity and meekness which are demanded in the countenance of
the Saviour. He had exhausted his powers of characteristic discrimination
in the heads of the apostles; and in his attempt to give meekness to the
countenance of Jesus, he sank into insipience. He had the prudence,
therefore, to leave the face unfinished, that the imagination of the
beholder might not be disappointed by an imperfect image, but form one in
his mind more appropriate to his feelings and to the subject. The ruin of
this picture, the report of which I understand is true, has deprived the
world and the arts of one of the mental eyes of painting. But pleasing as
the works of Leonardo da Vinci are in general, had he not produced this
picture of the Last Supper, and the cartoon of the equestrian combatants
for the standard of victory, he would scarcely have emerged, as a painter
of strong character, above mediocrity. Indeed the back-ground, and general
distribution of this picture, sufficiently mark their Gothic origin. But
his pictures, generally speaking, are more characterised by their
laborious finishing, gentleness, and sweetness of character, than by the
energies of a lively imagination.

"Fra. Bartolomeo di St. Marco, of Florence, was one of the first who
became enamoured of that superiority which grandeur and decision of
character gives to art; and, indeed, of all those higher excellences which
the philosophical mind of Da Vinci had accomplished. In the pictures of
Bartolomeo we behold, for the first time, that breadth of the
clair-obscure--the deep tones of colour, with their philosophical
arrangement, united to that noble folding of drapery appropriate to, and
significant of, every character it covered; a point of excellence in this
master, from which Raphael caught his first conception of that noble
simplicity which distinguishes the dignity of his draperies, and which it
became his pride through life to imitate.

"Bartolomeo, in his figure of St. Mark, has convinced us how important and
indispensable is the union of mental conception with truth of
observation, in order to give a decided and appropriate character to an
Evangelist of the Gospel. None of the pictures of this artist possess the
excellence of his St. Mark except one, which is in the city of Lucca, the
capital of the republic of that name; and, as that picture is but little
known to travellers, and almost unknown to many artists who have visited
Italy, a description of it may not be unacceptable.

"The picture is on pannel, and its dimensions somewhat about twenty feet
in height by fourteen in width. The subject is the Assumption of the
Virgin Mary. The composition is divided into three groups; the Apostles
and the sepulchre form the centre group, from the midst of which the
Virgin ascends; her body-drapery is of a deep ruby colour, which is the
only decided red in the picture, and her mantle blue, but in depth of tone
approaching to black, and extended by angels to nearly each side of the
picture. This mantle is relieved by a light, in tone resembling that of
the break of day, seen over the summit of a dark mountain, which gives an
awful grandeur to the effect of the picture on entering the chapel, in
which it is placed over the altar. That awful light of the morning is
contrasted with the golden effulgence above; in the midst of which, our
Saviour is seen with extended arms, to receive and welcome his mother.

"From the sepulchre, and the Apostles in the centre, to the fore-ground,
the third group of figures partly lies in shade, occasioned by the
over-shadowing of the Virgin's deep-toned mantle extended by angels. On
the other part of the group, on the side where the light enters, the
figures are seen in the broad blaze of day; and amongst them is the
portrait of the artist.

"When I first saw this picture, my sensations were in unison with its
awful character; and I confess that I was touched with the same kind of
sensibility as when I heard the inexpressibly harmonious blendings of
vocal sounds in the solemn notes of _Non nobis Domine_. I never felt more
forcibly the dignity of music and the dignity of painting, than from
these two compositions of art.

"When we consider the combination of excellence requisite to produce the
sublime in painting; the union of propriety with dignity of character; the
graceful grouping; the noble folding of drapery, and the deep sombrous
tones of the clair-obscure, with appropriate colours harmoniously blending
into one whole;--if there is a picture entitled to the appellation of
_sublime_, from the union of all these excellences, It is that which I
have described: considered in all its parts, it is, perhaps, superior to
any work in painting, which has fallen under my observation.

"When these powerful essays in art by Da Vinci, Bartolomeo di St. Marco,
and Michael Angelo became celebrated, Raphael, having attained his adult
age, made his appearance at Florence; where the influence of the works of
those three great artists pervaded all the avenues to excellence in art.

"The gentle sensibility of Raphael's mind was like the softened wax
which makes more visible and distinct the form of the engraving with
which it is touched. Blest by Nature with this endowment, he became like
the heir to the treasured wealth of many families. Enriched by the
accumulated experience which was then in Florence, united to the early
tuition of delineating from nature under Pietro Perugino, and the
subsequent discoveries of the Grecian relics, Raphael's mind became
stored with all that was excellent; and he possessed a practised hand, to
make his conceptions visible on his tablets. Possessing these powers, he
was invited to Rome, and began his picture of _The Dispute on the
Sacrament_. This picture he finished, together with _The School of
Athens_, before he had attained his twenty-eighth year. At Rome he found
himself amidst the splendour of a refined court, and in the focus of
human endowment. He became sensible of the rare advantages of his
situation; he had industry and ardour to combine and to embrace them all;
and the effect is visible in his works. The theological arrangement of
the disputants on the Sacrament, and the scholastic controversies at
Athens, convince us of this truth. In the upper part of the Dispute on
the Sacrament, something may be observed of that taste of Bartolomeo in
drapery, and of the dryness and hardness of his first master Pietro
Perugino; but in the parts which make the aggregate of that work, he has
blended the result of his own observations. In his School of Athens, this
is still more strikingly the case; and in his Heliodorus we see
additional dignity and an enlargement of style.

"At this period of his life, such was the desire of his society by the
great, and such the ambition of standing forward amongst his patrons by
all who were eminent for rank and taste, that he was seduced into courtly
habits, and relaxed from that studious industry, with which he had
formerly laboured; and there are evident marks in many of his works in the
Vatican, of a decline of excellence, and that he was suffering pleasure
and indolence to rob him of his fame. Sensible of this decline in his
compositions, the powers of his mind re-assumed their energies; and that
re-animation stands marked in his unrivalled compositions of the Cartoons
which are in this country, and in the picture of the Transfiguration.

"The transcendant excellence in composition, and in appropriate
character to subject, in the cartoon of Paul preaching at Athens, has
left us to desire or expect nothing farther to be done in telling this
incident of history.

"In the composition of the death of Ananias, and in the single figure of
Elymas the sorcerer struck blind, we have the same example of excellence.
We have indeed in many of the characters and groups in the cartoons, the
various modes of reasoning, speaking, and feeling; but so blended with
nature and truth, and so precise and determined in character, that
criticism has nothing wherewith in that respect to ask for amendment.

"Had the life of this illustrious painter, which closed on his birth-day
in his thirty-seventh year, been prolonged to the period of that of
Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, or Titian, when in the space of
seventeen years at Rome he has given the world more unrivalled works of
art, than has fallen to the lot of any other painter, what an additional
excellence might we not have expected in his works for subsequent
generations to admire.

"The next distinguished artist who comes under our consideration is
Titian. The grandeur which Michael Angelo gave to the human figure, Titian
has rivalled in colour, and both were dignified during their lives with
the appellation of The Divine.

"I will pass over the many appropriate portraits which he painted of men,
and the portraits of women, though not the most distinguished for beauty,
in the character of Venus, to meet the fashion of the age in which he
lived; and notice only those works of mental power, which have raised him
to eminence in the class of refined artists. On this point, you will find
that his picture of St. Peter Martyr will justify the claim he has to
that rank.

"St. Peter the Martyr was the head of a religious sect: when on his way
from the confines of Germany to Milan with a companion, he was attacked by
one in opposition to his religious principles while passing through a
wood, and murdered. This is the subject of the picture. The prostrate
figure of the Saint, just fallen by a blow from the assassin, raises one
of his hands towards heaven, with a countenance of confidence in eternal
reward for the firmness of his faith; while the assassin grasps with his
left hand the mantle of his victim, the better to enable him, by his
uplifted sword in the other hand, to give the fatal blow to the fallen
saint. The companion is flying off in frantic dismay, and has received a
wound in the head from the assassin.

"The ferocious and determined action of the murderer bestriding the body
of the fallen saint, completes a group of figures which have not a rival
in art. The majestic trees, as well as the sable and rugged furze, form an
awful back-ground to this tragical scene, every way appropriate to the
subject. The heavenly messengers seen in the glory above, bearing the
palm branches as the emblem of reward for martyrdom, form the second
light; the first being the sky and cloud, which gives relief to the black
drapery of the wounded companion; while the rays of light from the
emanation above, sparkling on the dark branches of the trees as so many
diamonds, tie together by their light all the others from the top to the
bottom of the picture. The terror which the act of the murderer has
spread, is denoted by the speed of the horseman passing into the gloomy
recesses of a distant part of the forest.

"This picture, taken in the aggregate, is the first work in art in which
the human figure and landscape are combined as an historical landscape,
and where all the objects are the full size of nature.

"When I saw this picture at Venice in 1761, it was then in the same state
of purity as when the Bologna artists saw and studied it; and it is
recorded that Caracci declared this picture to be without fault. But we
have to lament the fatal effects which the goddess Bellona has ever
occasioned to the fine arts when she mounts her iron chariot of
destruction. When this picture fell under her rapacious power, on board a
French vessel passing down the Adriatic sea from Venice, one of our
cruisers chased the vessel into the port of Ancona, and a cannon-shot
pierced the pannel on which the picture was painted, and shivered a
portion of it into pieces.

"On its arrival at Paris, the committee of the fine arts found it
necessary to remove the painting from the pannel, and place it on canvass;
but the picture has lost the principal light.

"But to sum up Titian's powers of conception, no one has equalled him in
the propriety and fitness of colour. His pictures of St. Peter Martyr; the
David and Goliah; and the Last Supper, which is in the Escurial, stand in
the very highest rank in art. On the latter of these pictures being
finished, Titian in his letter to the King, announcing the circumstance,
says that it had been the labour of seven years. But by his original
sketch in oil colours, which I have the good fortune to possess, and by
which we may form an estimate, although the general effect and composition
are unrivalled, the characters of the heads of the apostles are not equal
to those of Leonardo da Vinci on the same subject.

"Antonio Allegri da Correggio is the sixth source, whose emanating powers
have illuminated the fine arts in the modern world. A superstitious mind,
on seeing his works, would suppose that he had received his tuition in
painting from the angels; as his figures seem to belong to another race of
being than man, and to have something too celestial for the forms of earth
to have presented to his view. Such have been the sayings of many on
seeing his works at Parma, but, to my conception, he painted from the
nature with which he was surrounded. His pictures of the Note, St.
Gierolimo, and the St. George, are evident proofs of the observation. In
the first of these pictures his mental conception shines supreme. It is
the idea of illuminating the child in the subject of our Saviour's
nativity. This splendid thought of giving light to the infant Christ,
whose divine mission was to illuminate the human mind from Pagan darkness,
no painter has since been so bold as to omit in any composition on the
same subject. The two latter pictures have all the beauties seen in the
paintings of this master, but they are deficient in appropriate character.

"The inspiring power of Correggio's works illuminated the genius of
Parmegiano, the energetic movements of whose graceful figures have never
been equalled, nor are they deficient in the moral influence of the art.
His Moses breaking the tables in a church at Parma, and his picture of the
vision of St. Gierolimo, now in England, are filled with the impress of
his intellectual powers, and stand pre-eminent over all his works.

"I have thus taken a survey of the works of art, which stand supreme among
the productions of Grecian and Italian genius, and which are the sources
from which the subsequent schools have derived most of the principles of
their celebrity.

"The papal vortex drew into it nearly all the various powers of human
refinement, and the inspiring influence of the first school in art having
centered in Rome gave it superiority, till the Constable Bourbon, by
sacking that city, obliged the fine arts to fly from their place, like
doves from the vultures: they never re-appeared at Rome but with
secondary power.

"About a century subsequent to their flight from Rome they were
re-animated, and formed the second school of art in Italy at the city of
Bologna under the Carracci, at the head of which was Ludovico. He and his
two relatives, Hanibal and Augustin Carracci, derived their principles
from the Venetian School, from Titian, Paul Veronese, and Tintoret, and
from the Lombard School of Correggio and Parmegiano. But the good sense of
Ludovico raised by them and himself a school of their own, which excelled
in the power of delineating the human figure, but which power gave to that
school more academical taste than mental character.

"Their great work was that in the convent of St. Michael in Boresco, near
Bologna; but this work has perished by damp, and the only remains on
record of what it was, are in the coarse prints which were done from
copies executed when it was in good condition. But grand as it must have
been according to the evidence of these prints, it was but an academical

"The picture by Ludovico, however, of our Saviour's Transfiguration on the
Mount, consisting of six figures double the size of life, has embraced
nearly all the points of art, and has placed the artist high in the first
class of painters.

"The masters of the Bolognese school going to Rome and other parts of
Italy, their successors at Bologna contented themselves by retailing the
several manners of the three Carracci--Guido, Domenichino and Guercino.
This system of retailing continued to descend from master to pupil, until
the school of Bologna sunk into irrecoverable imbecility.

"The most esteemed work in painting by Augustine Carracci is the Communion
of St. Jerom. It possesses grandeur of style, is bold in execution, and
the faces are not deficient in the appropriate expression of sensibility
towards the object before them. It was on the composition of this picture,
that Domenichino formed his on the same subject, so much celebrated as to
be considered next in merit to Raphael's Transfiguration. But fine as it
is admitted to be, we must say, as a borrowed idea, it lessens the merit
of the artist's originality of mind.

"The finest picture by Guido is in a church at Genoa, where he has brought
to a focus all the force of his powers in grace and beauty, with an
expression and execution of pencil rarely to be met with in art. The
subject is the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The angels, who surround the
Virgin, have something in their faces so celestial, that they seem as if
they had really descended from Heaven, and sat to the artist while he
painted them. The Virgin herself seems to have had the same complacency.
The characters of the Apostles' heads are so exquisitely drawn and
painted, as to be without competition in the works of any other painter.

"The most esteemed picture by Guercino is is that of Santa Petranella,
which he painted for St. Peter's Church, at Rome.

"But, Gentlemen, if you aspire to excellence in your profession, you must
not rest your future studies on the excellence of any individual, however
exalted his name or genius; but, like the industrious bee, survey the
whole face of nature, and sip the sweets from every flower. When thus
enriched, lay up your acquisitions for future use; and with that
enrichment from Nature's inexhaustible source, examine the great works of
art to animate your feelings, and to excite your emulation. When you are
thus mentally enriched, and your hand practised to obey the powers of
your will, you will then find your pencils, or your chisels, as magic
wands, calling into view creations of your own, to adorn your name and
your country.

"I cannot, however, close this Discourse, without acknowledging a debt due
from this Academy, as well as that which is due to the Academy itself.
Soon after His present Majesty had ascended the throne, his benign regard
for the prosperity of the fine arts in these realms was manifested by his
gracious commands to establish this favoured Institution.

"The heart of every artist, and of the friend of art, glowed with mutual
congratulation to see a British King, for the first time, at the head of
the fine arts. His Majesty nominated forty members guardians to his infant
academy; and that they have been faithful to the trust which he graciously
reposed in them, the several apartments under this roof sufficiently
testify. The professors are highly endowed with accomplishments and
scientific knowledge in the several branches to which they are
respectively appointed; and the funds able to render relief to the
indigent and decayed artists, their widows and children.

"Who can reflect for a moment on the rare advantages here held out for
the instruction of youthful genius, and the aid given to the decayed,
their widows and helpless offspring, without feeling the grateful emotions
of the heart rise towards a patriot King, for giving to the arts this home
within the walls of a stately mansion, and towards the members of this
Academy, who, as his faithful guardians, have so ably fulfilled the
purposes for which the Institution was formed.

"United to what the Academicians have done, and are doing, another
honourable establishment, sanctioned by His Majesty for promoting the fine
arts, has been created and composed of noblemen and gentlemen whose known
zeal for the success of refined art is so conspicuous and honourable to

"Such have been the efforts to give splendour to the fine arts in this
country, and such are the results which have attended these exertions;
that knowing, as we do, the movements of the arts on the Continent, I may
confidently say, that our annual exhibitions, both as to number and
taste, engrafted on nature and the fruit of mental conception, are such
that all the combined efforts in art on the continent of Europe in the
same time have not been able to equal. To such attainments, were those in
power but to bestow the crumbs from the national table to cherish the fine
arts, we might pledge ourselves, that the genius of Britain would, in a
few years, dispute the prize with the proudest periods of Grecian or
Italian art. But, Gentlemen, let us not despair; we have heard from this
place, the promise of patronage from the Prince Regent, the propitious
light of a morning that will open into perfect day, invigorating the
growth of all around--the assurance of a new era to the elevation of the
fine arts, in the United Kingdom."

Chap. XIII.

    Mr. West's Visit to Paris.--His distinguished Reception by the
    Members of the French Government.--Anecdote of Mr. Fox.--Origin
    of the British Institution.--Anecdotes of Mr. Fox and Mr.
    Percival.--Anecdote of the King.--History of the Picture of Christ
    Healing the Sick.--Extraordinary Success attending the Exhibition of
    the Copy in America.

During the Peace of Amiens, Mr. West, like every other person who
entertained any feeling of admiration for the fine arts, was desirous of
seeing that magnificent assemblage of paintings and sculptures, which
constituted the glory and the shame of Buonaparte's administration. He
accordingly furnished himself with letters from Lord Hawkesbury, then
Secretary of State, to Mr. Merry, the British representative at the
consular court; and also with introductions from Monsieur Otto, the French
minister in London, to the most distinguished members of his government.

On delivering Lord Hawkesbury's letters to Mr. Merry, that gentleman
informed him that one of the French ministers had, the preceding evening,
mentioned that Monsieur Otto had written in such terms respecting him,
that he and his colleagues were resolved to pay him every mark of the most
distinguished attention. Mr. Merry, therefore, advised Mr. West to call on
the several ministers himself with the letters, and leave them with his
card. As the object for which the Artist had procured these introductions
was only to obtain, with more facility, access to the different galleries,
he was rather embarrassed by this information; and would have declined
delivering the letters altogether; but Mr. Merry said, that, as his
arrival in Paris was already known to the government, he could not with
any propriety avoid paying his respects to the ministers.

After delivering his letters and card accordingly, the hotel where he
resided was, in the course of the week, visited by all the most
distinguished of the French statesmen; and he had the honour of being
invited to dine with them successively. At these parties, the
conversation turned very much on the importance of the arts to all nations
aspiring to fame and eminence; and he very soon perceived, that the vast
collection of trophies which adorned the Louvre, had not been formed so
much for ostentatious exhibition, as with a view to furnish models of
study for artists; constituting, in fact, but the elementary part of a
grand system of national decoration designed by Buonaparte, and by which
he expected to leave such memorials to posterity as would convince the
world that his magnificence was worthy of his military achievements.

It happened at this particular period, that the galleries of the Louvre
were closed to the public for some time, but a deputation from the Central
Administration of the Arts, under whose care the collections were
particularly placed, waited on Mr. West, and informed him, that orders
were given to admit him and his friends at all times. Denon was at the
head of this deputation; and in the course of the conversation which then
took place, that accomplished enthusiast explained to Mr. West more
circumstantially the extensive views entertained by the French government
with respect to the arts, mentioning several of the superb schemes which
were formed by the First Consul for the decoration of the capital.

This information made a very deep impression on the mind of Mr. West, and
he felt extremely sorrowful when he reflected, that hitherto the British
government had done nothing decidedly with a view to promote the
cultivation of those arts, which may justly be said to constitute the
olive wreath on the brows of every great nation. Mr. Fox and Sir Francis
Baring, who were at this same time in Paris, happened soon after the
departure of Monsieur Denon to call, and they went with Mr. West to the
Louvre, where, as they were walking in the gallery, he explained to them
what he had heard. An interesting discussion took place in consequence;
and Mr. West endeavoured to explain in what manner he considered the
cultivation of the fine arts of the utmost importance even in a commercial
point of view to England.

Mr. Fox paid great attention to what he said, and observed, in a tone of
regret, "I have been rocked in the cradle of politics from my infancy, and
never before was so much struck with the advantage, even in a political
bearing, of the fine arts to the prosperity, as well as the renown, of a
kingdom; and I do assure you, Mr. West, that if ever I have it in my power
to influence our government to promote the arts, the conversation that we
have had to-day shall not be forgotten." Sir Francis Baring also concurred
in opinion, that it was really become an imperious duty, on the part of
the British nation, to do something for a class of art that, undoubtedly,
tended to improve the beauty, and multiply the variety of manufactures,
independent of all monumental considerations.

When Mr. West had returned home, the subject was renewed with Sir Francis
Baring; and he endeavoured to set on foot the formation of a society,
which should have the encouragement of the line arts for its object, and
thought that government might be induced to give it pecuniary assistance.
Sir Thomas Barnard took up the idea with great zeal; and several meetings
took place at Mr. West's house, at which Mr. Charles Long and Sir Abraham
Hume were present, which terminated in the formation of that association
that now constitutes the British Institution, in Pall Mall. Mr. Long
undertook to confer with Mr. Pitt, who was then again in power, on the
subject, and the proposal was received by him with much apparent
sincerity. But a disastrous series of public events about the same time
commenced: the attention of the Minister was absorbed in the immediate
peril of the state; and he fell a victim to his anxieties, without having
had it in his power to further the objects of the association.

At the death of his great rival, Mr. Fox came into office; and he soon
after called on Mr. West, and, reminding him of the conversation in the
gallery of the Louvre, said, "It is my earnest intention, as soon as I am
firmly seated on the saddle, to redeem the promise that I then made." But
he also was frustrated in his intentions, and fell a sacrifice to disease,
without being able to take any step in the business. In the mean time,
the Shaksperian Gallery was offered for sale; and the gentlemen interested
in this project raised a sum of money, by subscription, and purchased that
building with the intention of making it the approach to a proposed
national gallery.

From Mr. Percival the scheme met with a far different reception. He
listened to the representations which Mr. West made to him with a
repressive coldness, it might almost be said with indifference, had it not
been marked with a decided feeling; for he seemed to consider the whole
objects of the British Institution, and the reasons adduced in support of
the claims which the interests of the arts had on government, as the
visionary purposes of vain enthusiasts. It was not within the small
compass of that respectable individual's capacity to consider any generous
maxim as founded in what _he_ deemed wisdom, or to comprehend, that the
welfare of nations could be promoted by any other means than precedents of
office, decisions of courts, and Acts of Parliament. An incident,
however, occurred, which induced him to change his opinion of the utility
of the fine arts.

At the anniversary dinner, in 1812, before the opening of the Academy, he
was present, with other public characters. On the right hand of the
President was seated the Lord Chancellor Eldon, on his left Lord
Liverpool, and on the right of the Chancellor Mr. Percival. A conversation
took place, naturally inspired by the circumstances of the meeting, in
which Mr. West recapitulated what he had formerly so often urged; and Mr.
Percival, perceiving the impression which his observations made on those
to whom they were particularly addressed, requested him to put his ideas
on the subject in writing, and he would lay it before the Prince Regent.
This took place on Saturday; on Wednesday Mr. West delivered his memorial;
on the Friday following Mr. Percival was assassinated; and since that time
nothing farther has been done in the business.

It is perhaps necessary to notice here, that when it was first proposed to
the King to sanction the establishment of the British Institution with
his patronage, he made some objection, conceiving that it was likely to
interfere with the Royal Academy, which he justly considered with the
partiality of a parent. But on Mr. West explaining to him that the two
institutions were very different in their objects, the Academy being
formed for the instruction of pupils, and the other for the encouragement
of artists arrived at maturity in their profession, His Majesty readily
consented to receive the deputation of the association appointed to wait
on him in form to solicit his patronage. Except, however, the honour of
the King's name, the British Institution, formed expressly for the
improvement of the public taste with a view to the encouragement of the
arts, has received neither aid nor countenance as yet from the state.

Before concluding this summary account of the origin and establishment of
the British Institution, it may be expected of me to take some notice of
the circumstances connected with the purchase and exhibition of Mr. West's
picture of Christ Healing the Sick in the Temple; an event which formed
an era in the history of the arts in Britain, and contributed in no small
degree to promote the interests of the Institution. Perhaps the exhibition
of no work of art ever attracted so much attention, or was attended with
so much pecuniary advantage to the proprietors; independent of which, the
history of the picture is itself interesting.

Some years before, a number of gentlemen, of the society of Quakers in
Philadelphia, set on foot a subscription for the purpose of erecting an
hospital for the sick poor in that city. Among others to whom they applied
for contributions in this country, they addressed themselves to Mr. West.
He informed them, however, that his circumstances did not permit him to
give so liberal a sum as he could wish, but that if they would provide a
proper place in the building, he would paint a picture for it as his
subscription, which perhaps would prove of more advantage than all the
money he could afford to bestow, and with this intention he began the
_Christ Healing the Sick_. While the work was going forward, it attracted
a great deal of notice in his rooms, and finally had the effect of
inducing the association of the British Institution to make him an offer
of three thousand guineas for the picture. Mr. West accepted the offer,
but on condition that he should be at liberty to make a copy for the
hospital at Philadelphia, and to introduce into the copy such alterations
and improvements as he might think fit. This copy he also executed, and
the success which attended the exhibition of it in America was so
extraordinary, that the proceeds have enabled the committee of the
hospital to enlarge the building for the reception of no less than thirty
additional patients.

Chap. XIV.

    Reflections.--Offer of Knighthood.--Mr. Wyatt chosen President of the
    Academy.--Restoration of Mr. West to the Chair.--Proceedings
    respecting the Pictures for Windsor Castle.--Mr. West's Letter to the
    King.--Orders to proceed with the Pictures.--The King's Illness.--Mr.
    West's Allowance cut off,--and the Pictures countermanded.--Death of
    Mrs. West.--Death of the Artist.

Hitherto it has been my pleasant task to record the series of prosperous
incidents by which Mr. West was raised to the highest honours of his
profession; and had he survived the publication of this volume, I should
have closed the narrative with the last chapter. But his death, which
took place after the proof was sent to me for his inspection, has
removed an obligation which I had promised to respect during his life,
while it was understood between us that the circumstances to which it
related were to be carefully preserved for a posthumous publication. The
topics are painful, and calculated to afford a far different view of
human nature from that which I have ever desired to contemplate: I do
not allude to those things, connected with political matters, in which
Mr. West was only by accident a witness, but of transactions which
personally affected himself.

During the time that he was engaged in the series of great pictures for
Windsor Castle, he enjoyed, as I have already mentioned, an easy and
confidential intercourse with the King, and I ought, perhaps, to have
stated earlier, that when he was chosen President of the Royal Academy,
the late Duke of Gloucester called on him, and mentioned that His Majesty
was desirous to know if the honour of knighthood would be acceptable. Mr.
West immediately replied, that no man had a greater respect for political
honours and distinctions than himself, but that he really thought he had
already earned by his pencil more eminence than could be conferred on him
by that rank. "The chief value," said he, "of titles are, that they serve
to preserve in families a respect for those principles by which such
distinctions were originally obtained. But simple knighthood, to a man who
is at least already as well known as he could ever hope to be from that
honour, is not a legitimate object of ambition. To myself, then, Your
Royal Highness must perceive the title could add no dignity, and as it
would perish with myself, it could add none to my family. But were I
possessed of a fortune, independent of my profession, sufficient to enable
my posterity to maintain the rank, I think that with my hereditary
descent, and the station I occupy among artists, a more permanent title
than that of knighthood might become a desirable object. As it is,
however, that cannot be, and I have been thus explicit with Your Royal
Highness that no misconception may exist on the subject." The Duke was not
only pleased with the answer, but took Mr. West cordially by both the
hands, and said, "You have justified the opinion which the King has of
you, and His Majesty will be delighted with your answer;" and when Mr.
West next saw the King his reception was unusually warm and friendly.

But notwithstanding all these enviable circumstances, Mr. West was doomed
to share some of the consequences which naturally attach to all persons
in immediate connection with the great. After his return from Paris, it
was alleged, that the honourable reception which he allowed himself to
receive from the French statesmen had offended the King. The result of
this was the temporary elevation of the late Mr. Wyatt to the President's
chair, merely, as I think, because that gentleman was then the royal
architect; for it would be difficult to point out the merits which, as an
artist, entitled him to that honour. But the election, so far from giving
satisfaction in the quarter where it was expected to be the most
acceptable, only excited displeasure; and Mr. West was, in due time,
restored to his proper seat in the Academy.

This, as a public affair, attracted a good deal of notice at the time; but
it was, in its effects, of far less consequence to Mr. West than a private
occurrence, originating in circumstances that tend to throw a light on
some of the proceedings that were deemed expedient to be adopted during
the occasional eclipses of the King's understanding.

For upwards of twenty years Mr. West had received all his orders from the
King in person: the prices of the pictures which he painted were adjusted
with His Majesty; and the whole embellishment of Windsor Castle, in what
related to the scriptural and historical pictures, was concerted between
them, without the interference of any third party. But, in the summer of
1801, when the Court was at Weymouth, Mr. Wyatt called on Mr. West, and
said, that he was requested by authority to inform him, that the pictures
painting for His Majesty's chapel at Windsor should be suspended till
further orders.

Mr. West was much surprised at this communication: but, upon interrogating
Mr. Wyatt as to his authority, he found that it was not from the King; and
he afterwards discovered that the orders were given at Weymouth by the
Queen, the late Earl of Roslyn being present. What was the state of His
Majesty's health at that time is now a matter of historical curiosity; but
this extraordinary proceeding deserves particular notice. It rendered the
studies of the best part of the Artist's life useless, and deprived him
of that honourable provision, the fruit of his talents and industry, on
which he had counted for the repose of his declining years. For some time
it affected him deeply, and he was at a loss what steps to take; at last,
however, in reflecting on the marked friendship and favour which the King
had always shown him, he addressed to His Majesty a letter, of which the
following is a copy of the rough draft, being the only one preserved: I
give it verbatim:--

"_The following is the Substance of a Letter I had the honour of writing
to His Majesty, taken at Weymouth, by the conveyance of Mr. James Wyatt._

"To the King's Most Excellent Majesty.

"Gracious Sire, Newman St. Sept. 26. 1801.

"On the fifteenth of last month Mr. Wyatt signified to me Your Majesty's
pleasure,--'That the pictures by me now painting for His Majesty's chapel
at Windsor, should be suspended until further orders.' I feel it a duty I
owe to that communication, to lay before Your Majesty, by the return of
Mr. Wyatt to Weymouth, a statement of those pictures which I have painted
to add to those for the chapel, mentioned in the account I had the honour
to transmit to Your Majesty in 1797 by the hands of Mr. Gabriel Mathias.
Since that period I have finished three pictures, began several others,
and composed the remainder of the subjects for the chapel, on the progress
of Revealed Religion, from its commencement to its completion; and the
whole arranged with that circumspection from the Four Dispensations, into
five-and-thirty compositions, that the most scrupulous amongst the various
religious sects in this country, about admitting pictures into churches,
must acknowledge them as truths, or the Scriptures fabulous. Those are
subjects so replete with dignity, character, and expression, as demanded
the historian, the commentator, and the accomplished painter, to bring
them into view. Your Majesty's gracious complacency and commands for my
pencil on that extensive subject stimulated my humble abilities, and I
commenced the work with zeal and enthusiasm. Animated by your commands,
gracious Sire, I renewed my professional studies, and burnt my midnight
lamp to attain and give that polish at the close of Your Majesty's chapel,
which has since marked my subsequent scriptural pictures. Your Majesty's
known zeal for promoting religion, and the elegant arts, had enrolled your
virtues with all the civilized world; and your gracious protection of my
pencil had given to it a celebrity throughout Europe, and spread a
knowledge of the great work on Revealed Religion, which my pencil was
engaged on, under Your Majesty's patronage: it is that work which all
Christendom looks with a complacency for its completion.

"Being distinguished by Your Majesty's benignity at an early period as a
painter, and chosen by those professors highly endowed in the three
branches of the fine arts to fill their highest station, and sanctioned by
Your Majesty's signature in their choice;--in that station, I have been,
for more than ten years, zealous in promoting merit in those three
branches of art, which constitutes the views of Your Majesty's
establishment for cultivating their growth. The ingenious artists have
received my professional aid, and my galleries and my purse have been open
to their studies and their distresses. The breath of envy, nor the whisper
of detraction, never defiled my lips, nor the want of morality my
character, and, through life, a strict adherer to truth; a zealous admirer
of Your Majesty's virtues and goodness of heart, the exalted virtues of
Her Majesty the Queen, and the high accomplishments of others of Your
Majesty's illustrious family, have been the theme of my delight; and their
gracious complacency my greatest pleasure and consolation for many years,
with which I was honoured by many instances of friendly notice, and their
warm attachment to the fine arts.

"With these feelings of high sensibility, with which my breast has ever
been inspired, I feel with great concern the suspension given by Mr. Wyatt
to the work on Revealed Religion, my pencil had advanced to adorn
Windsor-Castle. If, gracious Sire, this suspension is meant to be
permanent, myself and the fine arts have to lament. For to me it will be
ruinous, and, to the energetic artist, in the highest branches of his
professional pursuits--a damp in the hope of more exalted minds, of
patronage in the refined departments in painting. But I have this in
store, for the grateful feeling of my heart, that, in the thirty-five
years by which my pencil has been honoured by Your Majesty's commands, a
great body of historical and scriptural compositions will be found in Your
Majesty's possession, in the churches, and in the country. Their
professional claims may be humble, but they have been produced by a loyal
subject of Your Majesty, which may give them some claim to respect,
similar works not having been attained before in this country by a
subject; and this I will assert as my claim, that Your Majesty did not
bestow your patronage and commands on an ungrateful and a lazy man, but on
him who had a high sense of Your Majesty's honours and Your Majesty's
interests in all cases, as a loyal and dutiful subject, as well as
servant, to Your Majesty's gracious commands; and I humbly beg Your
Majesty to be assured that

"I am,
"With profound duty,
"Your Majesty's grateful

To this letter Mr. West received no answer; but on the return of the Court
to Windsor, he went to the Castle, and obtained a private audience of the
King on the subject, by which it appeared that His Majesty was not at all
acquainted with the communication of which Mr. Wyatt was the bearer, nor
had he received Mr. West's letter. However, the result of the interview
was, that the King said, "Go on with your work, West: go on with the
pictures, and I will take care of you."

This was the last interview that Mr. West was permitted to enjoy with his
early, constant, and to him truly royal patron; but he continued to
execute the pictures, and in the usual quarterly payments received the
thousand pounds _per ann._. till His Majesty's final superannuation,
when, without any intimation whatever, on calling to receive it, he was
informed that it had been stopped, and that the intended design of the
chapel of Revealed Religion was suspended.

This was a severe stroke of misfortune to the Artist, now far advanced in
life, but he submitted to it with resignation. He took no measures, nor
employed any influence, either to procure the renewal of the quarterly
allowance, or the payment of the balance of his account. But being thus
cast off from his best anchor in his old age, he still possessed firmness
of mind to think calmly of his situation. He considered that a taste for
the fine arts had been greatly diffused by means of the exhibitions of the
Royal Academy, and the eclat which the French had given to pictures and
statues by making them objects of national conquest; and having thus lost
the patronage of the King, he determined to appeal to the public. With
this view he resolved to paint several large pictures; and in the
prosecution of this determination, he has been amply indemnified for the
effects of that poor economy that frustrated the nation from obtaining an
honourable monument of the taste of the age, and the liberality of a
popular king.

Without imputing motives to any party concerned, or indeed without being
at all acquainted with the circumstances that gave rise to it, I should
mention that a paper was circulated among the higher classes of society,
in which an account was stated of the amount of the money paid by His
Majesty, in the course of more than thirty years, to Mr. West. In that
paper the interval of time was not at all considered, nor the expense of
living, nor the exclusive preference which Mr. West had given to His
Majesty's orders, but the total sum;--which, shown by itself, and taken
into view without any of these explanatory circumstances, was very
large, and calculated to show that Mr. West might really indeed _do_
without the thousand pounds a-year. In order, however, to place this
proceeding in its true light, I have inserted in the Appendix an account
of the works executed and designed by Mr. West for the King, and the
prices allowed for them as charged in the audited account, of which the
King himself had approved.

Independent of the relation which this paper bears to the subject of these
memoirs, it is a curious document, and will be interesting as such, as
long as the history of the progress of the arts in this country excites
the attention of posterity.

I have now but little to add to these memoirs. But they would be deficient
in an important event, were I to omit noticing the death of Mrs. West,
which took place on the 6th of December, 1817. The malady with which she
had been afflicted for several years smoothed the way for her relief from
suffering, and softened the pang of sorrow for her loss. She was in many
respects a woman of an elevated character; and her death, after a union of
more than half a century, was to her husband one of those irreparable
changes in life, for which no equivalent can ever be obtained.

The last illness of Mr. West himself was slow and languishing. It was
rather a general decay of nature, than any specific malady; and he
continued to enjoy his mental faculties in perfect distinctness upon all
subjects as long as the powers of articulation could be exercised. To his
merits as an artist and a man I may be deemed partial, nor do I wish to be
thought otherwise. I have enjoyed his frankest confidence for many years,
and received from his conversation the advantages of a more valuable
species of instruction, relative to the arts, than books alone can supply
to one who is not an artist. While I therefore admit that the partiality
of friendship may tincture my opinion of his character, I am yet confident
that the general truth of the estimate will be admitted by all who knew
the man, or are capable to appreciate the merits of his works.

In his deportment, Mr. West was mild and considerate: his eye was keen,
and his mind apt; but he was slow and methodical in his reflections, and
the sedateness of his remarks must often in his younger years have seemed
to strangers singularly at variance with the vivacity of his look. That
vivacity, however, was not the result of any peculiar animation of
temperament; it was rather the illumination of his genius; for when his
features were studiously considered, they appeared to resemble those
which we find associated with dignity of character in the best
productions of art.

As an artist, he will stand in the first rank. His name will be classed
with those of Michael Angelo and Raphael; but he possessed little in
common with either. As the former has been compared to Homer, and the
latter to Virgil, in Shakspeare we shall perhaps find the best likeness to
the genius of Mr. West. He undoubtedly possessed, but in a slight degree,
that peculiar energy and physical expression of character in which Michael
Angelo excelled, and in a still less that serene sublimity which
constitutes the charm of Raphael's great productions. But he was their
equal in the fulness, the perspicuity, and the propriety of his
compositions. In all his great works the scene intended to be brought
before the spectator is represented in such a manner that the imagination
has nothing to supply. The incident, the time and the place, are there as
we think they must have been; and it is this wonderful force of conception
which renders the sketches of Mr. West so much more extraordinary than his
finished pictures. In the finished pictures we naturally institute
comparisons in colouring, and in beauty of figure, and in a thousand
details which are never noticed in the sketches of this illustrious
artist. But although his powers of conception were so superior,--equal in
their excellence to Michael Angelo's energy, or Raphael's grandeur,--still
in the inferior departments of drawing and colouring, he was one of the
greatest artists of his age; it was not, however, till late in life that
he executed any of those works in which he thought the splendour of the
Venetian school might be judiciously imitated.

At one time he intended to collect his works together, and to form a
general exhibition of them all. Had he accomplished this, the greatness
and versatility of his talents would have been established beyond all
controversy; for unquestionably he was one of those great men, whose
genius cannot be justly estimated by particular works, but only by a
collective inspection of the variety, the extent, and the number of their

On the 10th of March Mr. West expired without a struggle, at his house
in Newman Street, and on the 29th he was interred with great funeral
pomp in St. Paul's Cathedral. An account of the ceremony is inserted in
the Appendix.


No. I.

_The Account: of Pictures painted by Benjamin West for His Majesty, by his
Gracious Commands, from 1768 to 1780. A True Copy from Mr. West's Account
Books, with their several Charges and Dates_.

When painted.       SUBJECTS.                     £.   s.

1769.  1. Regulus, his Departure from Rome        420  0
       2. Hamilcar swearing his Son
          Hannibal at the Altar                   420  0
1771   3. Bayard at the moment of his death
          receiving the Constable Bourbon         315  0
       4. The Death of Epaminondas                315  0
       5. The Death of General Wolfe              315  0
1772.  6. Cyrus receiving the King of
          Armenia and family prisoners            157 10
       7. Germanicus receiving Sagastis
          and his Daughter prisoners              157 10
       8. The portrait of Her Majesty,
          the Kit-cat size.
       9. The portrait of His Majesty,
          the same size, (companion,)              84  0
      10. Six of the Royal Children in one
          picture, size of life                   315  0
      11. Her Majesty and Princess Royal,
          in one picture                          157  0
      12. His R. H. the Prince of Wales
          and Prince Frederic (Duke of
          York), in one picture whole
          length                                  210  0
      13. A second picture of Ditto, for
          the Empress of Russia, sent by
          His Majesty                             210  0
      14. A whole-length portrait of His
          Majesty,--Lord Amherst and
          the Marquis of Lothian in the
          back-ground.                            262 10
      15. A whole-length portrait of Her
          Majesty, with all the Royal
          Children in the back-ground             262 10
      16. Whole-length portraits of Prince
          William (Duke of Clarence) and
          Prince Edward (Duke of Kent),
          in one picture                          262 10
1779. 17. Whole-length portraits of Prince
          Adolphus and his sisters, in one
          picture                                 262 10

From the year 1769 the whole of the above pictures to 1779 were painted
and paid for by His Majesty through the hands of Mr. R. Daulton and Mr.
G. Mathias.

1780. At this period His Majesty was graciously pleased to sanction my
pencil with his commands for a great work on Revealed Religion, from its
commencement to its completion, for pictures to embellish his intended New
Chapel in Windsor Castle. I arranged the several subjects from the four
Dispensations. His Majesty was pleased to approve the arrangement
selected, as did several of the Bishops in whose hands he placed them for
their consideration, and they highly approved the same.

His Majesty then honoured me with his commands, and did at that time, the
better to enable me to carry it into effect, order his deputy privy-purse,
Mr. G. Mathias, to pay me one thousand a year by quarterly payments, which
was regularly paid as commanded; and the following are the subjects which
I have painted from the Four Dispensations, for the Chapel, of various


When painted.           SUBJECTS.                £. s.

1780.      1. The expulsion of Adam and Eve
              from Paradise                      535  0
           2. The Deluge                         525  0
           3. Noah and his Family sacrificing    525  0


           4. The Call of Abraham going to
              sacrifice his son Isaac            600  0
           5. The Birth of Jacob and Esau        525  0
           6. Joseph and his brothers in Egypt,
              composed, not painted.
           7. The Death of Jacob surrounded
              by his sons in Egypt, ditto.


           8. The Call of Moses, his Rod
              turned into a Serpent before the
              Burning Bush, composed, but not
           9. Moses and his brother Aaron
              before Pharaoh, their Rods turned
              into Serpents                     1050  0
          10. Moses destroying Pharaoh said
              his host in the Red Sea           1050  0
          11. Moses receiving the Laws on
              Mount Sinai                       1260  0
          12. Moses consecrating Aaron and
              his sons to the priesthood        1050  0
          13. Moses showing the Brazen Serpent
              to the infirm to be healed        1050  0
          14. The Death of Aaron on Mount
              Hor, composed, but not painted.
          15. Moses presenting Joshua to
              Eleazar the priest, and Congregation,
              as commanded, composed,
              but not painted.
          16. Moses sees the Promised Land
              from the top of Mount Abarim,
              and Death, a sketch in oil colours.
          17. Joshua commanding the Ark
              and Congregation to pass the
              river into the Promised Land, a
              sketch in oil colour.

      18. The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah       525  0
      19. The prophet Samuel anointing
          David the son of Jesse, a sketch.
      20. The prophesying of Zacharias at
          the birth of John his son              525  0
      21. The Angels announcing the Birth
          of our Saviour, a cartoon for a
          painted-glass window, by Mr.
          Forrest                                525  0
      22. The Birth of our Saviour, ditto,
          for painted glass, by ditto            525  0
      23. The Wise Man's Offering, a
          cartoon for ditto                      525  0
      24. John the Baptist baptizing our
          Saviour, on whom the Holy
          Ghost descends                        1050  0
      25. Christ's Temptation and Victory
          in the Wilderness, a sketch.
      26. Christ beginneth to preach at
          Nazareth, his native place, a
      27. Christ healeth the Sick and
          Blind; &c. in the Temple              1050  0
      28. The Last Supper; which picture
          His Majesty presented to St.
          George's Chapel at Windsor             735  0
      29. A Last Supper, painted for the
          King's Chapel                          735  0
      30. The Crucifixion, a study in oil
          colour, for the glass painting by
          Messrs. Jervis and Forrest to
          colour from, and the cartoon the
          size of the window                    1050  0
      31. The west end window of St.
          George's Chapel, 28 feet wide by
          36 high, for them to draw the
          figures from on the glass             1050  0
      32. The Resurrection, a study in
          oil colour, for glass painting by
          Messrs. Jervis and Forrest to
          colour from                            525  0
      33. And the cartoon the size of the
          window at the east end of St.
          George's Chapel, 28 feet wide by
          36 high, to draw from on the glass    1050  0
             And two side pictures               525  0
     34. The Assumption of our Saviour,
         for the King's Chapel                  1050  0
     35. Peter's first Sermon, or the
         Apostles receiving the Cloven
         Tongues                                1050  0
     36. Paul and Barnabas rejecting the
         Jews, and receiving the Gentiles       1050  0
                                    [Total]  £21,705  0

_Painted for His Majesty's State Rooms in Windsor Castle the following
Pictures from the History of Edward III_.

      1. Edward III. embracing his Son on
         the field of battle at Cressy          1365  0
      2. The Installation of the most noble
         Order of the Garter                    1365  0
      3. Edward the Black Prince receiving
         John King of France and his
         son as prisoners                       1365  0
      4. St. George destroying the Dragon        630  0
      5. Queen Philippa defeats David
         King of Scotland, at Nevil's
         Cross, and takes him prisoner           525  0
      6. Queen Philippa soliciting Edward
         III. to save St. Pierre and the
         brave burgesses of Calais               525  0
      7. Edward III. forcing the passage of
         the river Somme in France               630  0
      8. Edward III. crowning Ribemont
         at Calais                               525  0
                                     [Total]   £6930  0

      By His Majesty's commands I made
      nine designs for the ceiling in the
      Queen's Lodge, Windsor, for Mr.
      Haas to work the ceilings from.
      Viz. 1. Genius inspiring the fine arts
      to adorn the useful arts and sciences.
      2. Agriculture. 3. Manufactures.
      4. Commerce. 5. Botany. 6. Chemistry.
      7. Celestial Science. 8. Terrestrial
      Science; and 9. To adorn
      Empire                                     525  0

      Myself and son, with Mr. Rebecca,
      for painting transparent and water
      coloured pictures to adorn the marble
      gallery at a great evening entertainment
      in the Castle given by Their
      Majesties to the nobility                  250  0

      Painted for His Majesty a whole-length
      portrait of Prince Octavius
      holding the King's sword                    73 10

      Painted for His Majesty the Apotheosis
      of Prince Octavius and Prince
      Alfred, in one picture, the size of life   315  0

      A portrait of Prince Augustus, half
      length, for the Queen.

      A second whole length of Her
      Majesty, with all the Royal children
      in the back-ground, which was placed
      in Windsor Castle, but at present in
      the Queen's Palace, London                 262 10

      A picture of Peter denying our,
      Saviour, of which His Majesty honoured
      me by accepting, two half-length
      figures, the size of life.
                                      [Total]  £1426  0

This is a true statement of the numbers of pictures, cartoons, and
drawings of designs, and sketches of scripture subjects, as well as
historical events, British as well as Greek, Roman, and other nations,
with which I had been honoured by the King's commands, from 1768, to 5th
January 1801, to paint for His Majesty; and the charges I made for each
was by him most graciously acknowledged, when my account was audited and
allowed by Mr. G. Mathias, His Majesty's privy purse, who settled for
debtor and creditor the whole amount between the above dates.

Benjamin West.

Appendix No. II.

_A Catalogue of thee Works of Mr. West_.





Wolfe, the first and second.

Cyrus and the King of Armenia with his Family, captives.

Germanicus and Segestus with his Daughter, captives.

The Apotheosis of Prince Alfred and Prince Octavius.

The picture of the Damsel accusing Peter.

The Queen, with the Princess Royal, in one picture.

Prince Ernest and Prince Augustus; Princesses Augusta, Elizabeth, and
Mary, in one picture.

Prince William and Prince Edward, in one picture.

Prince Octavius.

The whole-length portrait of His Majesty in Regimentals, with Lord Amherst
and the Marquis of Lothian on Horseback, in the back-ground.

The whole-length portrait of Her Majesty, with the fourteen Royal

The same repeated.

The Battle of Cressy, when Edward III. embraced his son.

The Battle of Poitiers, when John King of France is brought prisoner to
the Prince.

The Institution of the Order of the Garter.

The Battle of Nevil's Cross.

The Burgesses of Calais before Edward III.

Edward III. crossing the Somme.

Edward III. crowning Ribemont, at Calais.

St. George destroying the Dragon.

The design of our Saviour's Resurrection, painted in colours, with the
Women going to the Sepulchre; also Peter and John.

The cartoon from the above design, for the east window, painted in the
Collegiate Church of Windsor, on glass, 36 feet high by 28 wide.

The design of our Saviour's Crucifixion, painted in colours.

The cartoon from the above design, for the west window in the Collegiate
Church, painting on glass, 36 feet by 28.

The cartoon of the Angels appearing to the Shepherds, ditto for ditto.

The cartoon of the Nativity of our Saviour, for ditto, ditto.

The cartoon of the Magi presenting Gifts to our Saviour, for ditto, ditto.

The picture, in water-colours, representing Hymen leading and dancing with
the Hours before Peace and and Plenty.

The picture, in water-colours, of Boys with the Insignia of Riches.

The companion, with Boys, and the Insignia of the Fine Arts.

Genius calling forth the Fine Arts to adorn Manufactures and Commerce, and
recording the names of eminent men in those pursuits.

Husbandry aided by Arts and Commerce.

Peace and Riches cherishing the Fine Arts.

Manufactory giving support to Industry, in Boys and Girls.

Marine and inland Navigation enriching Britannia.

Printing aided by the Fine Arts.

Astronomy making new discoveries in the Heavens.

The Four Quarters of the World bringing Treasures to the Lap of Britannia.

Civil and Military Architecture defending and adorning Empire.

The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise.

The Deluge.

Noah sacrificing.

Abraham and his son Isaac going to sacrifice.

The Birth of Jacob and Esau.

The Death of Jacob in Egypt, surrounded by his Twelve Sons.

Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh; their Rods turned into Serpents.

Pharaoh and his Host lost in the Red Sea, while Moses stretches his Rod
over them.

Moses receiving the Law on Mount Sinai.

Moses consecrateth Aaron and his Sons to the Priesthood.

Moses showeth the Brazen Serpent to the People to be healed.

Moses shown the Promised Land from the top of Mount Pisgah.

Joshua crossing the River Jordan with the Ark.

The Twelve Tribes drawing Lots for the Lands of their Inheritance, 6
feet by 10.

The Call of Isaiah and Jeremiah, each 5 by 14.

David anointed King, 6 by 10.

Christ's Birth, 6 by 10.

The naming of John; or, the Prophecies of Zacharias, ditto.

The Kings bringing Presents to Christ, 6 by 12.

Christ among the Doctors, 6 by 10.

The Descent of the Holy Ghost on our Saviour at the River Jordan, 10 by

Christ healing the Sick in the Temple, ditto.

Christ's Last Supper, 6 by 10.

Christ's Crucifixion, 16 by 28.

Christ's Ascension, 12 by 18.

The Inspiration of St. Peter, 10 by 14.

Paul and Barnabas rejecting the Jews, and receiving the Gentiles, ditto.

John called to write the Revelation, 6 by 10.

Saints prostrating themselves before the Throne of God.

The opening of the Seven Seals; or, Death on the Pale Horse.

The overthrowing the Old Beast and False Prophet.

The Last Judgment.

The New Jerusalem.

The picture of St. Michael and his Angels fighting and casting out the Red
Dragon and his Angels.

Do. of the Women clothed in the Sun.

Do. of John called to write the Revelation.

Do. of the Beast rising out of the Sea.

Do. of the Mighty Angel, one Foot upon Sea and the other on Earth.

Do. of St. Anthony of Padua.

Do. of the Madra Dolo Roso.

Do. of Simeon, with the Child in his arms.

A picture of a small Landscape, with a Hunt passing In the back-ground.

Do. of Abraham and Isaac going to sacrifice,

Do. of a whole-length figure of Thomas à Becket, larger than life.

Do. of the Angel in the Sun assembling the Birds of the Air, before the
destruction of the Old Beast.

Four half-lengths.

The small picture of the Order of the Garter, differing in composition
from the great picture at Windsor.

The picture of the Shunamite's Son raised to Life by the Prophet Elisha.

Do. of Jacob blessing Joseph's Sons.

Do. of the Death of Wolfe, the third picture.

Do. of the Battle of La Hogue.

Do. of the Boyne.

Do. of the Restoration of Charles II.

Do. of Cromwell dissolving the Long Parliament.

A small portrait of General Wolfe, when a Boy.

The Picture of the Golden Age.

The picture of St. Michael chaining the Dragon, in Trinity College,
Cambridge, 15 by 8.

Do. of the Angels announcing the Birth of our Saviour, in the Cathedral
Church at Rochester, 10 by 6.

Do. of the Death of St. Stephen, in the church of St. Stephen,
Walbrook, 10 by 18.

Do. of the Raising of Lazarus, in the Cathedral of Winchester, 10 by 14.

Do. of St. Paul shaking the Viper off his Finger, in the chapel at
Greenwich, 27 by 15.

The Supper, over the communion-table in the Collegiate Church at
Windsor, 8 by 13.

The Resurrection of our Saviour, in the east window of the Collegiate
Church at Windsor, 28 by 32.

The Crucifixion, in the window of ditto, 28 by 36.

The Angel announcing our Saviour's Birth, in ditto, 10 by 14.

The Birth of our Saviour, in ditto, 9 by 16.

The Kings presenting Gifts to our Saviour, in ditto, 9 by 16.

The picture of Peter denying our Saviour, in the chapel of Lord Newark.

The Resurrection of our Saviour, in the church of Barbadoes, 10 by 6.

The picture of Moses with the Law, and John the Baptist, in ditto, as
large as life.

The picture of Telemachus and Calypso.

Do. of Angelica and Madora.

Do. of the Damsel and Orlando.

Do. of Cicero at the Tomb of Archimedes.

Do. of St. Paul's Conversion; his Persecution of the Christians; and the
Restoration of his Sight, under the hands of Ananias, in one frame,
divided in three parts.

Do. of Mr. Hope's Family, containing nine figures as large as life.

Large figures of Faith, Hope, Charity, Innocence, St. Matthew, St. Mark,
St. Luke, St. John, St. Matthias, St. Thomas, St. Jude, St. Simon, St
James the Major, St. Philip, St. Peter, St. Andrew, St. Bartholomew, St.
James the Minor, Malachi, Micah, Zachariah, and Daniel.

Paul shaking the Viper from his Finger.

Paul preaching at Athens.

Elimas the Sorcerer struck blind.

Cornelius and the Angel.

Peter delivered from Prison.

The Conversion of St. Paul.

Paul before Felix.

Two whole-lengths of the late Archbishop of York's two eldest Sons.

A whole-length portrait of the late Lord Grosvenor.

The picture of Jacob drawing Water at the Well for Rachael and her Flock,
in the possession of Mrs. Evans.

The picture of the Citizens of London offering the Crown to William the

The Queen soliciting the King to pardon her son John.

Moses showing the brazen Serpent.

John showing the Lamb of God.

Three of the Children of the late Archbishop of York, with the portrait of
the Archbishop, half-lengths, in the possession of the Rev. Dr. Drummond.

The Family-picture, half-lengths, of Mrs. Cartwright's Children.

Do. of Sir Edmund Baker, Nephew and Niece, half-length.

Do. of--Lunis, Esq.'s Children, half-lengths.

A Lady leading three Children along the Path of Virtue to the Temple.

A picture of Madora.

The picture of the late Lord Clive receiving the Duannic from the Great
Mogul, for Lord Clive.

Christ receiving the Sick and Lame in the Temple, in the Pennsylvanian
Hospital, Philadelphia, 11 feet by 18.

The picture of Pylades and Orestes, for Sir George Beaumont.

The original sketch of Cicero at the Tomb of Archimedes, for ditto.

The picture of Leonidas ordering Cleombrotas into Banishment, with his
Wife and Children, for W. Smith, Esq.

Do. of the Marys at the Sepulchre, for General Stibert.

Do. of Alexander and his Physician, for ditto.

Do. of Julius Caesar reading the Life of Alexander.

Do. of the Return of the Prodigal Son, for Sir James Earle.

Do. of the Death of Adonis, for--Knight, Esq. Portland Place.

Do. of the Continence of Scipio, ditto.

Do. of Venus and Cupid, oval, for Mr. Steers Temple.

Do. of Alfred dividing his Loaf, presented to Stationers' Hall by
Alderman Boydell.

Do. of Helen brought to Paris, in the possession of a family in Kent.

A small sketch of the Shunamite's Son restored, &c.

Cupid stung by a Bee, oval, for--Vesey, Esq. in Ireland.

Agrippina surrounded by her Children, and reclining her Head on the Urn
containing the Ashes of Germanicus, ditto.

The Death of Wolfe, the fourth picture, for Lord Bristol.

A do. of do. the fourth picture, in the possession of the Prince of

A small do. of do. the fifth picture, ditto Moncton family.

A small picture of Romeo and Juliet, for the Duke of Courland.

A small picture of King Lear and his Daughters, ditto.

Do. of Belisarius and the Boy, for Sir Francis Baring.

Do. of Sir Francis Baring and part of his Family, containing six figures
as large as life, ditto.

Do. of Simeon and the Child, as large as life, for the Provost of Eton.

Do. of the late Lord Clive receiving the Duannic from the Great Mogul, a
second picture, for Madras.

The second picture of Philippa soliciting of Edward III. the pardon of the
Burgesses of Calais, in the possession of--Willet, Esq.

Do. of Europa on the back of the Bull, at Calcutta.

Do. of the Death of Hyacinthus, painted for Lord Kerry, but now in the
National Gallery at Paris.

The picture of Venus presenting the Girdle to Juno, painted for
Lord Kerry, and in the National Gallery; figures as large as life
in both pictures.

Do. of Rinaldo and Armida, for Caleb Whitford, Esq.

Do. of Pharaoh's Daughter with the Child Moses, for--Park, Esq.: the
original painted for General Lawrence.

Do. of the Stolen Kiss, painted for ditto, and in the possession of ditto.

Do. of Angelica and Madora, for ditto, ditto.

Do. of the Woman of Samaria at the Well with Christ, ditto.

Do. of Paetus and Arria, in the possession of Col. Smith, at the Tower.

Do. of Rebecca coming to David, for Sir J. Ashley.

The Drawing respecting Christ's Nativity, for Mr. Tomkins, Doctors'

Do. of Rebecca receiving the Bracelets at the Well, for the late Lord

The drawing of the Stolen Kiss, ditto.

Do. of Rinaldo and Armida, ditto.

Do. of a Mother and Child, ditto.

The whole-length portrait of Sir Thomas Strange, in the Town-hall
of Halifax.

Do. of Sir John Sinclair.

The picture of Agrippina landing at Brundusium, (the first picture,) in
the possession of Lord Kinnoul.

Do. of do. for the Earl of Exeter, at Burleigh, second picture.

Do. of do. (third picture,) in the possession of---- Hatch, Esq., in

A small picture of Jupiter and Semele: the large picture lost at sea.

Hector parting with his Wife and Child at the Sun Gate.

The prophet Elisha raising the Shunamite's son.

The raising of Lazarus.

Edward III. crossing the River Somme.

Queen Philippa at the Battle of Nevil's Cuoss.

The Angels announcing to the Shepherds the Birth of our Saviour.

The Magi bringing Presents to our Saviour.

A view on the River Thames at Hammersmith.

A do. on the banks of the River Susquehanna, in America.

The picture of Tangire Mill, at Eton.

Do. of Chrysëis returned to her father Chyses.

Venus and Adonis, large as life.

The sixth picture of the Death of Wolfe.

The first and second picture of the Battle of La Hogue.

The sketch, of Macbeth and the Witches.

The small picture of the Return of Tobias.

The small picture of the Return of the Prodigal Son.

Do. of Ariadne on the Sea-shore.

Do. of the Death of Adonis.

Do. of John King of France brought to the Black Prince.

Do. of Antiochus and Stratonice.

Do, of King Lear and his Daughter.

The picture of Chryses on the Sea-shore.

Do. of Nathan and David:--"Thou art the Man!" as large as life,

Do. of Elijah raising the Widow's Son to Life.

Do. of the Choice of Hercules.

Do. of Venus and Europa.

Do. of Daniel interpreting the Hand-writing on the Wall.

Do. of the Ambassador from Tunis, with his Attendant, as he appeared in
England in 1781.

The drawing of Marius on the Ruins of Carthage.

Do. of Cato giving his Daughter in Marriage on his Death, both in the
possession of the Archduke Joseph.

Do. of Belisarius brought to his Family.

The large picture of the Stag, or the rescuing of Alexander the Third, for
Lord Seaforth, 12 feet by 18.

The picture of Cymon and Iphigenia, and Endymion and Diana, at Wentworth
Castle, Yorkshire.

Do. of Cymon and Iphigenia, and Angelica and Madora, in the possession of
Mr. Mitton, of Shropshire, painted at Rome.

Small picture of the Battle of Cressy.

Small sketch of the Order of the Garter.

Mr. West's small picture of his Family.

The sketch of Edward the Third with his Queen, and the Citizens of

Mr. West's small copy from Vandyke's picture of Cardinal Bentivoglio, now
in the National Gallery at Paris.

Mr. West's copy from Correggio's celebrated picture at Parma, viz. the St.
Girolemo, now in the National Gallery.

The large Landscape from Windsor Forest.

The picture of Mark Antony showing the Robe and Will of Julius Caesar to
the People.

Do. of Ægistus viewing the Body of Clytemnestra.

The large sketch of the window at Windsor, of the Magi presenting Gifts to
the Infant Christ.

The small sketch of the Battle of Nevil's Cross.

The second small sketch of the Order of the Garter.

The small picture of Ophelia before the King and Queen, with her
brother Laertes.

Do. of the Recovery of His Majesty in the year 1789.

Do. from Thomson's Seasons, of Miranda and her Two Companions.

Do. of Edward the Third crowning Ribemont at Calais, a sketch.

The picture of Leonidas taking leave of his Family on his going to

Do. of a Bacchanté, as large as life, half-length.

First sketch of the Battle of Cressy.

The picture of Phaëton soliciting Apollo for the Chariot of the Sun.

The second picture of Cicero at the Tomb of Archimedes.

The small picture of Belisarius and the Boy, different from that in the
possession of Sir Francis Baring.

The small picture of the Eagle giving the Vase of Water to Psyche.

Do. of the Death of Adonis, from Anacreon.

Do. of Moonlight and the "Beckoning Ghost," from Pope's Elegy.

Do. of the Angel sitting on the Stone at the Sepulchre.

Second picture of the same, but differing in composition.

A small sketch of ditto.

A sketch of King Lear and his Daughter.

The second picture of Angelica and Madora.

Do. of a Damsel and Orlando.

Mr. West's portrait, half-length.

Sketch of his two Sons, when Children.

Do. when Boys.

Do. when young Men.

Portrait of the Rev.---- Preston.

Picture of the Bacchanté Boys.

Do. of the Good Samaritan.

Picture of the Destruction of the Old Beast and False

Do. of Christ healing the Sick, Lame, and Blind, in the Tenrple.

Do. of Tintern Abbey.

Do. of Death on the Pale Horse; or, the Opening of the Seals.

Do. of Jason and the Dragon, in imitation of Salvator Rosa.

Do. of Venus and Adonis looking at Cupids bathing.

Do. of Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh.

Do. of the Uxbridge Passage-boat on the Canal.

Do. of St. Paul and Barnabas rejecting the Jews, and turning to the

Picture of the Falling of Trees in the Great Park at Windsor.

Do. of Diomed and his Chariot-horses struck by the Lightning of Jupiter.

Do. of the Milk-woman in St. James's Park.

Do. of King Lear in the Storm at the Hovel.

Do. of the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise.

Do. of the Order of the Garter.

Do. of Orion on the Dolphin's back.

Do. of Cupid complaining to Venus of a Bee having stung his finger.

Do. of the Deluge.

Do. of Queen Elizabeth's Procession to St. Paul's.

Do. of Christ showing a Little Child as the Emblem of Heaven.

Do. of Harvest-home.

Do. of a View from the east end of Windsor Castle, looking over Datchet.

Do. of Washing of Sheep.

Do. of St. Paul shaking the Viper from his Finger.

Do. of the Sun setting behind a group of Trees on the banks of the Thames
at Twickenham.

Do. of the driving of Sheep and Cows to water.

Do. of Cattle drinking at a Watering-place in the Great Park, Windsor,
with Mr. West drawing.

Do. of Pharaoh and his Host drowned in the Red Sea.

Do. of Calypso and Telemachus on the Sea-shore; second picture.

Do. of Gentlemen fishing in the Water at Dagenham Breach.

Do. of Moses consecrating Aaron and his Sons to the priesthood.

Picture of the View of Windsor-Castle from Snow-Hill, in the Great Park.

Do. of a Mother inviting her little Boy to come to her through a small
Stream of Water.

Do. of the naming of Samuel, and the prophesying of Zacharias.

Do. of the Ascension of our Saviour.

Do of the Birth of Jacob and Esau.

Do. of the Brewer's Porter and Hod Carrier.

Do. of Venus attended by the Graces.

Do. of Samuel, when a Boy, presented to Eli.

Do. of Christ's Last Supper. (In brown colour.)

Do. of the Reaping of Harvest, with Windsor in the back-ground.

Do. of Adonis and his Dog going to the Chace.

Do. of Christ among the Doctors in the Temple.

Do. of Moses shown the Promised Land.

Do. of Joshua crossing the River Jordan with the Ark.

Do. of Christ's Nativity.

Do. of Mothers with their Children, in water,

Do. of Cranford Bridge.

Do, of the sketch of Pyrrhus when a Child, before King Glaucus.

Do. of the Traveller laying his Piece of Bread on the Bridle of the dead
Ass. From Sterne.

Do. of the Captivity. From ditto.

Do. of Cupid letting loose Two Pigeons.

Do. of Cupid asleep.

Do. of Children eating Cherries.

Sketch of a Mother and her Child on her Lap.

The small picture of the Eagle bringing the Cup to

The picture of St. Anthony of Padua and the Child.

Do. of Jacob, and Laban with his Two Daughters.

Do. of the Women looking into the Sepulchre, and beholding Two Angels
where the Lord lay.

Do. of the Angel loosening the Chains of St. Peter in Prison.

Do. of the Death of Sir Philip Sydney.

Do. of the Death of Epaminondas.

Do. of the Death of Bayard.

The small sketch of Christ's Ascension.

The sketch of a Group of Legendary Saints. In imitation of Reubens.

The picture of Kosciusco on a Couch, as he appeared in London, 1797.

Do. of the Death of Cephalus.

Do. of Abraham and Isaac:--"Here is the Wood and Fire, but where is the
Lamb for Sacrifice."

The sketch of the Bard. From Gray.

Do. of the Pardoning of John by his brother King Henry, at the
Solicitation of his Mother.

Do. of St. George and the Dragon.

The picture of Eponina with her Children, giving Bread to her Husband when
in Concealment.

The sketch on paper of Christ's Last Supper.

The picture of the Pardoning of John, at his Mother's Solicitation.

Do. of the Death of Lord Chatham.

Do. of the Presentation of the Crown to William the Conqueror.

Do. of Europa crowning the Bull with Flowers.

Do. of Mr. West's Garden, Gallery, and Painting-Room.

Do. of the Cave of Despair. From Spenser.

The picture of Christ's Resurrection.

The sketch of the Destruction of the Spanish Armada.

The picture of Arethusa bathing.

The sketch of Priam soliciting of Achilles the Body of Hector.

The picture of Moonlight. (Small.)

The small sketch of Cupid showing Venus his Finger stung by a Bee.

The drawings of the Two Sides of the intended Chapel at Windsor, with the
Arrangement of the Pictures, &c.

The drawing of St. Matthew, with the Angel.

Do. of Alcibiades and Timon of Athens.

Do. of Penn's Treaty.

Do. of Regulus.

Do. of Mark Antony, showing the Robe and Will of Cæsar.

Do. of the Birth of Jacob and Esau.

Do. of the Death of Dido.

The large sketch, in oil, (on paper,) of Moses receiving the Laws on
Mount Sinai.

The large drawing of the Death of Hippolytus.

The large sketch, in oil, of the Death of St. Stephen. On paper.

The drawing of the Death of Cæsar.

Do. of the Swearing of Hannibal.

Do. of the Expulsion of Adam and Eve.

Do. of the Deluge.

The sketch, in oil, of the Landing of Agrippina. On paper.

Do. of Leonidas ordering Cleombrotus into Banishment. On paper.

The drawing of the Death of Epaminondas.

The sketch, in oil, of the Death of Aaron. On paper.

The drawing of the Death of Sir Philip Sydney.

The sketch, in oil, (on paper,) of David prostrate, whilst the destroying
Angel sheathes the Sword.

The drawing of the Women looking into the Sepulchre.

Do. of St. John Preaching.

Do. of the Golden Age.

Do. of Antinous and Stratonice.

Do. of the Death of Demosthenes.

The large sketch, in oil, (on paper,) of Death on the Pale Horse.

The drawing of King John and the Barons with Magna Charta.

Do. of La Hogue.

Do. of Jacob and Laban.

The large ditto of the Destruction of the Assyrian Camp by the
destroying Angel.

The large sketch, in oil, (on paper,) of Christ raising the Widow's Son.

Do. in ditto, (on paper,) of the Water gushing from the Rock, when
struck by Moses.

The drawing of the Death of Socrates.

Do. of the Boyne.

Do. of the Death of Eustace St. Celaine.

The sketch, in oil, (on paper,) of the Procession of Agrippina with her
Children and the Roman Ladies through the Roman Camp, when in Mutiny.

The drawing of the Rescue of Alexander III. of Scotland from the Fury
of the Stag.

Do. of the Death of Wolfe.

The sketch, in oil, of King Alfred dividing his Loaf with a Pilgrim.

The sketch, in oil, of the Raising of Lazarus.

The small whole-length of Thomas à Becket, in oil, on canvass.

The small picture of the Death of the Stag.

The drawing of ditto.

Do. of Nathan and David.

Do. of Joseph making himself known to his Brethren.

The drawing of Narcissus in the Fountain.

Do. sketch, in small, of the Duannic received by Lord Clive.

Do. of the Continence of Scipio.

Do. of the Last Judgment, and the Sea giving up its Dead.

Do. of the Bard. From Gray;

Do. of Belisarius and his Family.

The sketch, in oil, of Aaron standing between the Dead and Living to stop
the Plague.

Do. on paper, of the Messenger announcing to Samuel the Loss of the

The drawing of Sir Philip Sydney ordering the Water to be given to the
wounded Soldier.

The sketch of Christ Rejected.

The great picture of Christ Rejected.

Do. of Death on the Pale Horse.

The second picture of Christ healing the Sick.

The third great picture of Lord Clive receiving the Duannie.

Portrait of the Duke of Portland.

Portrait of Himself, left unfinished.

N.B. Besides these productions, Mr. West has, in his portfolios, drawings
and sketches exceeding two hundred in number.


[The following letter on an interesting subject is curious, and is
inserted here to be preserved.]

_Mr. West's Letter to Sir George Beaumont, Bart._

East Cowes Castle, Isle of Wight,

Sept. 30. 1815.


"Your letter to me from Keswick of the thirty-first of last month I have
received at this place: in that letter you have honoured me with the
communication of 'the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury having
done you the honour, among others, to inform you of the commands of His
Royal Highness the Prince Regent, that measures be forthwith taken for the
erection of a monument to commemorate the victory of Waterloo, in
pursuance of an address of the House of Commons; and to request you to
apply to such artists as you think fit, for designs for this national
column;' and you are pleased to say, that you believe at this distance you
cannot better forward their views than by applying to me.

"The honourable way in which you have noticed my humble abilities in the
arts, by calling on them for a design for a monument, to perpetuate an
occurrence of such high military glory and national greatness as that of
the victory of Waterloo, demands my warmest acknowledgments, and I also
feel a duty and profound respect for the sources of your instructions to
procure appropriate designs from the artists. When a monument is to be
raised by a great and victorious nation (such as England) in memory of her
departed as well as her living heroes, I feel it of the highest importance
to her national character, when her arts and her arms stand so high, that
they should bear a proud record to posterity of both their powers in such
a building as that now under consideration.

"To raise a record to departed virtue in an individual, an obelisk, a
column, or a statue, may bear an honourable name to posterity; but a
record when thousands have devoted their lives to save their country from
a rapacious enemy, as in those victories gained by the Greeks at
Thermopylæ and Marathon; the English at Blenheim and Trafalgar; and,
lastly, that greatest of all, gained by the unsubdued valour and heroism
of the armies of the United Kingdom at Waterloo, demands a building of
greater magnitude and more national consequence than that of a column.

"Such a design as I have conceived to record that victory I will give to
yourself and others for your consideration; but not as a competitor
presenting a drawing or model for a decision to be made on it as offered
for competition: I therefore give you the following ideas on friendly
motives for a dignified building.

"All records to be transmitted, must be by the three means which have
been established for that purpose; namely, the pen, the pencil, and the
chisel. I therefore propose a building wherein these three may be
employed to express the various incidents, and to mark that victory
distinct from all others, by applying the several spoils and trophies
taken; and to have the building of considerable magnitude. For as the
subject is great, so should be its representative: nothing little or mean
should be accepted, or permitted to appear in such a work, nothing but
what will mark the great features of that event: all of which by dates,
names, and sculptured trophies, as well as paintings, may be proclaimed
and recorded to distant times.

"The basis of such an erection being intended solely to commemorate the
battle of Waterloo, its name should be in capital letters on the four
faces, and the trophies of that victory should enrich the sides of the
same; and the characters of the various military in British armies made
conspicuous by their numbers shown; and on the summit of the lofty pile
the sovereign's figure then in power should be placed.

"The plan and dimensions of the building I present to you are as
follows:--Its base a square of sixty feet, and its height thirty: this
will make each of the four faces of the base a double square on its
measurement. From the centre of this base a building to be erected in
diameter thirty feet, and in height one hundred and twenty, formed out of
the spoils of victory, and diminishing as it rises, and to be surmounted
by a figure twelve feet in height, including the pedestal on which it
stands, In the centre, over the front face of the great case, to be the
equestrian group of the Duke of Wellington, under which, in large letters,
WATERLOO to be inscribed; and the four angles of the great base
perpendicular tablets, ornamented with military insignia expressive of the
British armies, and inscribed on the four tablets the number of each
regiment who shared in the glories of that day, and by the four tablets be
placed the statues of distinguished generals. Thus I have presented you
with the external appearance of my imaginary building in honour of the
victory of Waterloo; and the interior of this building to be considered as
the place of deposit for preserving the powers of the pen, the pencil, and
other gems from perishing by water or by fire: to be built of stone, and
all its ornaments to be made of durable metals: all of which to be
illustrative of the victory for which such a building was erected.

"The situation of this building should be a populous one, and that within
a circus or square of a diameter not less than six hundred and fifty-eight
feet. This size of space will give the spectator an opportunity of viewing
the erection at double the distance of its elevation, which is the optical
distance that pictures, statues, and buildings should always be seen at.

"Should my ideas of a building to commemorate the military achievements of
Waterloo be viewed with complacency by yourself and others, I shall feel a
satisfaction, as President of the Royal Academy, to have done my duty; and
should His Royal Highness the Prince Regent be pleased to signify his
approbation, I shall be gratified and honoured. With the sincerity of
profound respect,

"I am,
"My dear Sir George,
"Your obliged and obedient Servant,

       *       *       *       *       *

Suffolk Lane, 28th Jan,


"Sir Philip Francis's critique on the _Transfiguration_ appears very
ingenious, so far as it explains the painter's design in representing the
Demoniac Boy as the connecting link between the action _on the Mount_ and
the groupe at the foot of it; but I cannot agree with Sir Philip in
supposing the picture to represent the _Ascension_ and as you request
me to state my reasons for this dissent, I shall briefly endeavour to
specify them.

"I have _not_ seen the original picture; but in the copy of it by Harlow,
which was much admired in Rome, and which one would think must be
accurate, at least in regard to so important a point, since it was
exhibited beside the original--I say in Harlow's copy the raiment of our
Saviour is _white,_ not _blue_. The white has, indeed, in the shaded part,
a bluish tinge, but the colour is decidedly a _white_, and, therefore, Sir
Philip's assumption that it is _blue_ appears contrary to the fact.

"The _Transfiguration_ was witnessed by _only three_ of the Apostles,
Peter, James, and John, (see St. Matthew, chap. xvii, v. 1, 2, and 3.)
exactly as represented In the picture, 'and (see v. 9.) as they came down
from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, "Tell the vision to no man,
until the Son of Man be risen again from the dead."'

"It maybe as well, to prevent the trouble of an reference, to quote at
once from the Evangelist, the description of the subject which it appears
to me the painter meant to represent.

Chap. xvii. as before.

1. And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and
bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,

2. And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun,
and his raiment was white as the light.

3. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

6. And when the disciples heard, they fell on their faces, and were
sore afraid.

14. And when they were come to the multitudes there came to him a man,
kneeling down to him, and saying,

15. Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic and sore vexed: and
oft-times he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.

16. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him, &c.

"Now this is exactly the scene delineated in the picture. There are _on
the Mount_ the three disciples, fallen on the ground, and shading their
faces from the '_bright cloud_' which _overshadows_ the transfigured
Saviour; and Moses and Elias are the two figures of old men attending the
Saviour, or '_talking with him._'

"At the _foot of the Mount_, there are _the multitude_, the lunatic boy,
_his father_ holding him, the _disciples_ who _could not cure him_; and
one of whom appears in the act of attempting to cure him, by addressing or
exorcising the demon who is in him. There are also _several women_ in the
groupe; and it seems that instead of bringing 'different incidents
together to constitute one plot,' the painter, on the contrary, has
exactly followed the Evangelist, and represented the same instant of time
in the action _on_ the Mount, among the _multitude_ at the foot of it.

"I cannot imagine how Sir Philip Francis could have supposed the picture
to represent the _Ascension_, which took place in the presence of the
_Eleven Apostles_ and of them only, (see St. Luke, last chapter and last
paragraph,) as follows:

"And he led them out as far as Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and he
blessed them. And it came to pass, when he blessed them, he was parted
from them, and carried up into Heaven."

"This bears no resemblance whatever to the scene represented in the
picture, and the opinion given by Sir Philip can only have arisen from an
imperfect recollection of the Sacred Writings, and from having neglected
to refer to the text.

"I am,
"My dear Sir,
"Yours truly,

_John Galt, Esq._

The Funeral of Mr. West.

It would be improper to close this appendix without giving some account of
the funeral of Mr. West.

Soon after Mr. West's decease, a deputation from the Council of the Royal
Academy waited on his sons and the executors, to apprise them of the
intention of that body to honour the remains of their late President., by
attending them to his grave, according to the ceremonial adopted on the
public interment of the late Sir Joshua Reynolds, in St. Paul's
Cathedral. His Majesty having, as Patron of the Royal Academy, given his
gracious sanction that similar honours should be paid to the late
venerable President, his sons and executors adopted active preparations
to carry the arrangement into effect. As the schools of the Royal Academy
were closed, and all its functions suspended, by the death of the late
President, it was of material importance on this account, and with the
view to the usual preparatory arrangements for the annual exhibition,
that the funeral should not be delayed; and as early a day as practicable
was therefore fixed for the public interment in St. Paul's Cathedral. The
obvious consequence, however, of this has been, that owing to the absence
from town, at this particular season, of so many noblemen and gentlemen
of the highest rank, and the indisposition of several others, many warm
admirers and friends of this celebrated artist and amiable man, who
have, during his long life, honoured him with their friendship, and who
have been particularly desirous of paying their last tribute of respect
to his remains, have been precluded attending the funeral. The corpse was
privately brought to the Royal Academy on Tuesday evening, attended by
the sons and grandson of the deceased, and two intimate friends, Mr.
Henderson (one of the trustees and executors of the deceased) and Mr.
Hayes (for many years his medical attendant), and was received by the
council and officers of the Royal Academy, and their undertaker and his
attendants, with every mark of respect. The body was then deposited in
the smaller Exhibition-room, on the ground-floor, which was hung on the
occasion with black.

About half-past ten yesterday morning, the Academicians, Associates, and
Students, assembled in the Great Exhibition-room, and the nobility,
gentry, and the deceased's private friends, soon after arrived, and joined
the mournful band. The chief mourners were in seclusion in the library of
the Academy. About half-past twelve o'clock, the whole of the arrangements
having been effected, the Procession moved from Somerset House to St.
Paul's Cathedral in the following order:

  Six Constables, by threes.
  Four Marshalmen, two and two.
  City Marshal on horseback.
  Undertaker on horseback.
  Six Cloakmen on horseback, by twos.
  Four Mutes on horseback, by twos.
  Lid of Feathers, with attendant Pages.

Hearse and Six, with rich trappings, feathers, and velvets, attended by
Eight Pages.

Two Mourning Coaches and four, with attendant Pages, conveying the

Mourning Coach and Four, with attendant Pages, conveying the Sons and
Grandson of the deceased, as CHIEF MOURNERS.

Mourning Coach and Four, with attendant Pages, conveying the Family
Trustees and Executors of the deceased.

Mourning Coach and Four, with attendant Pages, conveying the Reverends the
Vicar of Mary-la-bonne, the Chaplain to the Lord Mayor, and the Medical
Attendant of the deceased.

Then followed Sixteen Mourning Coaches and Pairs, with Attendant Pages,
conveying the Right Rev. the Chaplain, the Secretary for Foreign
Correspondence, and the Members of the Royal Academy and Students.

Twenty Mourning Coaches and Pairs, with attendant Pages, conveying the
Mourners and Private Friends of the deceased.

The Procession was closed by above sixty carriages, arranged in rank by
the junior City Marshal and Marshalmen--the servants wearing hat-bands
and gloves.

The Procession was attended on each side by fifty Constables, to preserve
order; and the accesses from Bridge-street, Chancery-lane, the Old Bailey,
&c. were stopped. On reaching St. Paul's Cathedral, where the senior City
Marshal was in wailing, with several assistants, to arrange the
Procession, it entered at the great Western Gate, and was met at the
entrance of the Cathedral by the Church Dignitaries, &c. the whole then
proceeded to the Choir in the following order:

  The two junior Vergers.
  The Marshals.
  The young Gentlemen of the Choir, two by two.
  Their Almoner, or Master.
  The Vicars Choral, two by two.
  The Sub-Dean and Junior Canons, two by two.
  The Feathers, with Attendant Pages and Mutes.
  The two Senior Vergers.
  Honourable and Rev. Dr. Wellesley.
  The Canon residentiary, and the Rev. the Prebendary.

                       [THE CORPSE]
  Pall-bearers.                  Pall-bearers.
  The Earl of Aberdeen,          Right Honourable Sir
  His Excellency the American    William Scott,
  Ambassador,                    Honourable Gen. Phipps,
  Hon. Augustus Phipps,          Sir George Beaumont,
  Sir Thomas Baring.             Sir Robert Wilson.


  The Sons and Grandson of deceased, namely,
  Raphael Lamar West, Esq.
  Benjamin West, Esq.
  Mr. Benjamin West, jun.
  followed by
  Robert Brunning (the old Servant of deceased)
  Henry Fauntleroy, Esq. and James Henry Henderson, Esq.
  (the Family Trustees and Executors of deceased.)
  The Rev. Dr. Heslop, Vicar of St. Mary-la-Bonne; the Rev.
  Mr. Borrodaile, Chaplain to the Lord Mayor; and Joseph
  Hayes, Esq. Medical Attendant on deceased (Dr. Baillie being unavoidably

Then followed

The Bishop of Salisbury, (As Chaplain to the Royal Academy; and an
Honorary Member).

Prince Hoare, Esq. (Secretary for Foreign Correspondence to the
Royal Academy.)

The body of Academicians and Associates of the Royal Academy, according to
seniority, two by two, Students, two by two.

And the private mourners of the deceased, consisting of--Aldermen Wood
and Birch, Rev. ---- Est, Rev. Holt Oakes, Henry Bankes, Esq. M.P.,
William Smith, Esq. M.P., Richard Hart Davies, Esq. M.P., George Watson
Taylor, Esq. M.P., Jesse Watts Russell, Esq. M.P., Archibald Hamilton,
Esq., Thomas Hope, Esq., Samuel Boddington, Esq., Richard Payne Knight,
Esq., Thomas Lister Parker, Esq., George Hibbert, Esq., John Nash, Esq.,
John Edwards, Esq., Major Payne, Captain Henry Wolseley, Captain Francis
Halliday, James St. Aubyn, Esq., Henry Sansom, Esq., ---- Magniac, Esq.,
George Sheddon, Esq., James Dunlop, Esq., Joseph Ward, Esq., N. Ogle,
Esq., George Repton, Esq., William Wadd, Esq., Henry Woodthorpe, jun.
Esq., Christ. Hodgson, Esq., ---- Cockerell, sen. Esq., ---- Cockerell,
jun. Esq., Leigh Hunt, Esq., P. Turnerelli, Esq., J. Holloway, Esq.,
Charles Heath, Esq., Henry Eddridge, Esq., A. Robertson, Esq., W. J.
Newton, Esq., John Taylor, Esq., T. Bonney, Esq., ---- Muss, Esq., ----
Martin, Esq., J. Green, Esq., John Gait, Esq., William Carey, Esq., ----
Leslie Esq., ---- Behnes, Esq., George Samuel, Esq., John Young, Esq.,
Christopher Pack, Esq., W, Delamotte, Esq., E. Scriven Esq., J. M. Davis,
Esq., C. Smart, Esq., &c.

It being Passion Week, the usual chanting and performance of music in the
Cathedral-service could not take place, but an Anthem was, by special
permission, allowed to be sung; and the Hon. and Rev. Dr. Wellesley,
assisted by the Rev. the Prebendary, performed the solemn service in a
very impressive manner. The body was placed in the choir, and at the head
were arranged, on chairs, the chief mourners and executors. The
pall-bearers were seated on each side of the corpse, and the Members of
the Royal Academy, and other mourners, were arranged on each side of the
choir. After the Anthem, the body was attended to the vault-door by the
pall-bearers, followed by the chief mourners and executors, and was
conveyed into the crypt, and placed immediately beneath the perforated
brass plate, under the centre of the dome. Dr. Wellesley, with the other
canons, and the whole choir, then came under the dome, and the
pall-bearers, chief mourners, and executors, stood by them. The Members
of the Royal Academy were ranged on the right, and the other mourners on
the left, forming a circle, the outside of which was protected by the
Marshals and undertaker's attendants. Here the remainder of the service
was completed, and the sexton, placed in the crypt below, at the proper
period, let fall some earth, as usual, on the coffin. After the
funeral-service was ended, the chief mourners and executors, accompanied
by most of the other mourners, went into the crypt, and attended the
corpse to its grave, which was sunk with brick-work under the pavement at
the head of the grave of the late Sir Joshua Reynolds, and adjoining to
that of the late Mr. West's intimate and highly-valued friend, Dr.
Newton, formerly Bishop of Bristol, and Dean of St. Paul's, the
brick-work of whose grave forms one side of Mr. West's; thus uniting
their remains in the silent tomb. Sir Christopher Wren, the great
architect, lies interred close by, as well as those eminent artists, the
late Mr. Opie and Mr. Barry.

The Members of the Royal Academy, and all the mourners, then returned to
Somerset-House, in the like order of procession (with the exception of the
hearse and feathers,) where refreshments were provided for them.

The whole of this affecting ceremony was conducted with great solemnity
and respect, and was witnessed by an immense concourse of people.

The carriages attending in the Procession were those of the Lord Mayor,
the Archbishop of York, the Dukes of Norfolk, Northumberland, and Argyll;
the Marquisses of Lansdowne and Stafford; the Earls of Liverpool, Essex,
Aberdeen, Carlisle, Dartmouth, Powis, Mulgrave, Darnley, and Carysfort;
Viscount Sidmouth; the Bishops of London, Salisbury, Carlisle, and
Chester; Admiral Lord Radstock; the Right Honourables Sir William Scott,
Charles Manners Sutton, and Charles Long; the American Ambassador; the
Hon. General Phipps, Augustus Phipps; Sirs George Beaumont, J. Fleming
Leicester, Thomas Baring, and Henry Fletcher; the Solicitor General, Sir
Robert Wilson, Dr. Heslop, Dr. Baillie, Aldermen Birch and Wood, Mr.
Chamberlain Clarke, Henry Bankes, Esq. M.P., Richard Hart Davies, Esq.
M.P., George Watson Taylor, Esq. M.P., Jesse Watts Russell, Esq. M.P.,
Henry Fauntleroy, Esq., Archibald Hamilton, Esq., Thomas Courts, Esq.,
John Penn, Esq., Thomas Hope, Esq., Samuel Boddington, Esq., Walter
Fawkes, Esq., George Hibbert, Esq., John Yenn, Esq., John Soane, Esq.,
Francis Chantry, Esq., Henry Sanson, Esq., John Nash, Esq., John Edwards,
Esq., George Sheddon, Esq., James Dunlop, Esq., Joseph Ward, Esq., Henry
Meux, Esq. &c. &c.

The following is the Inscription upon the Tombstone over the deceased:--

Here lie the Remains of BENJAMIN WEST, Esq., President of the Royal
Academy of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture: born 10th Oct. 1738,
at Springfield, in Pennsylvania, in America: died in London, 11th
March, 1820.


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Life, Studies, and Works of Benjamin West, Esq. - Composed from Materials Furnished by Himself" ***

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