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cross going to or coming from Stairaird, which overhangs it; and no nook in Ayrshire could be sweeter or more appropriate for
a day of parting love." The reader can judge for himself if the Mauchline Burn looks like a ditch.
EARLY PORTRAITURE AND THE
T has been generally allowed that of the legacies the past
has bequeathed to us, the collections of portraits of the
world's illustrious men are not the least valuable. In, early Greece, nearly thirty centuries ago, when Homer, Hesiod, and “burning Sappho loved and sung,” there were eminent sculptors. Long before the Christian era, Rome too had such men, probably young Greeks from Athens, who, attracted by the wealth and power of the Roman State, passed into Italy; we have, in consequence, busts of all of both nations who were most distinguished in statesmanship, war, art, and letters ; which make us familiar with the facial traits of
“ The great of olel,
Our spirits from their urns." In the early dawn of our own history we have no record of art or artists; we have not the slightest pictorial tracings of our early warrior queen, Boadicea; but there is somewhere a bust of our patriot prince and ancient Silurian king, Caractacus, executed no doubt in Rome, whither he was carried prisoner, but eventually pardoned by the Roman Senate, for the crime of daring to defend his country.
From the period of the Roman occupation, seventeen centuries elapsed before we had a native School of Art in this country. The Romans themselves would be accompanied by artists of various kinds, probably gold and silver chasers, die cutters, coiners, and medallists—adjuncts of civilization and whose works at a very early period formed, as it were, the mile-stones of history.
The Normans and Plantagenets must have had continental artists as retainers of their courts, for the portraits of those princes, good, bad, and indifferent, have come down to us; those limners, too, must have found their way north of the Tweed, for have we not in our own palace of Holyrood, paintings of the entire genealogy of our Scottish Kings? From Fergus the First down to the Union of the Crowns, we have a very curious and somewhat shadowy group, amongst whom, perhaps the most interesting are the princes of the House of Stuart, a race of handsome men, sprung on the maternal side from the beautiful Elizabeth Mure of Rowallan. They are featured like her, with the exception of two of the line; and notwithstanding the lapse of time, the lineaments of the Stuarts can still be traced in the heads of our present Queen, her children, and grandchildren.
In the reigns of Henry the Eighth, Mary, and Elizabeth, there were many foreign painters in England—Italian, French and German. Sir Thomas More introduced Holbein to Henry, who settled upon him thirty pounds a year, in addition to what he was to receive for his works, which are still to be seen at Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace. Those who are curious as to the painters of this period may refer to Horace Walpole’s “Anecdotes of Painting in England,” which is a really interesting work to antiquarians especially.
The most distinguished of the artists who settled amongst us was Sir Anthony Vandyck. He came to England on the invitation of Charles the First, who had previously met him on the continent; he painted many well-known portraits of that monarch, and of the Royal Family, as well as most of the leading men and women of his time.
Following Vandyck came Sir Peter Lely, who also settled in London. He was known as the “Ladies' Painter" and transferred to canvas all the charms of the Court beauties of Charles the Second. Ladies' eyes, it would seem, had not till his time been done justice to : it is Pope, we think, who says of his pictures :
“Along the canvas stole The dreamy eye that spoke the melting soul.” We have a few words to say of Sir Godfrey Kneller, the contemporary and successor of Lely, who settled in London in 1675. Amongst his most popular works is the collection of forty-three portraits, known as the Kit-Cat Club, painted for Tonson the bookseller; which Club was so called from the name of Christopher Cat in whose house the members met. Dryden, Addison, Prior, Pope, and Steele were painted by Kneller. Allusion has been made to the above painters, known and unknown, for the simple reason that by one or other of them, have been painted all our more celebrated poets, essayists, and novelists from old Chaucer downwards.
Sir Joshua Reynolds, the recognised founder of the English School, and first President of the Royal Academy of London, was born in 1723, the year of Kneller's death, and thus, as Allan Cunningham remarks, was assured the continuity of Art in England. He painted all the celebrities of his day. We are familiar with the various portraits of his friend the gruff Sam Johnson. Oliver Goldsmith, Edmund Burke, Lawrence Sterne, R. B. Sheridan, David Garrick, and other great writers sat to Reynolds.
What Tonson did for the Kit-Cat Club—mostly literary men-John Murray, later on, did for our more modern poets. We give the following extract from Dr. Samuel Smiles.*
“Mr. Murray about this time (1815) began to adorn his drawing-room with portraits of the distinguished men who sat at his table. His portraits included those of Gifford, by Hoppner, R.A. ; Byron and Southey, by Phillipps; Scott and Washington Irving, by Stewart Newton; J. W. Croker, by Eddis, after Lawrence; Coleridge, Crabbe, Mrs. Somerville, Hallam, T. Moore, Lockhart, and others. In April, 1815, we find Thomas Phillipps, afterwards R.A., in communication with Mr. Murray, offering to paint for him a series of Kit-Cat size, at eighty guineas each; and in coures of time his pictures, together with those of John Jackson, R.A., formed a most interesting gallery of the great literary men of the time, including men and women of science, essayists, critics, Arctic voyagers, and discoverers in the regions of Central Africa.” Byron and Southey were asked to sit for their portraits to Phillipps. Byron was willing, and even thought it an honour, but Southey pretended to grumble. To Miss Barker he wrote (9th November, 1815), “Here in London I can find time for nothing; and to make things worse, the devil, who owes me an old grudge, has made me sit to Phillipps for a portrait to Murray. I have in my time been tormented in this manner so often, and to such little purpose that I am half tempted to suppose the devil was the inventor of portrait painting.” Is not this exquisite? We remember seeing in the great exhibition at Manchester, 1857, hanging side by side on a wall by themselves, portraits of Burns, Byron, Southey, and Coleridge—a singular conjunction of eminent men. It is with our great authors we are at present more immediately concerned, men of more enduring celebrity than kings and queens, or even warriors and statesmen—those who from century to century have built up what may be regarded as the finest literature in the world. We would not be without our books, for
* Memoirs and Correspondence of the late John Murray, with an account of the origin of the house, 1768-1843, by Samuel Smiles, LL.D." John Murray, London, Albermarle Street, 1891.
"Books we know
Our pastime and our happiness will grow.” We have had of late years in London and elsewhere, many and various exhibitions—Industrial, Military, Naval, Indian, Forestry, Fisheries, &c., &c. Let us hope the day may not be far distant, when we may have collected under one roof portraits of the representatives of Literature and the Fine Arts the poets, painters, sculptors, musicians, and architects of our own country. Such a display, would at least, be a tribute to their memory, and a grateful recognition of the valuable works we have inherited from them.
With these perfunctory remarks, we will now say a few words upon Burns and his Portraits.
Burns's visit to Edinburgh was the crowning episode of his life, and surely the most singular revelation in literary history. His affairs at the time were, humanly speaking, at the lowest ebb, and Dr. Blacklock's letter opened up to him new hopes and possibilities. He reached Edinburgh in November, 1786. Having previously met Dugald Stewart at his country house of Catrine Bank, near Mauchline, he was soon made known personally to the best men of the time. We can picture this imperial soul leaving the plough-tail to hold his own, and more than his own, in conversation with grave Divines, University Professors, and men learned in the law; and to ruffle it with noted wits, like the gay Duchess of Gordon and Harry Erskine, at the tables of a Society, said at that period to be the most polished in Europe.
Busy for a time in attending to the first Edinburgh edition of his works, he also made visits to the South and North of