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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 un
known, 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
* 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.
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
"Books we know
Are a substantial world;
Round them with tendrils strong as flesh and blood,
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 Artsthe 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
Scotland, which he has described in a "Journal," and in his correspondence. The literary capital did what it could for Burns; the first Edinburgh edition, according to Dr. Currie, realized nine hundred pounds, which after all expenses were paid left him in possession of a very handsome sum—about six hundred pounds. Long before he left town he must have felt wearied of its pleasures, and while ruminating on other years and other scenes, his heart, no doubt, would frequently yearn for Ayrshire's green solitudes, and the friends of his earlier youth. We know nothing of his later expectations in town, if indeed, he had any. In his heart of hearts he must have known, that the only thing possible for him was a return to the simplicity of rural life, and he made arrangements accordingly. He was right, for had he remained in town, where would have been his correspondence with Thomson, and the glorious legacy of song he bequeathed to his country? Amongst other things, we are indebted to Edinburgh for the principal portraits of Burns. In the first number of the Burns Chronicle there appears a most masterly article on the several portraits, by D. W. Stevenson, R.S.A., Sculptor, Edinburgh. It is written with great judgment and discrimination, and may well, on that subject, be considered as final; anything we can say will only emphasize the conclusions he has arrived at.
Before the introduction of Photography, portrait painters, while retaining the general character of a head, also worked up to a certain classical ideal, and were therefore, not so literally true to nature as such works are expected to be now, since they have the absolute certainty of photographs to contend with. We have never seen a life-size portrait by Nasmyth, and his portrait of Burns is of cabinet size. It is a very bright and pleasing portrait of our Poet: it was acknowledged, however, by his contemporaries to be over refined. Sir Walter Scott in speaking of it—and no doubt he would also be expressing the opinion of many who had seen and even spoken to Burns—says that it represents the Poet as if seen in perspective. Now in relation to the picture, this is a very significant word and denotes much, as for instance, a softening down of the features as if seen at some short distance, and to which its cabinet size would partly contribute. Beugo, when engraving it for the first Edinburgh edition, had sittings from the Poet, and endeavoured
to amend this by giving more mass to the features and toning down the "lines of beauty and grace," which is evident to all who compare the engraving with the picture. The alterations were not likely to satisfy Nasmyth, but, bating these slight differences, the portrait is an admirable representation of the general appearance and character of Burns.
We were very much impressed on first seeing Skirving's fine head of Burns. It is somewhere stated that Skirving was very frequently in the Poet's company: he may have met him with Nasmyth, or in one or other of the various social clubs then abounding in Edinburgh. Sympathetic souls ever know where to find each other both at labour and refreshment, and Skirving, a keen observer of character, would have many opportunities of studying the Bard in his ever varying moods. It is not recorded that he ever formally sat to him, but the Artist has, notwithstanding, succeeded in giving us a very fine head. This work is in crayons on greyish toned paper, and in producing it the artist would proceed somewhat in the following way. Carefully and in exact proportion he would, from Nasmyth's portrait, extend the features to the size of life, then alter or amend the lines according to the conception he had formed of the poet's head. Necessarily, of course, the position of the head is exactly the same as Nasmyth's, and we are enabled to trace the difference between the one and the other. Skirving gives quite another phase of the poet's character; the countenance is overshadowed by a not unpleasing sadness, not unlikely conjured up by memories of the past, or fears for the future-the mood of his fine song,
"The gloomy night is gathering fast."
The only fault of this head, if it be one, is that the eyes seem too small, for we know the poet's eyes were large and striking, and in his deeply emotional moments, or when his electric blood was stirred, they blazed and coruscated like twin stars. The frontal ridge, (or what phrenologists call the perceptive faculties), is here more developed than in Nasmyth. We have frequently observed this as a strong feature in the portraits of distinguished men, notably so, for instance, in those of Professor Wilson and Thomas Carlyle. The latter's brow beetled above his keen blue eyes like a cliff above the sea; in Burns, this feature is by no means so marked, still, Skirving has given development to it. This characteristic, a firmer