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THE STREATHAM PORTRAITS.

MADAME D’ARBLAY's description of the Streatham Portraits will be the best preface to the following verses on them: “ Mrs. Thrale and her eldest daughter were in one piece, over the fireplace (of the library), at full length. The rest of the pictures were all three-quarters. Mr. Thrale was over the door leading to his study. The general collection then began by Lord Sandys and Lord Westcote (Lyttelton), two early noble friends of Mr. Thrale. Then followed Dr. Johnson, Mr. Burke, Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Garrick, Mr. Baretti, Sir. Robert Chambers, and Sir Joshua Reynolds himself, — all painted in the highest style of this great master, who much delighted in this his Streatham gallery. There was place left but for one more frame when the acquaintance with Dr. Burney began at Streatham.”

The whole of them were sold by auction in the spring of 1816. According to Mrs. Piozzi’s marked catalogue, they fetched respectively the following prices, which appear to vary according to the celebrity of the subjects, and to make small account of the pictures considered as works of art : “ Lord Sandys, £36 15s. (Lady Downshire); Lord Lyttelton, £ 43 1s. (Mr. Lyttelton, his son); Mrs. Piozzi and her daughter, £ 81 18s. (S. Boddington, Esq., a rich merchant); Goldsmith (duplicate of the original), £133 7s. (Duke of Bedford); Sir J. Reynolds, £ 128 2s. (R. Sharp, Esq., M.P.); Sir R. Chambers, £84 (Lady Chambers, his widow); David Garrick, £183 15s. (Dr. Charles Burney); Baretti, £ 31 10s. (Stewart, Esq., I know not who); Dr. Burney, £84 (Dr. C. Burney, his son); Edmund Burke, £252 (R. Sharp, Esq., M.P.); Dr. Johnson, £ 378 (Watson Taylor, Esq.), by whom for Mr. Murphy was offered £ 102 188., but I bought it in.” In 1780 Reynolds raised the price of his portraits (three-quarter size) from thirty-five to fifty guineas, which, Mrs. Piozzi complains, made the Streatham portraits in many instances cost more than they fetched, as she had to pay for them after Mr. Thrale's death at the increased price. Her own prefatory remarks are:

“ With the dismal years 1772 and 1773 ended much of my misery, no doubt. The recollection of the sweet and saintlike manner in which my incomparable mother meekly laid down her temporal existence, sweetened the loss of her who I shall see no more in this world, and whose situation in the next will probably be too high for my most fervent aspirations. The loss of our dear boy fell so heavy on my husband, that it became my duty to endure it courageously, and shake away as much of the weight as it was possible. Among other efforts to amuse myself and my eldest daughter, — now my daily companion, and a charming one, but never partial to a mother who sought in vain to obtain her friendship, — was a fancy I took of writing little paltry verse characters of the gentlemen who sat for their portraits in the library, and of whose sittings I was cruelly impatient. No wonder! when such calamity was hanging over our heads as is mentioned in the last volume. Let that reflection make you hesitate in censuring the satirical vein which perhaps does run through them all :

1.
LORD SANDYS appears first, at the head of the tribe,
But flat insipidity who can describe ?
When such parents and wife as might check even Pindar,
Form family compacts his progress to hinder:
Their oppression for forty long years he endured,
The nobleman sunk, and the scholar obscured;
Till rank, reason, virtue, endeav'ring in vain
To fling off their burden, and break off their chain,
Can at last but regret, not resist, his hard fate,
Like Enceladus, crushed by the mountainous weight.

II.
Next him on the right hand, see Lyttelton hang;
Polite in behavior, prolix in harangue.
With power well matured, with science well bred,
He had studied, had travelled, had reasoned, had read.
Yet the mind, as the body, was wanting in strength,
For in Lyttelton everything run into length;

Of his long wheaten straw that the farmer complains, Where the chaff is still found to outnumber the grains.

III.
In these features * so placid, so cool, so serene,
What trace of the wit or the Welshwoman 's seen ?
What trace of the tender, the rough, the refined,

The soul in which such contrarieties joined !
Where, though merriment loves over method to rule,
Religion resides, and the virtues keep school :
Till when tired we condemn her dogmatical air,
Like a rocket she rises, and leaves us to stare.
To such contradictions d'ye wish for a clue ?
Keep vanity still, that vile passion, in view,
For 't is thus the slow miner his fortune to make,
Of arsenic thin scattered pursues the pale track,
Secure where that poison pollutes the rich ground,
That it points to the place where some silver is found.

IV.

Of a virgin so tender,f the face or the fame
Alike would be injured by praise or by blame;
To the world's fiery trial too early consigned,
She soon shall experience it, cruel or kind.
His concern thus the artful enameller hides,
And his well-finished work to the furnace confides ;
But jocund resumes it secure from decay,
If the colors stand firm on the dangerous day.

* She complained in prose as well as in verse of the want of likeness in her own portrait. Northcote, in his Life of Reynolds, observed of Sir Joshua's pictures in general, that “they possess a degree of merit superior to mere portraits; they assume the rank of history. His portraits of men are distinguished by a certain air of dignity, and those of wornen and children by a grace, a beauty, and simplicity which have seldom been equalled and never surpassed. In his attempts to give character where it did not exist, he has sometimes lost likeness, but the deficiencies of the portrait were often compensated by the beauty of the picture.” Mrs. Piozzi remarks on this passage: " True, in my portrait above all, there is really no resemblance, and the character is less like my father's daughter than Pharaoh's.” Speaking of Sir Joshua's picture of Lady Sarah Bunbury “sacrificing to the Graces,” Mrs. Piozzi says: “ Lady Sarah never did sacrifice to the Graces. Her beauty was in her face, which had few equals; but she was a cricket player, and ate beefsteaks upon the Steyne at Brighthelmstone."

† Her eldest daughter, then a child.

V.

A manner so studied, so vacant a face,
These features the mind of our Murphy disgrace,
A mind unaffected, soft, artless, and true,
A mind which, though ductile, has dignity too.
Where virtues ill-sorted are huddled in heaps,
Humanity triumphs, and piety sleeps;
A mind in which mirth may with merit reside,
And Learning turns Frolic, with Humor, his guide.
Whilst wit, follies, faults, its fertility prove,
Till the faults you grow fond of, the follies you love,
And corrupted at length by the sweet conversation,
You swear there's no honesty left in the nation.
An African landscape thus breaks on the sight,
Where confusion and wildness increase the delight;
Till in wanton luxuriance indulging our eye,
We faint in the forcible fragrance, and die.

VI.

From our Goldsmith's anomalous character, who
Can withhold his contempt, and his reverence too ?
From a poet so polished, so paltry a fellow !
From critic, historian, or vile Punchinello !
From a heart in which meanness had made her abode,
From a foot that each path of vulgarity trod;
From a head to invent, and a hand to adorn,
Unskilled in the schools, a philosopher born.
By disguise undefended, by jealousy smit,
This lusus naturæ, nondescript in wit,
May best be compared to those Anamorphoses,
Which for lectures to ladies th' optician proposes ;
All deformity seeming, in some points of view,
In others quite accurate, regular, true:
Till the student no more sees the figure that shocked her,
But all in his likeness, — our odd little doctor.

VII. Of Reynolds all good should be said, and no harm; Though the heart is too frigid, the pencil too warm ; Yet each fault from his converse we still must disclaim, As his temper 't is peaceful, and pure as his fame.

Nothing in it o'erflows, nothing ever is wanting,
It nor chills like his kindness, nor glows like his painting.
When Johnson by strength overpowers our mind,
When Montagu dazzles, and Burke strikes us blind;
To Reynolds well pleased for relief we must run,
Rejoice in his shadow, and shrink from the sun.

VIII.

In this luminous portrait, requiring no shade,
See Chambers' soft character sweetly displayed ;
O, quickly return with that genuine smile,
Nor longer let India's temptations beguile,
But fly from a climate where moist relaxation
Invades with her torpor th' effeminate nation,
Where metals and marbles will melt and decay,
Fear, man, for thy virtue, — and hasten away.

IX.

Here Garrick's loved features our mem’ry may trace,
Here praise is exhausted, and blame has no place.
Many portraits like this would defeat my whole scheme,
For what new can be said on so hackneyed a theme?
'T is thus on old Ocean whole days one may look,
Every change well recorded in some well-known book ;
Till with vain expectation fatiguing our eyes,
Nor the storm nor the calm one new image supplies.

See Thrale from intruders defending his door,
While he wishes his house would with people run o'er;
Unlike his companions, the make of his mind,
In great things expanded, in small things confined.
Yet his purse at their call and his meat to their taste,
The wits he delighted in loved him at last;
And finding no prominent follies to fleer at,
Respected his wealth and applauded his merit:
Much like that empirical chemist was he
Who thought Anima Mundi the grand panacea.
Yet when every kind element helped his collection,
Fell sick while the med'eine was yet in projection.

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