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But a man like Gainsborough is not long in discovering that provincial places are not the places for him; and, as was said by one of his friends, his remove from Bath to London proved as good a move as it was from Ipswich to Bath. In London he added the lucrative branch of portraitpainting to his favourite pursuit of landscape. The permanent splendour of his colours, and the natural and living air which he communicated to whatever he touched, made him at this time, in the estimation of many, a dangerous rival of Sir Joshua himself. Gainsborough was quite a child of nature, and everything that came from his easel smacked strongly of that raciness, freshness, and originality, the study of nature alone can give. “The Woodman and his Dog in the Storm” was one of his favourite compositions, and most deservedly so; yet while he lived, he could find no purchaser at the paltry sum of one hundred guineas. After his death, five hundred guineas were paid for it by Lord Gainsborough, in whose house it was subsequently burnt. “The Shepherd's Boy in the Shower,” and his “Cottage Girl with her Dog and Pitcher," were also his prime favourites. Although having the good taste to express no contempt for the society of literary or fashionable men, Gainsborough, unlike the courtly Sir Joshua, cared little for their company. Music was his passion—or rather, next to his profession, the business of his life. Smith, in his Life of Nollekens, relates that he once found Colonel Hamilton playing so exquisitely to Gainsborough on the violin, that the artist exclaimed, "Go on, and I will give you the picture of the Boy at the Stile, which you have so often wished to purchase of me.” The colonel proceeded, and the painter stood in speechless admiration, with the tears of rapture on his cheek. Hamilton then called a coach and carried away the picture.
Gainsborough seems to have passed a tolerably happy life, steering clear of those quarrels and irritations that embittered the lives of Hogarth, Barry, and many other great names in his profession. Between him and Sir Joshua “there was no love lost ;” but this was to have been expected from men moving so nearly in the same orbit. He was a welcome guest at the table of the elegant and accomplished Sir George Beaumont, and lived on terms of great affection with the talented and versatile Richard Brinsley Sheridan. The chief misery of his life, next to a cancer, which brought him to his grave, was the unrelenting and cruel patronage of a vain fool, called Thicknesse, some time governor of Landguard Fort ; who having in the artist's early day ordered of him a thirty-guinea picture, in consequence of this exertion of liberality, employed the remainder of his life in publishing to the world the ingratitude of the artist, whom he had rescued from obscurity, and chaperoned into fame. It is much to the credit of Gainsborough, that through a long and creditable life, he never forgot the independence of the position he had acquired by his industry, good conduct, and talent. He painted his pictures, took his money, thanking his head and right hand that enabled him to earn it, and laughed at the would be patronage of Thicknesse, who had the bad taste to inform the public that "he dragged him (Gainsborough) from the obscurity of a country town at a time when all his neighbours were as ignorant of his great talents as he was himself.” Such is the modesty of patronage, and such the methods by which patrons pay themselves !
When assured that the progress of his fatal malady precluded all hopes of life, he desired to be buried in Kew Churchyard, and that his name only should be cut on his grave-stone. He sent for Sir Joshua, and was reconciled to him; then exclaiming, “We are all going to heaven, and Vandyke is of the company !” immediately expired, in the sixty-first year of his age. Sheridan and Sir Joshua followed him to the grave.
Of his works, Walpole exclaims, “What frankness and nature in Gainsborough's landscapes, which entitle them to rank in the noblest collections !” Allan Cunningham remarks: “The chief works of Gainsborough are not what is usually called landscape, for he had no wish to create gardens of paradise, and leave them to the sole enjoyment of the sun and breeze. The wildest nooks of his woods have their living tenants, and in all his glades and his valleys we see the sons and daughters of men. A deep human sympathy unites us with his pencil, and this is not lessened because all its works are stamped with the image of Old England. His paintings have a national look; he belongs to no school; he is not reflected from the glass of man, but from that of nature. He has not steeped his landscape in the atmosphere of Italy, like Wilson, nor borrowed the postures of his portraits from the old masters, like Reynolds. No academy schooled down into uniformity and imitation the truly English and intrepid spirit of Gainsborough. There is a charm about the children running wild in the landscapes of Gainsborough, which is more deeply felt by comparing them with those of Reynolds. There is a rustic grace, an untamed wildness about the children of Gainsborough, which speak of the country and of neglected toilets. They are the offspring of nature, running free amongst woods as wild as themselves.”
Of the works of Gainsborough, every visitor to the National Gallery is familiar with “The Market Cart :” “The Blue Boy," and the yet more celebrated “Cottage Door,” are in the collection of the Marquis of Westminster. As one of the founders, and a chief ornament, of the truly British school of painting, Gainsborough is entitled to somewhat more than the ordinary space we can afford to bestow upon biographical notices of those who are identified in life or death with the Environs of London.
“ Tedious town,
appears on the right, or Middlesex side of the river, soon after passing beneath Kew Bridge. Edmund Ironside defeated the Danes with great slaughter at this ford in 1016; and, six hundred and twenty years later, a memorable battle was fought here between the troops of King Charles and some regiments belonging to the Parliament, with success variously related by historians of the antagonist parties. It appears, however, that in the assault the Cavaliers had the upper hand, but without any lasting advantage, having retreated next day, on the approach of a strong force of Roundheads, to Hampton Court. Among the prisoners taken in this battle was the famous John Lilburne.
An interesting narrative of this struggle has been transmitted to us from one of the Cavaliers engaged in the action ; who says—“On Saturday, very early, we marched from Ashford, and at Hounslow Heath all the king's foot met, expecting a battle ; but none offered. On still we went to Hounslow town ; thence to Brentford, where unexpectedly we were encountered by two or three regiments of theirs, who had made some small barricadoes at the end of the first town, called New Brentford. The van of our army, being about a thousand musqueteers, answered their shot so bitterly, that within an hour or less they forsook their work in that place, and fled another which they had raised betwixt the two towns; from whence, and a brick house by, with two small ordnance they gave us a hot and long shower of bullets. My colonel's (Sir Edward Fitton's) regiment was the sixth that was brought to assault, after five others had all discharged, whose happy honour it was (assisted by God and a new piece of cannon newly come up) to drive them from that work too, where it was a heart-breaking object to hear and see the miserable deaths of many goodly men.
But what was most pitiful, was to see how many poor men ended and lost their lives striving to
save them; for they ran into the Thames, and about two hundred of them, as we might judge, were there drowned by themselves, and so were guilty of their own deaths; for had they staid and yielded themselves, the king's mercy is so gracious that he had spared them all. We took there six or eight colours, also their two pieces of ordnance, and all this with a very small loss, God be praised ! for, believe me, I cannot understand that we lost sixteen
Then we, thinking all had been done for that night, two of our regiments passed up through the old town to make good the entrance; but they were again encountered with a fresh onset, which, scattered like the rest after a short conflict, fled away towards Hammersmith, and we were left masters of the towns. That night most lay in the cold fields.”
At the chapel here officiated for a time the well-known John Horne Tooke, author of the Diversions of Purley. Noy, the attorney-general of Charles I., with whom the unlucky exaction of ship-money had its origin, or at least revival, was interred at Brentford. He was an able and learned lawyer, but morose and unpopular. The writ for the obnoxious tax, for which, it is said, he had discovered a precedent among the records of the Tower, and which he brought forward in the House, was drawn and prepared by his own hand. Before his appointment to the attorney-general's office, Noy was a most strenuous opposer of the king's prerogative; but was much less dangerous to His Majesty as an enemy than as a friend. At Brentford the freeholders of Middlesex are accustomed to hold elections of their representatives in Parliament. The bridge over the little river Brent is of great antiquity, and in the time of Edward I. was toll-free, Jews and Jewesses only excepted. Before the railways diminished so materially intercourse by road, Brentford was one of the greatest thoroughfares in England.
Sion House, one of the seats of His Grace the Duke of Northumberland, between Brentford and Isleworth, is a beautiful object, beautifully situated. This noble mansion, in the form of a quadrangle, with square embattled turrets at the angles, was fitted up at great expense by the late Duke. The Great Hall, paved with black and white marble, is sixty-six feet by thirtyone, and thirty-four feet in height. It contains some antique statues, and a cast of the Dying Gladiator. The great attraction of this magnificent mansion is the Vestibule, adorned with twelve pillars of the Ionic order, and sixteen pilasters of that rare and valuable material, the verd antique, being probably a greater quantity of that marble than can be found in any other mansion in Europe. The Library, extending through the east side of the quadrangle, is one hundred and thirty feet by fourteen. The book-cases are. formed in recesses in the wall, and receive the books so as to make them
part of the general finishing of the room. Below the ceiling, which is richly adorned with paintings and ornaments, runs a series of large medallion paintings, exhibiting the portraits of all the Earls of Northumberland in succession, and other principal persons of the houses of Percy and Seymour, taken from original paintings in the possession of the families.
The Drawing-room has a carved ceiling, divided into two small compartments, richly gilt, and representing designs of many of the antique paintings. that have been found in Europe, executed by the Italian masters. The sides. are hung with a rich silk damask, the finest of the kind ever executed in England. The tables are two noble pieces of antique mosaic, found in the baths of Titus at Rome.
The Dining-room is ornamented with statues in marble, and paintings in chiaro-scuro after the antique.
From the east end of the Library are the private apartments, along which we return again to the Great Hall. Among the portraits that adorn the walls of this truly palatial edifice are those of Henry Percy, implicated in the Gunpowder Plot, for which he suffered a long imprisonment in the Tower ; Lucy, Countess of Carlisle, daughter of His Grace, and one of the most admired beauties of her time; Algernon Percy, tenth Earl of Northumberland; Charles I., and one of his sons, probably the Duke of Gloucester, by Sir