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unerring hand and eye! what fancy! what power! what a gift of God! I bow and am grateful.
'10M.—It is extraordinary what a guard I am obliged to keep on myself. The moment the excitement of a great work is over, if I do not go at another, I am sure to burst out—in writing. My brain seems to require constant pressure to be easy, and my body incessant activity. In a great public work alone, I shall ever find rest, which will never be afforded me.'—Vol. iii. p. 245.
We call this melancholy, because we know the result; but the style would have had its admirers, had the performance corresponded to the artist's description of the power and genius that had executed them.
With such an apprehension of his merits we can scarcely wonder that the contrast between these brilliant gifts and their appreciation by mankind, when once forced upon him, should be poignant enough to upset a mind so dependent on the world's opinion, and which could not for a moment be insensible to neglect. In an interview with a brother artist he sums up the heavy amount of this neglect:—
'Reinagle said he thought me infamously used, and wondered I had not gone mad or died. "Where is your Solomon, Mr. Haydon 1" "Hung up in a grocer's shop." "Where your Jerusalem?" "In a ware-room in Holborn." "Where your Lazarus?" "In an upholsterer's shop in Mount Street." "And your Macbeth?" "In Chancery." "Your Pharaoh?" "In an attic, pledged." "My God! And your Crucifixion?" "In a hayloft." "And Silenus?" "Sold for half price." Such was the conversation.'—Vol. ii. p. 137.
But, as has been already said, this ready fluent tongue and pen proved fatal to his art, diverting all thought into another channel, if indeed he was not wholly mistaken in himself.
One mode of engaging the interest of others in the cause he most cared for, he entered upon only late in life, and yet it was what he was best fitted for—that of giving public lectures. In these he was eminently successful; his manner, his enthusiasm, his ready eloquence, his really extensive knowledge, roused the attention and sustained the interest of his numerous audiences. It was a means of spreading the principles his life was devoted to into other circles, and giving high art a wider and less aristocratic set of patrons, while, at the same time, it secured for himself the publicity he loved. But lecturing cannot be a lasting occupation, nor could he ever have consented to abandon his chosen profession, or ceased to crave for larger fields of canvas on which to execute his teeming conceptions.
But a blow was preparing for him which neither himself nor those who had thought the visions of his life eutopian (and they were the greater part of his hearers), could at one time have believed within the range of possibility. What he had all along been demanding of the nation, and of every man in power, had been some great national assistance to art, especially the adorning of our public buildings by historical pictures. Years before be had actually proposed removing the old tapestry in the House of Lords and applying those walls to the purpose. No one would then listen to the proposal; but now that the Houses of Parliament were burnt down, and new ones must be built, his endless tirades and exhortations seemed to have effect at last. Pictures were to be. All went as he would have had it; a Fine Arts' Commission sat, a notice was issued of the conditions for the cartoon competition, to test the capacity of English artists for the style of art suited to the decoration of the new houses of Parliament. He set to work upon fresco in a strange mixture of triumph and misgivings; misgivings inevitable to a man who has been boasting all his life, and is now to be tested against others, many amongst the most distinguished being his own pupils. He sent his cartoons to Westminster Hall. Here he says:—
'I found East-lake, my pupil, walking about. He was most happy to see me. I said, "Do you recollect drinking tea with me in 1808, and telling me my conversation had made you a painter?" "I do," said he, "and there is no doubt of it." And " Do you remember," said he, "coming with me into Westminster Hall, and drawing a gigantic limb on the wall with the end of the umbrella, saying, 'This is the place for art.'" I did not. He said I actually did so, thirty years ago; and he remembered my jumping up to reach high. Now here we were, master and pupil, marching about, and the first act of this great drama of art just beginning. O God! when I reflect on thy leading me on so many years from the beginning, I must believe I ever have been, and ever shall be, protected by Thee.'—Vol. iii. p. 229.
When the time of decision came, his cartoons were not successful, and were passed over in silence by the Commission. It is the firm opinion of the Editor that this fatal exclusion from the first great national work of art broke his heart; that every subsequent effort to assert his claims in the remaining three years of his life ' were void of true hope, a frantic lashing the sides of his intent/ to approve himself a great artist, when he had begun to doubt it. The mortification to a well-regulated mind would have been intense; to him who had no resignation, and who said of philosophy, 'I have no philosophy—I hate it; I am very wretched and I will complain;' whose only mode of meeting disappointment was by conjuring up a larger vision of hope to shut out the sight or thought of it, and who now in declining years found hope itself fail him as any substantial support—the effect was overwhelming. Certainly, from this time we may observe a greater extravagance of thought, a more reckless self-assertion, a wilder superstition gaining ground upon him. He goes on painting, still resolving to appeal against the Commission to the public, but he gets irrationally excited by his subjects, and his journal has scattered flighty desigra for a figure of Satan, which was to form the chief object of» grand Miltonic picture, and whose countenance was to be a gathering place for the separate features of himself and various other distinguished men. The alternations from prostration and dejection to extravagant hope, are almost too painful to dwell upon, and his ' difficulties' still dog him with their ceaseless worry, though the kindness of friends, the indulgence of his landlord (the same he had insulted), and the compassion of great men, among whom Sir Robert Peel stands conspicuous, seem always at hand to help him. Besides which, up to the last he was in the receipt of considerable sums. But he had lived upon a delusion through his whole life, and the apprehension coming at last in his sixtieth year, that it was a delusion, was too much for a reason which it had been the deliberate work of his existence to subvert. It makes the heart bleed to find this rash and buoyant spirit noting down such entries as these:—
'. Omens or failure in this exhibition.
'1st. The cab-horse slipped on the wood, and tumbled.
'2d. I let all the letters tumble for the private day, and to-day, in tryiw to put up Wordsworth, he tumbled, knocked down Lord Althorp, broke the frame, and played the devil.
'After this what success can come? N
'Do I believe this, or don't I? Half inclined
• Vith.—Easter Monday. O God, bless my receipts this day, for the sate of my creditors, my family, and my art. Amen.
£ i. d.
• Receipts, 22 12 0
'Catalogues, 3 016
1 3 6
'An advertisement, of a fiuer description to catch the prqfanum tvlgu, could not be written, yet not a shilling more was added to the receipts.
'They rush by thousands to see Tom Thumb. They push, they figH they scream, they faint, they cry help and murder! and oh! and ah! They see my bills, my boards, my caravans, and don't read them. Their eyes are open, but their sense is shut. It is an insanity, a rabies, a madness, a furor, a dream.
'I would not have believed it of the English people
'My dangers are great.
'May lit.—Every spring time presses; money flies; the butcher, the baker, the tax-collector, the landlord, give louder knocks than before; away goes the only hope to the exhibition; for artists, like the evil spirits of hell, doubt and tremble, and yet abhor and do.
'3d.—I put down in my Journal everything which passes through » human mind, that its weaknesses, its follies, its superstitions, may be balanced against its vigour, propriety, and sound convictions.
'5lk—Came home in excruciating anxiety.'—Vol. iii. pp. 307, 308, S10
He often speaks of confusion of head:—
'5th.—0, 0, 0! I sat all day and looked into the fire. I must get up my third canvas, or I shall go cracked; I have ordered it up on Saturday, and then I'll be at it.
'Perhaps this paralysis was nature's repose. I stared like a baby, and felt like one. A man who has had so many misfortunes as 1 have had gets frightened at leaving his family for a day.— . 'For a moment my brain was confused. .. .
'I came home with great pain of mind; yet would any man believe, as I waited in the lawyer's chambers, the whole background of Alfred flashed into my head? I dwelt on it, foresaw its effects, and came home in sorrow, delight, anxiety, and anticipation. I set my palette with a disgust, and yet under irresistible impulse. In coming into the parlour, the cook, whose wages I had not been able to pay, handed me a card from a broker, saying he called for a quarter's rent from Mr. Newton. I felt my heart sink, my brain confused, as I foresaw ruin, misery, and a prison! It was hoisting the standard!
'This is temper. I went on with my palette in a giddy fidget I brought it out, and looking at my great work, rejoiced inwardly at the coming background. But my brain, harassed and confused, fell into a deep slumber, from which I did not awake for an hour. I awoke cold, the fire out; but I flew at my picture, and dashing about like an inspired devil, by three had arranged and put in the alteration.
'June \6lh.—I sat from two till five staring at my picture like an idiot.'—Vol. iii. pp. 301,311,316.
His prayers, thougli more importunate than ever, have still no higher or more far-seeing aim. It does not seem that they ever rest in heaven, or have any other thought than obtaining his own will:—
'June 1st, 1846.—O God, I begin this month, June, in fear and submission. Thy will, not mine, be done. Carry me through, in spite of all appearances and realities of danger, for Jesus Christ's sake; and enable me to keep my health in eyes and mind, and to bear up and get through my six great works in spite of all the difficulties, calamities, or obstructions, which ever afflicted humanity. .. .
'Sunday, iith.—() God! Let it not be presumption in calling for Thy blessing on my six works. Let no difficulty on earth stop or impede their -progression, for one moment. Out of nothing thou couldst create worlds. O God I bless me this week with Thy Divine aid. From sources invisible to us raise up friends, save me from the embarrassments want of money must bring on. O God! grant this day week I may be able to thank Thee from my soul for extrication, and preserve my health and head, and spirit and piety to bear up and vanquish all obstructions. Amen. Amen. . . .
'17th.—Dearest Mary, with a woman's passion, wishes me at once to stop payment, and close the whole thing. I will not. I will finish my six, under the blessing of God; reduce my expenses; and hope His mercy will not desert me, but bring me through in health and vigour, gratitude and grandeur of soul, to the end. In Him alone I trust. Let my imagination keep Columbus before my mind for ever. O God, bless my efforts with success, through every variety of fortune, and support my dear Mary and family. Amen.'—Vol. iii. pp. 314—317.
Interspersed through the book are certain passing remarks on suicide, from which we see that it was to him a natural resource in case of despair. He admits, at one time, that he cannot see it in the light he ought. In another, he traces it to indigestion, and would almost prove self-destruction a form of natural death, the brain and digestive organs guiding the irresponsible hand. A few months before his own death, we find this notice:—
'Good heavens! Gum ood has cut his throat. The man who had headed the forlorn hope at Ciudad Kodrigo—the rigid soldier—the ironnerved hero, had not morale to resist the relaxation of nerve brought on by his over-anxiety about the Duke's despatches.
'Where is the responsibility of a man with mind so easily afFected by body? Romilly, CastIereagh, and Gurwood!'—Vol. iii. p. 292.
There is little doubt that, for some time, he had set this resource before him in case of need. To his imagination an old age of insignificance and neglect was unendurable. His ideas of a future world were wrapt in Pagan obscurity—all was blank hopeless oblivion. Yet he was surrounded by blessings and kindness to the end. If he could but have sacrificed the one darling dream of his life, his prospects were not wholly dreary. His sons, through his exertions, were educated and provided for, one of Sir R. Peel's very late acts having been to place one in a public office. His wife was always loving and devoted. His own art could have procured a respectable income, if he could have contentedly applied it to that purpose. He had not yet exhausted the benevolence of friends; witness Sir Robert Peel's answer to an application, written five days before his death, enclosing 50/. But he had 'lost patience.' Who can tell how far his love for display, and the desire of creating a sensation, may have actuated him? there is a deliberation, an arrangement, a studying of effect in his last moments, which makes this no illiberal assumption. He sets his room in order, places his wife's portrait, opens his Prayer-book, makes his last entry in his journals—an appropriate quotation, a formal conclusion, and then—
'\7th.—In the morning, fearing I should be involved, I took down books I had not paid for to a young bookseller with a family, to return them. As I drove along, I thought I might get money on them. I felt disgusted at such a thought, and stopped and told him I feared I was in danger; and as he might lose, I begged him to keep them for a few days. He was grateful, and in the evening came this 50/. / know what I believe.
'\Slh.—O God, bless me through the evils of this day. Great anxiety. My landlord, Newton, called. I said, " I see a quarter's rent in thy face, but none from me." I appointed to-morrow night to see him, and laybefore him every iota of my position. Good-hearted Newton! I said, "Don't put in an execution." "Nothing of the sort," he replied, half hurt .
'I sent the Duke, Wordsworth, dear Fred, and Mary's heads to Miss Barrett to protect. I have the Duke's boots and hat, nnd Lord Grey's coat, and some more heads.