Letter from LORD BUCHAN to SOCIETY OF ARTS, written 10 May 1802, at Dryburgh Abbey, Scotland

MS RSA AD/MA/104/10/403, Royal Society of Arts, London. [img]

The Scottish antiquarian, art collector and member of the Society of Arts David Steuart Erskine (1742-1829), earl of Buchan, [img] was anxious to persuade the Society to set up a fund to assist Barry in his old age. The letter is addressed to the Secretary of the Society Charles Taylor (d. 1816) who had been elected Secretary after Samuel More's death in 1799.

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Having lately visited London, after a long absence, and having had the pleasure of being a Member of the Society, for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in London, for near forty years, I paid a respectful visit to it, and enquired with much satisfaction, into the progress it had made, since I was last in Town.

I was much struck by a fresh view of those beautiful and scientific paintings, of the late Professor of Painting in the Royal Academy; with which the public room of the Society is so nobly decorated; and it occurred to me, that the meritorious Artist ought not to be allowed to suffer from the loss he has sustained, in his professional income; but that individuals who esteem himself and admire his Genius, should enable him to pass the remainder of his days with honour & with comfort.1 I was sensible of the delicacy, with which such a measure should be adopted, and I took the liberty of imparting my sentiments to the King;2 it being the furthest thing in the world from my mind, to be a party in any transaction, that could give the smallest pain to his Majesty; whom I have always honoured and esteemed; & who could not be supposed to act, in any manner of way, relating to Mr Barry, but by advice, competent to direct in such a case, as formerly occurred, in relation to Mr Barry's place in the Academy.3

Being perfectly certain therefore, that individual regard, shown to the late Professor, as a Man, and as an Artist of great merit, can not in the least infer any disrespect to Him who is the chief object of my Duty & Esteem, I take the Liberty, through your medium, as Secretary to the Society of Arts, to propose to the Members of the Society, who may think as I do, on this subject, to propose an honourable union of such, to contribute such a Fund as may purchase an Annuity for Mr Barry, adequate to his merit, and requisite support, in the prosecution of his Art, to which I am desirous of contributing to the utmost extent of my ability.

I have only to add that the Nation which shall become second in the elegant Arts, will not continue long, to be first, in Commerce and Manufactures.

I am Sir,
with sincere respect towards the Society
Your obedt obedient humble Servant


Dryburgh Abbey 4 May 10.1802

To the Secretary of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts &c London