Letter from EARL OF ALDBOROUGH to JAMES BARRY, written 26 May 1783, at Great-Glenham, near Saxmundham, Suffolk

Source: Fryer, Works of Barry, i. 271-72.

Edward Augustus Stratford (1733/4-1801), 2nd Earl of Aldborough, somewhat eccentric Irish peer and politician, appointed governor of County Wicklow in 1778, a member of the Royal Society, and a general in the Irish Volunteers in 1784; he published An Essay on the True Interests of the Empire (1783) in Dublin. He writes to congratulate Barry on his six paintings The Progress of Human Culture in the Great Room of the Society of Arts in the Adelphi off the Strand .

Full display

Great-Glenham, near Saxmundham May 26 1783.


The day before I came here I had the unspeakable satisfaction of seeing your great instructive works at the Adelphi, and was nearly as much entertained with reading your book1 upon them in my way hither. When I return to town I shall again and again visit those unequalled performances; they will stand the comparison of past, and test of future ages, for originality of design, instruction, colouring, energy, and disposition of figure, taste, and judgment, and success in the invention and execution. You have taken in all the perfections, combined all the qualities of Raffael, Titian, Guido,2 and the most celebrated artists of the Grecian and Roman schools; and your literary works3 prove you possess all the liberal arts, as well as painting, and reflect equal honour on the age you live in, as shame to this country, for the want of due encouragement. It is a national concern to place you at the head of an academy of the belles sciences at a stipend equal to your merit. I feel happy in boasting of you as my countryman, and regret my house4 and table was not honoured with such a guest, while you was so laudibly employed; how I should have benefited and improved in viewing your progress in such unrivalled paintings.

I beg leave to subscribe to a double set of your engravings of them,5 and protest I should rather be master of the six pictures then all the paintings, cartoons, &c. I have ever seen. Was I to expatiate as I might on your excellencies, it would take up more paper and time than I can spare, or your delicacy could relish. May every honour, success, and happiness attend so elevated a genius, so skilled an artist, so good a writer.

I propose returning to town on Saturday or Sunday, and would be extremely happy to see you at Aldborough-House, Stratford-Place, any time the week following. There you will see some of your friend Hamilton's performances.6 I agree in sentiments with you as to him and portraits,7 and indeed in almost every thing you have written. My house and fortune are at your service till your circumstances equal your abilities, and the wishes of, sir, your friend, admirer, and humble servant,