Letter from EDMUND BURKE to JAMES BARRY, written c. 13 May 1766 , at London

Source: MS F. W. Hilles, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale. Printed: Fryer, Works of Barry, i. 53-55, Burke, Correspondence, i. 253-54; Envelope addressed: A Monsieur
Mons.r Barry, chez
Mons.r le Colonel Drumgold
a l’Abbayé de St Germains
a Paris.
Bishop mark: 13 / MA

Edmund Burke (1729-97), born and educated in Dublin, had recently been elected to the Westminster parliament where he was to play a major role in debates through the rest of the century. [go] He had already published A Vindication of Natural Society (1756) and A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757). Barry had greatly admired the latter before he met Burke in 1763. He and his kinsman William Burke were now financing Barry's studies on the continent.

The letter is not dated, nor is it signed, though written in Edmund Burke's hand. The final paragraph is written by Burke's father-in-law, the Irish physician Dr. Christopher Nugent (1698-75); Barry did a portrait of him. [img] The letter was written on or before the date in the bishop mark, 13 May.

Fryer uses heavier punctuation, introduces three new paragraph breaks and makes a few minor changes to the text.

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My dear Barry,1 I hope your kindness & partiality to me, will induce you to give the most favourable construction to my long Silence.2 I assure you, that disregard & inattention to you had not the smallest share in it. I love you & esteem you, as I always did ever since I knew you; & I wish your welfare & your credit, (which is the best gift of providence in the way of fortune) as much as any man; & am much pleased with the steps wch which I hear3 you are taking to advance them. M.r Macleane,4 your very good friend, tells me, that you are preparing to set out shortly for Italy. As to what regards you personally I have only to advise, that you would not live in a poor or an unequal5 manner; but plentifully, upon the best things, & as nearly as you can, in the ordinary method of other people.6 Singularity in Diet, is in General, I believe, unwholesome; your friend the doctor,7 is, in that way of thinking. I mention this, as Macleane tells me you have been ill, by ordering your diet on a plan of your own. I shall be happy in hearing that you are thoroughly recoverd recovered , & ready to proceed on your Journey with alacrity & spirit.

With regard to your studies, you know, my dear Barry, my opinion. I do not choose to lecture you to death. But to say all I can in a few Words. it It will not do for a man qualified like you to be a connoisseur, & a sketcher:8 you must be an Artist; & this you cannot be but by drawing with the last degree of noble correctness.9 Until you can draw beauty with the last degree of Truth & precision, you will not consider yourself possessdpossessed of that faculty. This power will not hinder you from passing to the great Style10 when you please, if your Character should, as I imagine it will, lead you to that Style in preference to the other. But no man can draw perfectly that cannot draw Beauty. My dear Barry, I repeat it again, leave off sketching. Whatever you do, finish it. Your Letters are very kind in remembering us; & surely as to the Criticisms of every kind, admirable. Reynolds11 likes them exceedingly. He conceives extraordinary hopes of you; & recommends above all things to you the continual Study of the Capella Systina, in which are the greatest Works of Michael Angelo.12 He says, he will be mistaken if that Painter does not become your great favourite. Let me entreat, that you will overcome that unfortunate delicacy that attends you, & that you willthat you will go through a full Course of Anatomy, with the knife in your hand;13 you will never be able thoroughly to supply the omission of this by any other method.14 The p […] [gap in transcription (missing)] exhibition15 is, I think much the best that we have ha […] [gap in transcription (missing)] West16 has two pieces wch which would give you very great hopes of him; & I confess17 some time ago, I had not any that were very sanguine; but in these he has really done considerable things. Barret18 enquires very kindly for you he makes a very good figure in this exhibition.

Though I have19 not till now wrote a word to My Dear M.r Barry, and that I shall now only write a word, I shall take it very ill If you do not think that I wish you as well and love you as much as If I had told you so twice aeveryevery week since I saw you last.since I saw you last. It gives me pleasure to find by M.r McLean that you are well recovered. God bless you.

I am most afftly Yours