Letter from EDMUND BURKE to JAMES BARRY, written 2 May 1777, at London

Source: Fryer, Works of Barry, i. 252-53; Burke, Correspondence, iii. 336-37.

Barry had started to do engravings and prints of his paintings at his house at 29 Suffolk Street in London in 1776 (see Pressly, Life and Art, pp.123-32). He published Job reproved by his friends, [img] an etching and aquatint, on 1 March 1777; he dedicated it to Burke, not least because it recalls references to Job in Burke's Philosophical Enquiry (1757), which Barry greatly admired; it also serves as a comment on Burke the politician (Pressly, Life and Art, pp. 78-79). Fryer tells how Barry at this time painted during the day and worked on his engravings at night in order to make enough money for his basic needs (Works of Barry, i. 252).

Full display

Mr. Burke presents his best compliments to Mr. Barry, and begs pardon for making use of another's hand, in giving him his thanks for the great honour he has done him by inscribing1 to him the print of Job;2 as well as for the prints sent to his son Richard, of the other five designs:3 but being obliged to go out in great haste, after having been engaged in business for the whole morning, he is under the necessity of dictating this note while he is dressing.

Mr. Barry does him too much honour in thinking him capable of giving him any hints towards the conduct of the great design in which Mr. Burke is very happy to find he is engaged.4 Mr. Burke is, without any affectation, thoroughly convinced, that he has no skill whatsoever in the art of painting;5 but he will very cheerfully turn his thoughts towards recollecting passages of modern or middle history,6 relative to the cultivation of the arts and manufactures;7 and Mr. Barry will judge better than he can, whether they are such as will answer his purpose.

Mr. Burke will have the pleasure of waiting on Mr. Barry8 to communicate to him what occurs to him on the subject at his first leisure moment.

2d 2nd May, 1777.