Letter from JAMES BARRY to LAUCHLIN MACLEANE , written 2 November 1766, at Rome

Source: Fryer, Works of Barry i. 63-65.

Fryer questions whether the addressee is Lauchlin Macleane (c.1728-78),1 mutual friend of Barry and the Burkes and now Under-Secretary to William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne (1737-1805), Secretary of State in Lord Chatham’s Administration. However, the congratulations at the end 'upon your accession to the secretaryship,' along with the familiar tone, make it virtually certain that Macleane is the addressee.

Lauchlin Macleane was born in Antrim, Northern Ireland, was admitted to Trinity College, Dublin on 29 May, 1746 and graduated in medicine from Edinburgh in 1755; he practised in America in the 1750s, but never in Europe. He served as a senior Tax Inspector in the West Indies during the Seven Years War before returning to England in 1763 (James N.M.Maclean, Reward is Secondary, the Life of a political Adventurer and an Inquiry into the Mystery of 'Junius' (London, 1963), p. 43 et passim); he had a reputation as a stock-market gambler and was involved in land speculation in the West Indies (Elizabeth R. Lambert, Edmund Burke of Beaconsfield, pp. 47-8; Lock, Edmund Burke, i. 215, n. 13). Dame Lucy Sutherland called him 'one of the most remarkable adventurers of the time' (Lucy Sutherland,The East India Company in Eighteenth-Century Politics (Oxford, 1952), p. 143); see also P. J. Marshall, ‘Macleane, Lauchlin (1728/9–1778)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn, Oxford University Press, Oct 2005

Macleane moved from Holles Street, Cavendish Square to a house in the same street as the Burkes, Queen Anne Street, in November 1766.

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Rome, November 2, 1766

My Dear Sir,

I delayed three weeks at Paris, hoping to have an opportunity to see you, to return you in propria persona,2 my poor, though sincere thanks, for the favours you have conferred upon me ever since I had the happiness of knowing you.3 You will be so kind as to excuse me to Madame4 for not having waited upon her at my going away: it was a piece of respect which I owe any one you regard, and which nothing prevented me but our total inability to understand one another, which must have embarrassed us both. The journey to Rome has been upon the whole pleasant enough. One of your observation would, besides other things, have had ample employment in tracing the French politeness through all its stages and advancements, to the brutality of the Savoyards, and till you come to Turin, the capital of Piedmont, where I would not hesitate to say, humanity is as bestial as it is capable of. Their insolence to strangers is very shocking indeed, especially whilst the French urbanity is so recent in one's mind.

After one leaves Piedmont the people become more and more humanized, and at Florence and Rome, are reasonably civil and agreeable. My rout5 from Turin has been through Parma, Bologna, and Florence; and at all of those places, as there were many things to see, I proposed to myself no small pleasure. There was a French officer who was an artist also, and accompanied us from Turin, who was our spokesman all the way; as he understood the language, he inquired, at my request, after the works of Corregio6, and we were directed to a palace some miles from Parma. We immediately hired a chaise, and got there an hour before night, where we saw nothing but gardens and other common things, not worth the mentioning, the pictures having been removed to town some time before.7 On our return we found the gates shut, and after sending to the officer, to the governor, and what not, we were let in about one o'clock in the morning, almost frozen to death with a delay of above five hours before the walls. At Bologna, by a like accident, we saw none of the things we wanted. Our guide, after leading us from one silly thing to another, gave us the slip at last, to follow other strangers from whom he had greater expectations. We had a letter to an English artist at Florence, and accordingly saw by his means for the day we stayed there, all the antiques8 and pictures of credit, which made ample amends for our former disappointments. The night before our arrival at Rome, I was stung by a scorpion in the middle finger of the right hand; as I was ignorant of the consequence and nature of those things, I would have had the finger taken off to save the hand, if the hostess had not luckily prevented me, by bringing some bruised scorpion and oil in a pot,9 which she told me was infallible, as indeed I found it upon trial; so that, I thank God, I have both my hands, all my fingers, and as much health and spirits to prosecute my studies, as any body.

I have filled my letter, and taken up your time with these trifles, merely to avoid attempting any description to you, of the antiques and ancient pictures I have seen here, and at Florence. I want words to tell you of the elegance, beauty, precision, and sublimity, of the Venus,10 the bust of Alexander,11 the Apollo,12 the Laocoon,13 and the Antinous14 of Michael Angelo and Raffael.15—I shall not attempt it, and shall in the heartiest, sincerest manner, conclude with congratulating you upon your accession to the secretaryship.16 Nobody, I am sure, rejoices and exults in it more than,

Your obliged humble servant,

J.B. James Barry.