Letter from JAMES BARRY to LORD BUCHAN, written 3 May 1802, at Castle Street, London

Source: MS James Marshall and Marie Louise Osborn Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. [img] [img]

Cover: To the Right Honbl the
Earl of Buchan
Dryburgh Abbey
near Edinburgh

Lord Buchan wrote two separate remarks on the cover: first, 'As the subject of this Letter of Professor Barry, relates to what may probably be the last public action of my life I am desirous that it should be preserved by my Literary Executors.
Dryburgh Abbey May 9.th

Second, 'In the Appendix to Pilkington's Dictionary of Painters1 some expressions were imputed to M.r Barry which actually came from the Pen of another but occasioned his being dismissed from his Professorship of Painting in the R. Acad.2 & finally from the Society.
When in London last Winter I enquired minutely into the case and found Barry innocent. I mentioned his case to the King but too much had passed to admit of his Majestys giving ear to my application. Nevertheless as the King3 expressed no dislike of the generous concern I have for Barry's reputation I have moved the Society as Individuals to erect a fund for a life […] [gap in transcription (illegible), words: 2] annuity to the much injured Professor. B. Buchan.
Dryburgh Abbey May 9. 1802.'

The Scottish antiquarian and art collector David Steuart Erskine (1742-1829), earl of Buchan; [img] lived at Dryburgh Abbey in Berwickshire, near Edinburgh in Scotland (see Emma Vincent Macleod, 'Erskine, David Steuart', DNB [go] ). He was a long-standing member of the Society of Arts and had recently written to Barry to say he would like to help him in his present difficulties (see Buchan to Barry, 20 April 1802).

Full display

My Lord

After having as I thought composed & made up my mind firmly to meet all consequences resulting from the collissions collisions of the very extensive variegated matters which unavoidably occurred in the long & not inglorious carriere4 thro through which God has led me & for which I can never be too grateful, I must howeverhowever acknowledge that I feel no small shame & defeat in observing my great agitation on reading the Letter Your Lordship honoured me with, on the subject of my situation with the King & the Country, both of whom it has been the unremitting object of my whole life, faithfully & most Zealously to serve & with a patience & a disinterestedness of which perhaps there are but few examples. However the Magnanimity of Your Lordships Lordship's spontaneous unsolicited interference in my behalf (who could not know that my affairs or myself were even known to your Lordship) such a conduct, so genuinely magnanimous, has quite overpowered me, & whilst it excites my admiration & even my envy, more than any Act that has occurred in my time, yet words are wanting & asas I am too much agitated to express my full sense of it in any manner adequate to my feelings & I shall therefore prudently leave it to its own intrinsic excellence long to remain a graceful example of the most grateful odour & independent of all events, it will surely have its value however these matters might terminate respecting me, or indeed, rather, respecting that other Publick5 work of mine which is so far advanced & which it has been so long the wish & earnest endeavour of my shameless opponents to interrupt & artfully to divert my attention from it, any other way, by a succession of swindling, fraudulent practices which would disgrace even the meanest intriguers at a BorroughBorough Election. That such a combination of tricking imposture should be suffered to affect the situation, the honour & the interest of a Professor in a Royal Academy & I might now say of an United Imperial Kingdom, & that without affording this Professor him the opportunity of the allowed & ever to be valued priviledgeprivilege of all subjects & even of all men, of answering to whatever may have been charged upon them, & that such smuggled charges […] [gap in transcription (illegible), words: 1] should thus without allowing of any answer, be thus precipitately & illegally acted upon: such impudent, outrageous procedure must operate conversely & leave the Charges & those who Act with them covered with infamy & surely, can never affect the Professor in the good opinion of either the King, or the Publick, for whom his efforts were made. Had these infamous Charges been made upon Oath as they ought to have been, when any mans man's honour & interest were concerned & in a Court of Justice, the makers of them must have been sent to Botany bay,6 as it has been most evident long since even from my Letter to the Society of Arts &c bearing date Octob.r October 25. 1801. altho although only a part of said Letter is printed in the last vol. of their Transactions,7 it does there however there appear most evident that the abuse of His Majesty contained in the Appendix to Pilkington's Dictionary for which (principally) the Professor is said to have lost his place in the Academy, was notwitstanding notwithstanding not written by the Professor & that he had no more knowledge of the writing or devising of such abuse than His Majesty's Royal & most Gracious Consort her Majesty the Queen, or the beautiful very acomplished accomplished Princesses those Royal Children which form such a graceful part of His August Family.8 --- But let me have done with matters the recollection of which it has been so much my wish to banish for ever & yet unlookily unluckily they will still obtrude upon me & I cannot help mentioning that I have been even yesterday actually employed in introducing the other part of this illiberal matter of Charge Viz. My Letter to the Dilletante Society9 into one of the two Prints of the large Groupes10 which I have been lately adding to the five others already finished, which will compleat11 my Engraved Memorial of the most considerable part of the interesting details of the Picture of the Elysium12 for after all & notwitstanding notwithstanding the serious loss of my little salary13 wch which was to have been the reward of so much previous labour as was necessarily employed informing my Lectures for the readings in the Royal Academy, yet I will say, that after all this invidious business it must be evident to any intelligent, liberal observer, that the substance matter of that Letter of mine to the Dilletante Society,14 from the begining beginning to the end of it & all its views, direct & collateral must have been of similar material & texture, however defective in the other respects of Oratory, with that Oration which Pliny so emphatically commemorates (Extat certe ejus Oratio magnifica & maxumo Civum digna.)15 which I have exhibited in hands of M. Agrippa, whom I have associated with Francis. 1.st Colbert & other Characters16 of similar disposition, whose honest, wise & patriotic views of the importance of the Arts, to the Culture & happiness of Society, would never suffer those useful monuments of Genious Genius & ability in (what has been emphatically called) the Belle Arti,17 to be criminally Exiled to Country Villa's Villas & the houses of private pofessors “de tabulis omnibus signisque publicandis: quod fieri satius fuisset, quam in Villarum exilia pelli.”18 As the honest and intelligent Pliny expresses it. - But I must here take leave of your Lordship, writing, tho though I am often forced upon it, is not my province, nor agreableagreeable to my inclination: the work at my elbow, which is nearly finished calls so loudly as to disturb me in every other pursuit & will only allow me the leisure of sincerely expressing my grateful sense of your Lordships Lordship's kind & magnanimous interference in this matter which is of so much importance to me & to my other work, which perhaps Almighty God thro your Lordships through your Lordship's means, may enable me to carry into effect in my own manner, whilst there may be yet time for it. Surely I have much reason to congratulate myself on the being noticed by your Lordship & however this affair may terminate I must & will indulge myself with the hopes of still enjoying the honour & the great satisfaction of this notice & that the elevated rank on which your Lordship has so happily superinduced so much of deep, extensive & valuable information, with so much of graceful admirable polish in the Usage & communication of it, will not however be any bar to my enjoying the satisfaction to be derived from your Visits & valuable conversation, whenever it may suit your Lordships Lordship's leisure & counting upon this I shall ever remain with the greatest, most affectionate sincerity.

Your Lordships Lordship's much obliged
& devoted humble serv.t servant

James Barry

N. 36. Castle S.t Oxford S.t May 3. 1802

To the Earl of Buchan