Letter from JAMES BARRY to EDMUND BURKE, written October 1770, at Bologna

Source: Fryer, Works of Barry, i. 189-91.

Barry's financial problems had become more pressing in Bologna since his previous letter of 8 September 1770; his subsequent letter to Burke on 17 November says 'more than a month has passed' since the Bologna banker Vergani has had any news of the money Barry was waiting for. This suggests he wrote this letter sometime in October.

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Dear Sirs,


I am still in Bologna, and I am afraid, as the season is far advanced, if I shall be obliged to stay here much longer, that it will be hardly in my power to get out of Italy before the beginning of spring, as the winter is exceedingly severe in those parts. My picture of Philoctetes2 is finished, and those artists who have seen it and my other things, have been more favourable in their opinions of that and of me, than I could have well expected; the figure is larger than the life.3 I did it as well as I could, and as to the point of time, &c. in the story, I followed closely the Greek epigram upon Parrhasius's picture of the same subject, and I found the Philoctetes of Sophocles, an useful comment upon it.4 I have not as yet sent it to the institute,5 as I am without money, and if I should be much longer so, I must think of pawning it with some painter, if I can. It is a little unlucky that it is not some saint, or miracle of a saint, and then perhaps as much might be raised upon it as would have paid my lodgings; but I doubt even, as the Italians are all full of the idea of selling pictures to the English, who are full of money, and the richest, and consequently, the most respected people in the world, but that the idea of an Englishman's expecting to get money from them for pictures, would be thought a most extravagant solecism. As you desired my staying some time at Bologna, when I had finished at Venice,6 I came back to Bologna, as it was not losing ground in my journey, and would, I well knew, be more agreeable to my plan of study. The post after you received my last letter, Messrs. Netterville and Nugent7 received a bill for thirty pounds, which I foresaw, from my stay in these places, would be necessary to carry me home. It is almost a month since Signor Vergani8 (to whom I gave the bill) came to my lodging to tell me the bill was refused payment. The letter which he read to the people, at whose house I lodge, made me a little uneasy, as I love to live in harmony and friendship with all people, particularly with the Italians, for whom I have the greatest esteem; and I then foresaw that the doubts it gave them of my morals and probity, were in no wise favourable to those impressions I hope to leave on all people, with whom I live: however, I endeavoured to content myself the best I could with the accident. Vergani has heard nothing further about it since, so that about the latter end of this week, I shall be obliged to pawn the watch, which was given me in Paris by Mr. Richard Burke,9 as I have nothing else, upon which I could raise any thing; studies of the antique, of Michael Angelo, of Raffael and Titian, 10 carrying no value with them amongst pawn-brokers.

I am very fond of Guercino;11 his two pictures at St. Gregorio, and at the Carthusians are excellent.12 I have seen no picture of him any where equal to that at St. Gregorio: Agostino Carrache is admirable in his Assumption of the Virgin13 There are in no work of art in Bologna, stronger examples of sound merit and real knowledge, taste, and drawing, than in some heads, hands, and arms, &c. of this picture; Guido has a little figure of a Christ,14 in the same church, which is also admirable: as to Ludovico, and Annibal Carrache,15 I never wanted a high opinion of them, and I am never likely to want it, as it encreasesincreases daily, the more I see of them. Some pictures of Cavedone16 also deserve the reputation they have. I have at present but little gusto17 to write any more. I wish to get upon my journey, to send you some account of Corregio.18 My love and best respects wait upon the family, upon Sir Joshua Reynolds, 19and all friends.

I am, dear sirs,
Yours whilst I exist,

J.B.James Barry.