Letter from JAMES BARRY to EDMUND BURKE, written c. 20 December 1765 , at Paris

Source: Fryer, Works of Barry, i. 34-36; also printed: Burke, Correspondence, i. 220-22.

Though undated, this letter was probably written about two weeks after Barry's letter of 5 December in which he sent greetings to Burke's brother Richard Burke (1733-94) in London. Richard had now arrived in Paris; also, Barry asks to be remembered to Lauchlin Macleane (c. 1728-78) who had left Paris for London in mid-December (letter from Macleane to John Wilkes, 13 December (BL Add.MS 30868, fol.210)).

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My Dear Sirs,1

I have since had but little time to myself to answer either of the kind letters I received from you by Mr. Morison,2 and now that I have sat down to it I could wish myself some excuse to defer it still longer. I am confounded to think what I shall say to so much and so unmerited kindness.3 Love and gratitude urge me on to expressions which I must lay aside to avoid the awkward situation of being detected in the language that is so common in the world, and which may be found in a person who has very little of what I think is in my bosom, when I remember what I owe you and the family whose friendship is alone what has counterpoised and sweetened the other circumstances of my life, which God knows have been disagreeable enough. Mr. Richard Burke's arrival has, you may conceive, given me no small pleasure and advantage. Every day lays me under new obligations to him and to you; all that union which is so visible in the family is as manifest in your carriage towards me as it is in every thing else, insomuch, that when I mention kindness and generosity, I am at a loss to know on which of you I shall first lay my finger. What you say of me in your letter to Mr. Richard is very flattering; yours and Mr. Reynolds's good opinions4 must be no small argument to me of my own importance, which you will have no difficulty of believing, as you know but too well how ready my vanity is to catch at any thing that may do me credit, and you must allow that it can no where meet with what is more grateful to it than in the present instance: to be at all thought of by such people is a stimulus that must oblige one to stretch every nerve to endeavour to merit it.

As soon as I can obtain permission I shall set about copying the Alexander I mentioned to you.5 It will be more profitable to me to be about it than any thing else, and though you may not be inclined to keep it, you may give it to somebody or other. The academies are open at night only, so that copying that or any other picture will not interfere with my attendance there.6

The varnished paper which Mr. Richard Burke wrote to you of is to be had here,7 we did not know it then, and you will excuse the mentioning it to you. My most sincere love and respects to the Doctor, to Mrs. Burke and the family,8 and to Mr. Macleane9. Mr. Drumgold10 would be obliged to the Doctor to let him know the title of Malcom's book on the Scotch and British antiquities.11

I am, dear Sir,
Yours with great respect and sincerity,


I would have wrote to Mr. Barrett, to Mr. Creagh, 12and others of my friends, but that I have the greatest aversion to letter writing, though nobody wishes his friends better than I do. I find in myself at times a strong disposition to saunter and idle about here; one may do it with profit: the leisure I have from visits is employed in remarks upon and sketching of what I see, so that I hope my friends will be indulgent enough to accept of my good wishes, which, whether I write or not, is always sure to attend them.