Letter from JAMES BARRY to EDMUND BURKE, written 6 November 1765, at Paris

Source: Fryer,Works of Barry, i. 24-26.

This is the earliest surviving letter from Barry to the Irish writer and statesman Edmund Burke (1729-97). He was a major influence in Barry's early career, arranged for Barry to move to London in 1763 and supported him during his years in Italy. Further on Burke, see Paul Langford, ‘Burke, Edmund (1729/30–1797)’, DNB [go]

Barry had left London just before William Burke's letter of 26 October 1765 and crossed the Channel to Calais. He here gives an account of his journey to Paris and his first impressions. The Burkes had provided him with a number of letters of introduction to people in both Paris and Rome (William Burke to Barry, 26 October 1765).

Full display

Paris, Novenmber 6, 1765

My Dear Sirs.*


As I proposed keeping myself alive in your memory, I would have wrote to you from Calais on my arrival the 27th, but as there were only two things which offered themselves to me, either the deep and indelible sense I had of your good nature and affection, or the little things which I took notice of in my journey, I shall, until I see you again, mention nothing but the latter, knowing but too well how trifling and unseasonable my thanks, &c. must be to persons whose generosity and friendship to me could be the effect of nothing but their own goodness.

I shall begin then by telling you that I made as many sketches of the country between London and Dover as the velocity and uneasiness of the motion of the coach would permit:2 I have done the same in the way to Paris; the vehicle I came in, which they call a diligens,3 has been indeed very diligent, though not altogether expeditious, as we were in motion from four in the morning till eight or nine at night, and yet were from Monday the 29th till the Sunday night following, upon our journey.4 I sat in one of the side places for the advantage of seeing the country and taking down such things as I could here; I got such a terrible cold as almost deprived me of the use of my speech, but thank God I am now pretty well got over it. The country is in many places very fine, particularly between Beauvais and Paris; there are some views near St. Denis pretty like those about Richmond, but much finer; it has not so much the appearance of improvement as our English grounds, but is more beautiful, and though it never rises to any thing more than beauty, yet it rarely comes short of it. The nave of the church at Beauvais is really very striking, it is Gothick, and has, I think, incomparably a better effect than any thing I ever saw before.5 I had but half an hour to run about in it, and what makes it still worse, it was before day, between four and five o'clock. My hurry, and the multiplicity of views, put it out of my power to attend much to particulars, and generals, though not entirely satisfactory, yet are not totally without use.

I am mightily pleased with several things in Paris, but shall inform myself better of their merits, before I venture to say any thing of them. Col. Drumgold has received me very politely;6 I shall see him soon again, but nothing could equal the warmth and affection I met with in Mr. Macleane.7 Yourselves could not be interested more about me than he is. He has introduced me to an English gentleman, whose name I forget; he is a great connoisseur,8 and is very able, and I believe very willing, to procure me access to every thing that may be of use. My interest is so blended with your concerns, that I am at the greatest loss to know how to conclude. I suppress a thousand things that are breaking from me, and shall only take the liberty to say, that though you must be dear to all your friends, there is no one who loves and respects you both more sincerely than your humble servant,


P. S. My best respects to dear Mrs. Burke, to Dr. Nugent, Mr. Richard Burke, Master Richard,9 to Messrs. English and Creagh.10 You will oblige me, Sir, in presenting my respects to my friend Mr. Barrett,11 to Mr. Stuart,12 to Mr. Reynolds,13 and to Mr. and Mrs. Cholmondely,14 and to such of your friends as I had the honour of knowing.