Letter from JAMES BARRY to EDMUND BURKE, written 17 November 1770 , at Bologna

Source: Fryer, Works of Barry, i. 194-95.

This letter accompanies that to Reynolds written on the same date. Barry's need for money was now much more urgent than when he wrote in October. A sign of Barry's increasing anxiety is he addresses Edmund Burke directly, 'Dear Sir', rather than his more usual 'Dear Sirs', meaning the whole household.

Full display


Dear Sir,

I wrote you by the last post,1 but as I am afraid that some accident, miscarriage, or your being in the country, or in Ireland, or I do not know what has happened, which has occasioned my confusion, I now write to you through the hands of Sir Joshua Reynolds,2 who I know will forward it speedily wherever you are; as I foresaw after my arrival in Bologna, that I should in some time want money to carry me home, I gave Vergani, the banker here, a bill, which he was to forward to Messrs. Netterville and Nugent.3 I asked nothing from him till the bill was paid; above a month ago his correspondent wrote to him that the bill was refused payment, but that Messrs. Netterville retained it in their hands, in expectation that another friend would come, who they believed would answer the bill, of which Vergani's correspondent was to inform him by the succeeding post. More than a month is now past, and Vergani has heard nothing further about it. He tells me he is afraid that the letter is lost, or he does not know what has happened, and I am a small matter in debt in my lodging, which is daily increasing, the people full of doubts and disquiet about me. Not able to go out of the house for want of a winter coat, my mind is so uneasy that I am not master enough of myself to be able to paint, so that if the bill of Vergani should not have been paid, or I do not hear from you by the return of the post, I must be obliged to take a walk some morning out of my lodging, which I am very unfit for, leave all my little studies behind me, and go, where God knows, for I do not. I am yours and the family's.

J.B. James Barry.

As to the pictures of the old masters here, it was my opinion that it was better for me to visit them often,4 than to copy them, as I had already formed my stile of drawing, colouring, and composition, by copying much at Rome and Venice of the antique, Michael Angelo, Raffael, and Titian,5 so that I began and finished that picture of the Philoctetes to put up in the Institute,6 as it would, in case it merited the attention of travellers, be seen by every one who came to Bologna, through which all pass.