Letter from JAMES BARRY to DR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN, written 5 April 1769, at Rome

Source: Fryer, Works of Barry, i. 150-52.

Dr. William O’Brien was the brother of Charles O’Brien who had been among Barry’s childhood friends in Cork (Peter Murray, 'James Barry: The Cork Background', James Barry, Historical Painter, p.20); he is probably the William O'Brien mentioned in Loach to Barry, [October] 1765. He was in France in 1768-69.

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Rome April 5, 1769

My Dear Will,

I have not been able to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 24th of December last before this time,1 which you will I hope excuse, when I tell you it was not altogether owing to my former laziness, as the litigations I hinted at in my last letter to you, 2have grown to such a height betwixt me and the antiquaries, picture-dealers, and artists (most of whom are the dependants and whippers-in of the forestalling gentlemen3) that I have had much work upon my hands to defend my character from their attacks, and to expose (in the free spirit of philanthropy) a junta, whose interests are inconsistent with the good of the public, and whose schemes, so far as they had power to execute them, have been subversive of every generous and honest endeavour. I will reserve the particulars of these and other matters for our conversation when I am so happy as to meet you, which I honestly assure you I much wish for; but I am afraid we shall hardly be able to compass it before we arrive in England or Ireland, as by comparing our funds together, which I find to be nearly equal, we shall neither of us find it agreeable to our necessary economy to travel much out of our road. I shall be much employed in finishing my studies here, as I intend setting out for Venice, September next.4 I do not know what time I shall stay at Venice, whether one or two months. I shall also stay a little time at Parma and Bologna, and then go on directly for London, which God willing, I shall make my head quarters, and from whence I shall go over just to shake hands with you all in Ireland.

Your descriptions of Montpellier and ThoulouseToulouse gave me a great deal of pleasure, for which I would pay you off, with an account of Naples, where I have been lately, but that I have exhausted myself upon this subject, in a letter to a gentleman in England,5 who is very fond of such things—and my pride and love of new matter will not suffer me to run over the same accounts twice: however, you will be no loser by it, as Addison and Condamine6 have been there before me. My hearty love and respects wait on your father, mother, brother, and friends. I am really happy at the accounts you give me of your brother, my old schoolfellow Charles. I have had letters from my father since you wrote. Your family are well, and Con is going on very well.7 All my friends are also in good health, but there is one thing, my dear Will, for which I can hardly forgive you; you seem to be so infected by the air of France as to stand upon ceremonies and punctilios8 with me: you must have an answer—you wont excuse delay,—return of the post is for ever in your mouth, I would say, in your letters. Hang you for not making allowances for a poor fellow who is labouring night and day to make such acquisitions as will be necessary to support the character of an artist with some little dignity: and if ever you had a thought (let appearances be what they will) that old and warm attachments were likely to be supplanted by new ones in my bosom, I will say hang you again, for not knowing me better. But why do I throw out all this abuse upon you? if any body else did it, I should not be pleased. I was looking over your old letters which I have by me, and like a true Irishman, I fear I have been rather writing you an answer to some of them, than to that I last received from you. But as nobody knows you better, surely there is nobody loves you with more warmth and sincerity than your old friend,

J.B. James Barry

I have certainly said too much above; for as I should be glad to hear from you, with what face can I ask you to write by the return of the post, or soon after. But do not mind that, be sure you write to me, and about what you please.