Letter from JAMES BARRY to SOCIETY OF ARTS, written 2 May 1804, at Adelphi, London

Source: MS RSA AD/MA/104/10/403, Royal Society of Arts, London. Another copy appears in the Minutes of the Society for 6 June 1804 (AD/MA/100/12/49 ff. 267-70; there are minor variations in punctuation and spelling.

The letter is written in the hand of the Secretary of the Society of Arts, Charles Taylor (d. 1816); [img] this suggests it is either Taylor's copy of Barry's original, or Barry dictated the letter to Taylor. This latter reason would account for the light punctuation and suggest that Barry composed it at the Society's premises in the Adelphi.

Barry responds to the news from the Society that they wished to place an engraved portrait of him as a frontispiece to the next volume of their Transactions, xxii (1804). [img]

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M.r Barry presents his respectful Compliments to the most noble the president1 Vice presidents and the rest of the Noblemen & Gentlemen of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts & wishes to express his most sincere deep Sense & Acknowledgement of the great Honor they have conferred on him by their Vote of the 18th Inst2 for the placing his portrait in the Frontispiece of the 22d Volume of their Transactions of which he has been informed by a Letter from the Secretary bearing Date April 22d.3 The only portrait Mr Barry has of himself is the head4 which he painted many Years since & copied at the Time into the picture of the Olympic Victors5 notwithstanding the Wear & Tear in such a fragil fragile Thing as the human Countenance yet as Mr Barrys Barry's Friends thought it still like he without in the least touching the Head finished the rest of the picture sometime last Summer by painting in the Hands Drapery Cyclops6 &c. There was a […] [gap in transcription (illegible)] about two Years since a Mezzetinto Head7 of Mr Barry as he now is now, of which as the other parts are not quite finished there have been no Impressions taken: either or both of these & Mr Barry himself are altogether at the Disposal of the Society & its Committee of Correspondence & papers8 at whatever Time they shall appoint

As Mr Barry has finished the Engraving of the two large Groups which complete the lower Range of Figures in the Societys picture of Elysium9 he requests the Society will do him the Honor of accepting an Impression of each, he would have sent these Impressions before this long since but that he has not been able to satisfy himself with any Inscription adequate to the comprehensive & very ethical Occasion which should be engraved on the vacant Space of the Rocks which extends through both the prints.

Nothing could come more happily in that place than such an Inscription as would intimate some Idea of that parent generating Source of Good from whence issued all those rivulets which afford necessarynecessary Nutrition to of the beautiful, the perfect & the interesting which have so gracefully & variegatedly fertilized the Composition with the admirable Characters which are exemplarily associated in the several Groups of those prints or rather concatenated print. The famous Inscription over the Entrance of Dantiu's Inferno,10 altho although indeed truly sublime would be much too vague & has neither the Extension nor the Utility desirable.

It is good to attempt great Things for however imperfect they may be left Inscription or no Inscription yet unavoidably much will be done.

May 2d. 1804.