Letter from JAMES BARRY to DR. JOSEPH FENN SLEIGH, written 8 November 1769, at Rome

Source: Fryer, Works of Barry, i.164-66.

Barry was grateful to his mentor and friend in Cork, Dr. Joseph Fenn Sleigh (1733-70), a Quaker, art connoisseur and physician, who had sent him news of the family in Cork in a letter forwarded to him by Burke on 8 October 1769.

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Rome, Nov. 8, 1769.

Dear Sir,

I really do not know how to express to you the grateful feeling I have of your goodness, in interesting yourself in the anxiety of my parents. My poor father and mother, who are violent in a tenderness and affection for their children, must have had some consolation in your kind attention for them, especially on the loss of my brother,1 of whose care, industry, and good intentions, our family had many hopes, and by the accounts they have often given me of them, not without reason. I do not know what to think of my father's turning his thoughts, especially at this vexatious time, upon the making of his will. Is he ill? I am full of doubts and uncertainty; good God, what must be the situation of the family, should he be dead too? I would set off directly for Ireland, but then to what purpose? as my business would neither serve them nor me in Cork, and I should rather diminish than add to any little thing they might have to subsist upon. I have therefore made up my mind upon finishing my studies here; which two months more in Rome, and about six weeks in Venice will, I hope, enable me to do; and although I cannot answer for my succeeding in the way of making money, yet I could give you very sincere assurances, that with respect to industry and application to my art, the generous allowance of your friend Mr. Burke has not been thrown away upon me:2 but if my father will think of making his will, though God grant there may be no occasion for it this many a day, there will be no reason to think of making the little he will have to leave our family, less by any division of it for me. Whatever there is, be it all for them, and I have that reliance on God, my profession, and my friends, that in such a place as London is, where art is so caressed, I shall bring such a portion of it with me there, as will not only put me out of the want of any thing else, but will further enable me on my own part to make some little additions to any thing my father may have to leave them. I am then, thank God and my friends, provided for, and the greatest part of my anxiety is only how I may provide still better for the poor people at home.3

As I hope to be in England about May next, should I be able to go over to Ireland shortly after,4 you must certainly be one of the dearest objects I can light upon there: it is a long time that I have not wrote to you;5 for as I received no answer to the two last letters I sent you, I had some notion you were inclined to drop any correspondence with me; more especially as there were so many of our artists here, who gave themselves much trouble to sink my character; perhaps more out of anger at the consciousness of their own idleness and inability than any thing else.6 Heaven and earth were moved to do me prejudice; not an atom of my character escaped, and as some of them, who were not the most inactive, had correspondence and connexionconnection in Ireland, I had reason to imagine, that you might have heard something, which had given you a disgust to some part of my supposed conduct, and as your friend Mr. Burke knew every thing about that matter, and as my attention was every day more and more concentred upon art, I left to time and our different pursuits (they in faction and idleness, and my friends and I at the study of arts) to settle these differences—and the event is naturally what might be expected. I am, dear sir, with gratitude and warmth,

J.B.James Barry.