Letter from JAMES BARRY to ROBERT UDNY, written 8 January 1795, at Castle Street, London

Source: William T. Whitley, Artists and Their Friends in England, 1700-1799, 2 vols. (London, 1928, 1968), ii. 230-31.

Robert Udny (1722-1802) [img], sometimes 'Udney', a Scot who had made his fortune in the sugar trade with the West Indies, was a noted collector of paintings and drawings; he had been British consul at Livorno, Italy (1754-66). [go] The Italian engraver Piranesi dedicated two engravings to him. Udny offered to sell his art collection to the Royal Academy, but they declined (Groves Dictionary of Art, 34 vols. (Grove, 1996), xxxi, 524).

His house at Teddington, Middlesex, included a picture gallery designed by the Scottish architect Robert Adam (1728-92).

Whitley mentions that this text is taken from a draft of Barry's letter.

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Dear Sir

I have delivered the prints to Mr.Smith1 according to your order, and I have added another print which I beg you will accept of, as it is connected with and rectifies a mistake in the series both of the prints and of the pictures of that work at the Adelphi. Mr. Smith has paid me three guineas and has said a great deal about your admirable collection of etchings2 which naturally enough were uppermost in his thoughts and which he prefers to his own.

It would make me very happy to have an opportunity of paying my respects to you at Teddington and to take a great draught of that satisfaction I never fail to receive from the inspection of the legitimate tastes of the good old schools,3 but it is impossible, at least for the present. My circumstances, and much more my pursuits, nail me to this spot, where I am endeavouring to carry on another work4 for the public even more extensive than that at the Adelphi. The better to effect this and to steal it upon the public without their being once troubled with any mention of it until it came before them, every attention and means at my command have been devoted to it, not daring to venture upon the expense of a servant or to lessen my expenses by letting any part.

I live alone in a small house of £40 a year where there is a large room which has been a carpenter's shop and would answer my purpose most admirably were I suffered to enjoy it in quiet, but whether owing to the influence of a combination which has long annoyed me, or whether owing to the casual interference of mere common thieves, of which there is no want...5

I have lately had a severe rap on the knuckles,6 which, however, though it has somewhat interrupted, yet I thank God and my friends it will not cripple or prevent my carrying on this work I have so much at heart. As it would take up too much time and indeed as I am not in spirits to give you my idea what the work is, which could not be done without launching out pretty largely into the constituent parts of art, into the conduct of the Greeks and of the old Italians in their several modes of treatment of those parts, and into those matters which connect the whole with the age and country in which we live. All this will be better reserved for your inspection - at least a great part of it you can see when you will favour me with a visit.

I am, Sir, with great esteem and respect, your most obedient humble servant,

J. Barry.

Castle Street, Oxford Market,
Jan. 8, 1795.