Letter from JAMES BARRY to WILLIAM HAMILTON, written 29 November 1768, at Rome

Source: MS Autograph Letters Collection, National Library of Ireland. Printed: Fryer, Works of Barry, i. 168-69

Cover: A Monsieur
Monsieur Hamilton
envoyé extraordinaire de S. M.
Britanique aupres du Roi des
deux Sciciles
a Naples
1; also written on the cover in another hand: '422 Roman Crowns
his charges to be placed
to the […] [gap in transcription (illegible)] of Barry'.2

William Hamilton (1730-1803) had gone to Naples in 1764 as British envoy to the Spanish court at Naples charged with protecting British interests between Spain and Naples; he was also to monitor the activities of exiled British supporters of the Jacobites. He was knighted in 1772.

A noted patron of the arts, he had a substantial collection of paintings and antiquities which he kept in the embassy, Palazzo Seesa, in Naples; he commissioned a series, Antiquités étrusques, grecques et romaines in 4 vols. which started to appear in 1767: further on this, see Thora Brylowe, 'Two kinds of Collections: Sir William Hamilton's Vases, Real and Imagined', Eighteenth-Century Life, 32:1 (2008), 23-5. He was elected a member of the Dilettanti Society in 1777 ((Lionel Cust, History of the Society of Dilettanti (London, 1914), p. 271).

William Burke told Barry that Hamilton was impressed by his work; he advised Barry, 'Let me intreat3 you by all means, my dear Barry, to cultivate his good opinion' (William Burke to Barry, 10 October, 1768).

Fryer makes a number of minor editorial changes to punctuation and phrasing, and he changes some paragraph breaks. These are analysed in Appendix B.

Full display

Rome Nov. 29.th 1768


Not to make the liberty I take in writing to you too intollerable intolerable by keeping you in Suspense with apologies & excuses for it, I shall just beg to accquaint acquaint you that Lord Fitzwilliams and M.r Crofts4 in a conversation they had on their return home with M.r Burk Burke (a freind friend of mine) said many civil good natur'd things of my picture of Adam & Eve - & my other little Studies5 all of which they quoted you for. The Satisfaction my freind friend had in hearing that any thing of mine was honor'd honoured with your favourable notice (whose character as a man of Taste I find he is no stranger to) is a thing that very much affects my concerns as I am supported during my Stay abroad by that gentleman & another of the same name.6

Indeed were it not for this Single account my freinds friends in England had of me 'tis more than probable they must have imagined that I had done nothing & Slept away my time here, as care has been industriously taken that I should be kept out of the way of accquiring acquiring here either freinds friends, character or any thing that may be useful or agreeable in the carrying of a man thro' through life. Except yourself, who I heard had set out with the resolution of seeing all the Artists in Rome, & Lord Fitzwilliams & M.r Crofts who came with your name in their mouths I have never been shewnshown to any other of the many travellers & people of distinction who have been about amongst the Artists here: however a man whose mind is occupied with Studying the Antique & the people of the Sixteenth Century,7 may bring himself to that pass as to be content for a time to give up the profits of his profession, although the profits in this as well as in most other professions are inseparably linked to & followed by reputation & character which we all have a hankering after.

Sir you will I hope forgive the liberty I have taken in writing to you, as I don't beleive believe 'twill be in my power to have the honour of waiting upon you at Naples & gratitude would not Suffer me to think of leaving Italy (which I shall do in about half a year)8 without returning you my most Sincere thanks for the obligation you have conferred upon me.

I am Sir
with the greatest respect
your most Obedient Humble servt servant

James Barry