Letter from WILLIAM KEABLE to JAMES BARRY, written c.5 January 1771 , at Bologna

Source: MS James Barry Papers and Letters, Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University. Cover: To Mr. James Barry,
chez Messrs. Maumary e fil/ Banquier

William Keable, sometimes spelt Keeble (1714-74), English portrait painter, moved to Italy in the 1750s, spent time in Naples, then settled in Bologna in 1765 where he did portraits of several leading women and had a reputation as a ladys' man. He was elected to the Accademia Clementina on 11 June 1770.

Barry, on his way back to England from Rome, had left Bologna early in December and continued via Modena and Parma. He had written to Keable after seeing some of the paintings in Parma. Keable now replies, probably early in January. No longer in the habit of writing in English, Keable's expression is at times difficult to follow, as is evident in the Full Display; he frequently resorts to Italian, especially when he teases Barry about his relationship with a young girl in Bologna.

Full display

Munday Monday 10. O'Clock.

My Dear Barry,

I rec d received your dolefulldoelful Letter two days after its arrival in which you tell me of your damn'd MelanchollyMelancholy, and that you are also half dead wth with cold, - that in your present state you can compose yourself to no other objects so like as that of a poor languishing Fly, who on a Chimney-peiceChimney-piece isis crawling on uponupon his last Legs. If this is truelytruly your present Case I own it is very deplorable, yet I'm convinced youl you will get the better of it, because I remember you in a situation as I think much worse, when not far from a certain Chimney you play'd the part (gia per forza d'incantesimo) 1 of an Insect much more abject than a Fly (cioe)2 that of aa wretched bewildered Piatoli3 who in the seems of a Woollen PettecoatPetticoat had lost his way, and tho' though within the smell of his cara Partria 4 such was his dappocaggine 5 that he never arrived there. Whilst you desire me to invoke heaven to moderate the harshness of your Desteny Destiny you discover your doubts of my being as credulous as a poor Heathen when you ought to've known that I've never acknowledg'd more Gods than diddid Hobbes or […] [gap in transcription (illegible), words: 1] Tindal. 6 I am glad however that you are so pleased with the Picture of Corregio, 7 and sincerely glad that you approve so highly Rigeaus 8 coppy copy of it – by means of the mezzanetà di questo Quadro 9 I expect to hear that you and Rigeau are become as loving a Balls Piggs, 10 and tho' like the innocent Piggs you do not suck the Eyes of on one another out yet tis not impossible that scambievolmente 11 ye may serve your selves of dolce 12 flattry flattery to cast glammer 13 in the Eye of the Mind of each other which is the damndest thing in the world; the only means to prevent which is, for you to make a better copy of it if you can, and do yourself as much honour at Parma as you've really done here. That at Modina there is a fine collection of Drawings 14 I can easily believe, and that Raffael stands at the head of them wth with infinite preeminancepreeminence; but I cannot conceive how the Devil you could leave them in such a hurry.

I shall say nothing of your amorous Lackey who was so eagerly in persuet 15 of a reverand reverend Jack-latch to furnish him wth with a matrimonial Halter; 16 you seem to doubt if there be thorns in that ParidiseParadise of Fools? 17 but if there be HORNS in it, 18 I think you can make no sort of doubt: with me horns are hellish thorns, I know not what they may be wth with you.

You tell me to write you a long Dissertation to prove that all poets are Daubersare Daubers who are Ignorant of what is call called Design or la Pictura. First know then; that all Painters are Daubers who have not the poets Fancy, yet if they possess'd it, even to the highest degree and at the same time were destitute of the Laws and Principles of Design, so indispensably necessary to the just arrangmentarrangement of the Images of their Fancy in order to produce the effect of Truth & Beauty, I say, that such Painters like (at least our modern Poets) would be forever Daubers too – but hold – methinks I hear you exclaim The Devil fire the Black=guard he will not write me one word of news! - patience old Friend. - dammè but I would have began my Letter wth with News if I had had any, I have been two or three times to the wonted Grotto where alwaysalways I found the dear Object and Authur Author and Authur Author of your present qualms of tenderness, unaccompanied, as Cold, Insipid, Indifferent, and Industrious as when she was at the Side of her Pastor fido. 19 dice che Barry è veramente un buon uomo, e la Mamma responde si, è vero, è un buon Figliuolo, e che hanno avuto gran piacere che se ne parti cosi eroicamente. 20 Truly my dear Barry this is all the news I can send you in regard to them. Remember me heartily to Rigeau tell him that I essteemesteem him as I ought and that were it in my power I would serve him most readily. Do not fail writing to me offtenoften not only from Parma but also wherever you stop on your Journey as well as at your arivalarrival in dear old England: For my own part I am still more inclined to think that I shall make a trip thither in the spring than not. However be that as it may, whether I'm here or whether Im I'm there one thing is certain that wherever I am you are assured to have a sincere & faithfull faithful Friend. - Excuse these hasty irregular scrawls more especially as you know its now sixteen years 21 that I've heardly wrot hardly wrote sixteen words of English.

Addio caro Amico nella speranza d' una sollecita risposta rimango tutto vostro

22 Keable