Letter from DR. JOSEPH FENN SLEIGH to JAMES BARRY, written 17 June 1765, at Cork

Source: Fryer,Works of Barry, i. 17-18.

Dr. Joseph Fenn Sleigh (1733-70), Quaker and art connoisseur, was a long-standing friend of Barry; he practised as a physician in Cork. He had attended the Quaker school at Ballitore soon after Edmund Burke was a pupil there and later studied medicine in Edinburgh where he knew Oliver Goldsmith (1730-74). He was on the staff of the North Infirmary Hospital, Cork from 1759 until his death. Goldsmith wrote an elegy on him (Tim Cadogan and Jeremiah Falvey, A Biographical Dictionary of Cork (Dublin, 2006), p. 311). He was a life-long acquaintance of Edmund Burke.

Dr Sleigh responds to Barry's letter (ante 17 June) written from London where he was working for the painter and designer James Stuart (1713-88), often referred to as ‘Athenian’ Stuart.

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Cork, June 17, 1765

Dear Sir,

I received your acceptable letter, and should have answered it sooner, but that I waited to see Stewart's Athens;1 which I have seen within these few days, and cannot express the satisfaction, and pleasure I have had from such a slight perusal, as so short a time could afford me.

I had the good fortune to be two or three times in the company of Mr. Stuart at Paris on his return home, and once to go over the Duke of Orleans' collection at the palais-royal with him, where his observations on those noble pictures gave me singular delight.2 From so slight an acquaintance, and at such a distance of time, it is more than probable he has forgotten me. His researches are so accurate and so ingenious, that they brought to my mind that excellent dissertation of Signior Maffei on the amphitheatre of Verona.3

I promise myself much from the remainder of his work, and already contemplate in imagination on the beauties of the temple of Minerva, when managed by his masterly hand.4

I hope he will give us plans, and touch upon something of the geography of those places. If he publishes the other volumes by subscription I beg you will get me put down, and if any money is to be advanced, I will get it transmitted whither he pleases.5 Be pleased to present my compliments to him, and assure him of my best wishes.

I make no doubt of your improvements where you are;6 but I cannot but lament that you do not get to Rome as fast as you can, that you may enjoy the works of those antients, which you have entertained such a value for.

I hope you will write to me, and continue your agreeable account of the artists.

I am your assured friend,
And well-wisher,

Joseph Fenn Sleigh.