noted book on the apocalyptical number of 666. The wife of this Sampson Potter was the daughter of Thomas Baker, a profound mathematician, who was vicar of Ilton, in Somersetshire.

· Mr. Samuel Reynolds had eleven children, five of whom died in their infancy; the subject of the present memoir was the seventh, and was born at Plympton, July 16, 1723, and baptized there on the 30th of the same month. It has been asserted that, he was called Joshua by his father, in the hope that such a singular or uncommon name might prove beneficial to him at a future period of his life, by attracting for him the patronage of some person with a similar prefix. This curious account deserves some notice; because it shows how easy it is to pervert a simple occurrence into something remarkable and uncommon. The plain truth is, the child was named after his uncle Joshua, who was represented on this occasion by one Mr. Ivie, while Mrs. Anne Reynolds, of Exeter, became godmother, and had a Mrs. Darley for her proxy. There was in this, therefore, nothing at all extraordinary; though it is more than probable that Mr. Samuel Reynolds was induced to choose the name of Joshua, in the present instance, with the hope of securing for his child the particular favour of an uncle who had no issue of his own. It is, however, singular, that the parochial register of Plympton has, through some unaccountable negligence or inadvertency, deprived him of his. baptismal name, for in the entry there he is styled, “ Joseph, son of Samuel Reynolds :" to account for which, Mr. Malone supposes, that the name was originally written on a slip of paper thus, “ Jos. son of Samuel Reynolds ;” and that the person who made the entry, by attempting to perfect the abbreviature, committed a blunder. This, we have no doubt, was the case, happening ourselves to have met in the same county with similar errors in the church registers, occasioned by the culpable negligence of the clergy, in entrusting the care of those important records to their ignorant parish clerks. . One blunder of this kind had the effect of depriving a person of a considerable estate, to which he certainly was entitled.

Mr. Samuel Reynolds was a very worthy man and a good scholar, but too indolent and abstracted to discharge his trust properly as a preceptor: in consequence of which, the number of his pupils dwindled gradually away, till at last he had only one left. As, however, there was a tolerable stipend annexed to the situation, independent of that which arose from the living, he made himself very easy, and took no pains to increase his income, though he had a family of six children, five of whom were girls, wholly dependant upon him for their support. Under a parent naturally indulgent, and possessing little energy, Joshua was not likely to make any remarkable progress in grammatical learning. It has been said by some that he was intended for the

church, but according to his own account, the views of his father concerning him inclined to the medical profession; from which he was diverted by the inclination which Joshua manifested to the art of painting. Dr. Johnson, in his Life of Cowley, having mentioned the circumstance which inspired that poet with the charm of verse, says, « Such are the accidents which, sometimes remembered, and perhaps sometimes forgotten, produce that particular designation of mind, and propensity for some certain science or employment, which is commonly called genius. The true genius is a mind of large general powers, accidentally determined to some particular direction. Sir Joshua Reynolds had the first fondness for his art excited by the perusual of Richardson's Treatise.” But if the book here noticed fixed the inclination of Reynolds to painting as a profession, it is certain that he had at an earlier period given strong indications of imitative talents ; for, at eight years of age, by reading the “ Jesuits' Perspective,” he ventured to take a drawing of his father's school. This being shown to Mr. Reynolds, he looked at it with astonishment, and finding it perfectly correct, exclaimed, “ Now this exemplifies what the author of the Perspective asserts in his preface, that by observing the rules laid down in his book, a man may do wonders for this is wonderful.” Another of his juvenile performances was the representation of a book-case, drawn on the back of a Latin exercise, and underneath his father wrote, “ Done by Joshua out of pure idleness." We learn also that his elder sisters had a similar taste, so that, in fact, there was a little academy of drawing in the parsonage of Plympton, where the young artists assisted and even rivalled each other, by seeing who could copy best such prints as the library of their father afforded, particularly those in Dryden's translation of Plutarch, and the emblems of Jacob Cats. The imitations by Joshua attracted the notice of a Mr. Cranch, who visited the family, and to whose opinion, it appears, great deference was paid by Mr. Samuel Reynolds. This gentleman watched the progress of the boy, till at last he ventured to recommend that he should be suffered to adopt painting as a profession. It must be confessed that the advice was rather bold, at a time when the art was as low as it well could be in this country; and when, of course, there were few excitements, in a lucrative point of view, for any one to follow it as a calling. Notwithstanding this, and the predilection which old Mr. Reynolds had for the healing art, as that which was most likely to prove permanently beneficial to his son, the suggestion of Mr. Cranch prevailed, and it was resolved that Joshua should become a pupil of his countryman, Thomas Hudson, who then stood at the head of his profession as a portrait painter. Accordingly, on the fourteenth of October, 1741, young Reynolds entered London, and on the eighteenth of the same

month, being the festival of St. Luke, the patron of painters, he was articled to his preceptor. The reputation of Hudson is alone a proof of the wretched state to which the art was reduced in England. All his merit consisted in producing a mere likeness or map of the face; but after painting the head he could do no more, being obliged to employ Van Hacken, a Dutch artist, to complete the figure and add the drapery. Hudson had been the scholar of Richardson, whose daughter he married; and though so very indifferent an artist, he succeeded in gaining most of the business of his time; nor, as Lord Orford observes, “could Vanloo first, or Liotard afterwards, shake his popularity, the country gentlemen being faithful to their compatriot, and content with his honest similitudes, the fair tied wigs, blue velvet coats, and white satin waistcoats, which he bestowed liberally on his customers, and which, with complacency, they beheld multiplied in Faber's mezzotintos.” It is remarkable that, though Hudson had not a spark of genius himself, he was the instructor of three men of very superior and original talent. These were Reynolds, Mortimer, and Wright of Derby: whence it appears that men of very ordinary abilities may be successful in teaching others, though incapable of producing any thing original or excellent themselves.

Hudson seems to have had an early insight into the merits of Reynolds, and to have antici.

« ForrigeFortsett »