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towards Blake, assuming nothing of the patron, forbearing to contradict his stories of his visions, &c. but trying to make reason out of them. Varley found them explicable astrologically— Sagittarius crossing Taurus '—and the like; while Blake, on his part, believed in his friend's astrology, to a certain extent. He thought you could oppose and conquer the stars. A stranger, hearing the three talk of spirits and astrology in this matter-of-fact way, would have been mystified. Varley was a terrible assertor, bearing down all before him by mere force of loquacity; though not learned or deeply grounded or even very original in his astrology, which he had caught up at second hand. But there was stuff in him. His conversation was powerful, and by it he exerted a strong influence on ingenuous minds-a power he lost in his books. Writing was an art he had not mastered. Strange books they are: his Treatise on Zodiacal Physiognomy (8vo. 1828), Observations on Colouring and Sketching from Nature (8vo. 1830), and Practical Treatise on Perspective (folio). All are dry and barren, wholly lacking the piquancy which belonged to his character and conversation. Varley was twenty years younger than Blake ; like him was born in humble circumstances, and in humble circumstances died in 1842). For though, at one time, his professions, as artist, teacher, and astrologer, procured him a handsome income, his former helpmate had dissipated as fast as he could earn. Thrice in his life, too, he was 'burnt out.' The portfolio of drawings he used latterly to carry about yielded anything but affluence. Delicate transcripts of closing day,—bars of purple cloud crossing the light being his favourite effect,—these drawings often had a peculiar fascination, though they became very mannered at last; conventional reminiscences of Varley himself rather than of nature.
In those days stage coaches started for Hampstead in the morning, and returned to London in the evening. Blake, however, used to walk up from town by a road which was not, as now, one continuous · line of houses. Generally, too, he walked back at night ; his host sending a servant with a lantern to guide him through the darkness to 'the village. On his way from Fountain Court to North End, he would often call on a young artist, also a frequent visitor of Mr. Linnell's,—one day to be more nearly related,—and the two would walk up together. This was Mr. Samuel Palmer, now an accomplished Painter of poetic landscape, well known to visitors of the (old) Water-colour Society's Exhibitions ; then a stripling and an enthusiastic disciple of Blake's. To him we are already indebted for many a reminiscence; that picture of Blake standing before a canvas of murderer Wainwright's, for one. The acquaintance commenced when Blake was about midway in the task of engraving his Job. ‘At my-never-to-be forgotten first interview,' says Mr. Palmer, 'the copper of the first plate—“Thus did Job continually”— ' was lying on the table where he had been working at it. How • lovely it looked by the lamplight, strained through the tissue paper !'
Among the young painters attracted at this period towards Blake was Frederick Tatham, to whose father, the architect, Mr. Linnell had introduced his friend. Mr. Richmond, the now distinguished portrait-painter, was another. As a lad of sixteen, he met Blake one day at the elder Tatham's, and was allowed to walk home with him. To the boy, it was 'as if he were walking with the prophet Isaiah ;' for he had heard much of Blake, greatly admired all he had heard, and all he had seen of his designs. The prophet talked fully and kindly, freely opening his mind, as was his wont with the youngwith men of eighteen or twenty say—even more freely and favourably, perhaps, than with their elders. There was more community of sentiment,-a bond of sympathy. He was not provoked by them to utter extravagances and extreme opinions. On this occasion he talked of his own youth, and of his visions. Just as Mr. Palmer speaks of Blake's tolerant kindness towards young men, Mr. Richmond relates that, in their intercourse, he would himself, as young men are prone to
do, boldly argue and disagree, as though they were equals in years and wisdom, and Blake would take it all good-humouredly. Never,' adds Mr. Richmond, have I known an artist so spiritual, so devoted, so single-minded, or cherishing imagination as he did.' Once, the young artist, finding his invention flag during a whole fortnight, went to Blake, as was his wont, for some advice or comfort. He found him sitting at tea with his wife. He related his distress; how he felt deserted by the power of invention. To his astonishment, Blake turned to his wife suddenly and said : 'It is just so with us, is it not, • for weeks together, when the visions forsake us? What do we do then, Kate ?' We kneel down and pray, Mr. Blake.
Another young artist to seek out Blake and sit at his feet was Mr. Finch, for many years a member of the (old) Society of Water-colour Painters.' As a boy, he had heard again and again
I NOTE.—Since the above was written, this good man has been called away. His early connexion with Blake, through which the present biography is indebted to him for many an interesting recollection, seems to invite us to pause a moment here over a brief record of the life and character of one whom, apart even from his artistic claims, it is a gain to the world to hold in affectionate remembrance. To Mr. Samuel Palmer we owe the following sketch of his friend, which the genial reader will thank me for the opportunity of perusing.-ED.
FRANCIS OLIVER FINCH.
IN MEMORIAM. On the twenty-seventh of August, 1862, the old Society of Painters in Water Colours lost, in Mr. Finch, one of their earliest members, who had long enjoyed, in the highest degree, their confidence and esteem, and the warm affection of such as had the pleasure of knowing him intimately.
He was the last representative of the old school of landscape-painting in water-colours, -a school which had given pleasure to the public for half a century, and contributed to obtain for Englishmen in that department of art an European reputation.
When he left school, he was articled as a pupil to Mr. John Varley, from whose studio came also two of our most eminent living artists, one of whom has engraved, con amore, Varley's Burial of Saul and from such a work we may estimate the value of his influence and instruction. It led to the study of refined models, and pointed to sentiment, as the aim of art. It will probably be acknowledged, that the aim was essentially right, and that, if the old school did not arrest and detain the eye by intricate imitation, yet that it was massive and manly, and that its tendency was to elevate and refine. It is difficult to call to mind a single work by Mr. Finch, that did not suggest happy and beautiful lands, where the poet would love to muse : the moonlit glade, the pastoral slope, the rocky stream, the stately terrace, and mouldering villas or casements opening on the foamOf perilous seas in fairy lands forlorn.'
of Blake from John Varley, whose pupil he was for five years, and his imagination had been much excited by what he had heard. For once, expectation was fulfilled. In Mr. Finch's own felicitous words, Blake 'struck him as a new kind of man, wholly original, and in all • things. Whereas most men are at the pains of softening down their * extreme opinions, not to shock those of others, it was the contrary
with him.' Yes! he was a new kind of man; and hence his was a new kind of art, and a new kind of poetry.
Edward Calvert was another attached friend of this period. He introduced himself to Blake, was received most kindly, as if he had been an old friend; and thereafter enjoyed the privilege of calling on and walking with him. It is a touching sight to summon before one's mental eyes this of the grey-haired visionary, opening his soul to these fresh-hearted youths. They all came to know one another,
How the society estimated his works, was shown by their occupying some of the most conspicuous places on the walls.
He had imagination, that inner sense which receives impressions of beauty as simply and surely as we smell the sweetness of the rose and woodbine. When a boy, he chanced to light on the poetry of Keats, and a plaster figure-maker, seeing him hang with longing eye over a cast of the poet's head which lay in his shop, made him a present of it, and he bore it home in triumph. At this time Keats was known to the public only by the ridicule of a critique.
Those who were intimate with Mr. Finch will find it difficult to name a man more evenly and usefully accomplished. Besides modern languages and scientific acquisition, he had large general knowledge. His conversation was never obstrusive, and it never flagged ; it was solemn, playful, or instructive, always at the right time and in the right place. An eminent friend, a sagacious observer of men, said that he never thought a friendly dinner party complete, unless Finch were at the table : It was like forgetting the bread.'
He had read much, and was familiar with the great poets and satirists ; knew the philosophy of the mind, and had observed men and manners. Of those departments of knowledge which lay apart, his good sense enabled him to take at least the relative dimensions. Knowledge apprehends things in themselves; wisdom sees them in their relations. He taught his young friends that goodness was better even than wisdom, and the philosophy which is conversant with the unseen than any ingenuities of technical science. He said he thought we ought not to claim a monopoly of wisdom, because we had discovered that steam would turn a wheel.
It is difficult to convey a notion of his musical genius, because the skill of amateurs, after all the time which is lavished to acquire it, so seldom amounts to more than the doing indifferently what professors do well; but it was not so with him : it seemed to be his natural language-an expression of that melody within, which is more charming than
and would often meet and talk over their views on art; other views than were commonly current in that era of Lawrence, Shee, and the rest. Blake and his house used to be familiarly spoken of among them as · The House of the Interpreter. I can still trace something of the mystic Poet's influence, surviving the lapse of more than thirty years, in all who ever knew and loved Blake ; as of men who once in their lives had, as it were, entertained an angel not unawares.
Let us pause and listen to the reminiscences of one of these
any modulation of strings or voices. The writer has felt more pleasure in sitting by his piano-forte, listening to fragments of Tallis, Croft, or Purcell, with the interlude, perhaps, of an Irish melody, than from many displays of concerted music. To music his friend resorted at the right time; after his temperate dinner, as Milton directs in his • Tractate.
Nor was his pen unused, and he could use it well. 'His endeavour,' says one who knew him best, to benefit his young friends, will be long and affectionately remembered, nor is it probable that those of maturer age will easily forget his gentle influence and wise counsel.
Of his social and moral excellence it is difficult to speak in so short a notice, for the heart overflows with memories of his active kindness, and the skill is lacking to condense a life into a paragraph.
In all the domestic relations, he was exemplary; throughout his single and married life his good mother never left his house but for her grave, to which the unremitting kindness of her new relative had emoothed the passage. He did not work alone : were another resting by his side, it might be told that, with one will and purpose, there were two hearts equally busy in 'devising liberal things. His hospitality was not adjusted to his interest, nor his table spread for those who could repay beef with venison ; but for old friends who were in the shade; for merit and virtue in distress or exile; for pale faces which brought the recommendation of sorrow. Let us bear with his simplicity! Perhaps, when he made a feast,' he consulted a very old fashioned BOOK as to the selection of his guests.
The writer willingly incurs the ridicule of those who believe goodness to be only a refiped selfishness, when he looks back, as far as boyhood, to recal some single piece of slight or rudeness, some hard unkindness or cold neglect, some evil influence or moral flaw in his old friend's character, and cannot find it. Were there many such, sarcasm might break her shafts.
Our great satirist said that, if bis wide experience had shown him twelve men like Arbuthnot, he never would have written the 'Travels.'
A symmetrical soul is a thing very beautiful and very rare. Who does not find about him and within him grotesque mixtures, or unbalanced faculties, or inconsistent desires ; the understanding and the will at feud, the very will in vacillation ; opinions shifting with the mode, and smaller impertinencies which he forgives, if they are not his own, for the amusement they afford him?
Let those who knew Francis Finch be thankful : they have seen a disciplined and a just man—'a city at unity with itself.'