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OR, COMPENDIUM OF RELIGIOUS, MORAL, & PHILOSOPHICAL KNOWLEDGE.
:, the year 1743. Of his childhood also MEMOIR OF HENRY FUSELI, ESQ. R.A.
| little is known; but he was wont to say, (With a Portrait.)
that he was a very wayward boy ; and When the death of this celebrated artist, in April,
frequently incurred severe chastisement for 1825, took place, we immediately sought after his portrait, and a memoir of his life. The latter
neglecting his lessons at school. His was soon procured; but instead of the former,
| mother was a very accomplished woman, we could only obtain a bust, both of which ap to whose instruction, Mr. Fuseli attributed peared in the Imperial Magazine for November | much of the knowledge which he acquired, in the same year. The excellent engraving now and of whose tenderness he always spoke presented to the public, is from an admirable
in terms of affectionate veneration. likeness of this distinguished individual, with
Notwithstanding the indications of genius which we bave lately been favoured. The memoir which follows is original; and as it in.
which Henry evinced, his father would by cludes numerous facts and incidents not inserted no means encourage his propensity for the in that of 1825, it can hardly fail to interest and art gratify every reader.-EDITOR.
could to thwart his inclination. This TAE family name of this eminent painter opposition only served to stimulate the was Fuessli, which, for the sake of euphony, youth to the exercise of his natural powers. he altered to Fuseli, after his settlement in All his leisure moments were devoted to England. His father, John Gaspard Fuessli, the pencil; and he frequently purloined a native of Zurich, in Switzerland, went, at ends of candle from the kitchen, that he an early age, to Vienna, and thence to might sit up and pursue his studies when Rastadt, on the invitation of the prince of the family were gone to rest. Michael Schwartzenberg, with whom he became a Angelo was even at that early period bis great favourite. He excelled in portraiture greatest favourite. As his father happened and landscape painting. On leaving Ras- to have a large collection of prints after tadt, he took up his residence at the court that great master, young Fuseli caught the of the duke of Wirtemberg, where he lived style by repeatedly copying these engrayvery agreeably, and painted many portraits ings. But he was not content with being of distinguished personages, until the war | a servile imitator. of Poland and the irruption of the French Among his juvenile productions were into Germany, obliged him to remove to several sketches in outline, illustrative of Nuremberg. While there, his patron, the a wild German romance, called the Hour duke, died, on which Fuessli returned to Glass, representing imps engaged in all Zurich, and at the age of thirty-four, in the kinds of mischievous sports. Some of his year 1740, he married. Although his wife drawings he used to sell to his school felwas a very excellent woman, he used to lows. Having by this means saved a small say that marriage was incompatible with sum of money, he laid it out in a piece of improvement in the fine arts. If, however, flame-coloured silk, which he had made he felt any inconvenience in that state, he into a coat. Being laughed at for this had the happiness to communicate the showy dress, he threw it aside, and from principles of painting to his three sons, that moment never could endure any Rodolph, who settled at Vienna; Gaspard, thing like gaudy apparel. His father who died in the prime of life; and Henry, having designed him for the clerical prothe, subject of this memoir. The elder fession, placed him in the college at Fuessli was not only a good artist, but an Zurich, where he had for a fellow student admirable biographer, as his memoirs of John Casper Lavater, of physiognomical the Swiss painters, in five volumes, and celebrity. An intimacy soon commenced his catalogue of engravers and their works, between them, which ripened into a friendsatisfactorily prove. He died at Zurich, ship that lasted through life. aged seventy-five, in 1781.
About this time, a circumstance occurred The exaet year of Henry Fuseli's birth which displayed in a remarkable manner is not stated; but it must have been about the keen sensibility and elevated character 130.-VOL. XI.
of Fuseli and Lavater. A magistrate in and, on presenting it, Lavater said, “Hang one of the bailiwicks of Zurich, had ren- that up in your bed-room, and I know dered himself odious within his district by what will be the result." several acts of oppression and extortion. It was about the year 1763, and before But though many felt indignation, none he had reached that which is commonly dared to impeach the village tyrant, espe called the age of maturity, that our young cially as he was nearly related to the adventurer entered the British metropolis. burgomaster of Zurich. Fuseli and Lava His first lodging was in Cranbourn Alley, ter took up the matter, by sending an and on taking up his residence there, he anonymous letter of remonstrance to the burst into tears, occasioned by the reflecmagistrate. Finding that this made notion that he was not only a stranger in the impression, they next printed a small pam. place, but inexperienced in the world. phlet, entitled, “The Unjust Magistrate; A trifling incident that occurred at the or, the Complaint of a Patriot;" copies of same time, served also to depress his which were distributed among the mem- spirits, and which, in after life, he often bers of the municipal government. The used to relate with much feeling. Having affair was, in consequence, brought under on his arrival written a letter to his mother, the consideration of the council, who began he sallied forth to put it into the postby calling upon the authors of the tract to office; but on asking his way of a man declare themselves. Lavater and his friend whom he met in the street, he was immediately came forward, and not only answered with a laugh and a vulgar joke. avowed what they had done, but offered This treatment quite disconcerted him, till to substantiate the charge by evidence. he was relieved by a gentleman who witAn inquiry then took place, but the magis nessed the circumstance, and kindly directed trate eluded punishment by absconding; Mr. Fuseli to the place of which he was in and his effects were seized for the benefit search. of those who had suffered by his rapa He did not, however, remain long in city.
this situation. Having brought letters of This generous conduct, instead of meet recommendation from Sir Robert Smith, to ing with the reward which it merited, Mr. Coutts the banker, and to Mr. Johncreated enemies to these two noble-minded son and Mr. Cadell the booksellers, he young men, who were, in consequence, was received by those gentlemen with the under the necessity of quitting Zurich for greatest cordiality. Through their interest, some time. Previous to their departure, he also soon after obtained the situation of they completed their degrees in arts at the tutor to the son of a nobleman, with whom college; and then proceeded to Vienna; he went to Paris. Such was his profifrom whence they repaired to Berlin, as ciency in English composition at this more suited to their principles and genius. period, that in 1765, he published “ReHere they both placed themselves under flections on the Paintings and Sculpture of the learned professor Sulzer, the well the Greeks, with Instructions for the Conknown author of a lexicon on the fine noisseur; and an Essay on Grace in Works arts. The talent of Fuseli did not escape of Art; translated from the German of the the observation of this able teacher, who, Abbé Winckelmann." finding him already conversant with the About the same time happened the English language, which he had studied so extraordinary dispute between Rousseau well as to read Shakspeare with ease, and Hume, in which the Genevan philoresolved to engage him in his favourite sopher rendered himself an object of genescheme of opening a literary intercourse ral ridicule by his extravagant conduct. between Germany and Britain. Besides Voltaire, on this occasion, assailed poor this peculiar fitness for such an under Jean Jacques with as much spleen as wit; taking, Mr. Fuseli had distinguished him | in consequence of which, Mr. Fuseli underself at the Prussian capital by several took the defence of the latter, but anonydrawings of scenes in Shakspeare's Macbeth mously; and soon after the pamphlet and Lear, which procured him the friend was suppressed and destroyed, nor could ship of Sir Robert Smith, the English the author ever endure to hear it menambassador, who strongly recommended tioned. him to visit London. This invitation he Mr. Fuseli had not been long in Enggladly accepted, and on parting with land before he was introduced to Sir Joshua Lavater, he received from him a piece of Reynolds. On shewing some of his drawpaper, on which was written in German, ings to that great man, Sir Joshua asked *Do but the tenth part of what you can him how long since he had returned from do." This laconic monition was framed, Italy. Greatly, therefore, was he surprised
when told by Mr. Fuseli that he had never and elicited universal applausė. This passed the Alps. Sir Joshua then kindly exquisite production was sold for no more inquired into his circumstances and pros. than twenty-five guineas to the late John pects. Being informed that his friends Raphael Smith, who gained above five were adverse to his pursuing painting as a hundred by an engraving of it. profession, and wished him to take orders, It has been said, but erroneously, that Sir Joshua said, “Young man, were I the Mr. Fuseli, while at Rome, projected the author of those drawings, and were offered scheme of the Shakspeare gallery, which ten thousand a year not to practise as an was subsequently carried into effect by artist, I would reject the proposal with Alderman Boydell. That undertaking, contempt.” This sentiment at once de. however, originated with the late Mr. cided the judgment of Fuseli, and he no George Nicol, bookseller to the king, who, longer hesitated in the line that he should at the table of Mr. Josiah Boydell, men. adopt.
tioned Shakspeare as furnishing the most Having made up his mind to become a copious supply of subjects for historic painter, he resolved to visit Italy. Accord painting. The hint was not lost, and ingly, in the year 1770, he, together with among the artists employed was Mr. his friend Dr. Armstrong the poet, em- | Fuseli, who painted eight fine pictures for barked for Leghorn; but in the voyage, the work, from the plays of the “Temthe vessel was driven ashore at Genoa, 1 pest," the “Midsummer Night's Dream,” from whence the travellers proceeded by i Macbeth,” “ Henry IV." “ Henry V.” land to Rome. Here the young artist was “ Lear,” and “Hamlet.” The last was in his element; but though the works of by far the best of these performances. Raffaelle engaged much of his attention, The subject is that of the ghost on the and excited his admiration, those of platform; and of the illusory effect of the Michael Angelo, the early object of his picture à curious circumstance is related. adoration, employed most of his study. A celebrated metaphysician having been From them he imbibed that spirit of daring admitted to a private inspection of the grandeur, and romance of invention, which gallery before its being opened to public distinguished him through life, and placed view, first paid his attention to the pictures him at the head of his class. At this time | opposite to the side where Fuseli's Hamlet So firm and bold was his pencil, that | hung ; but, on turning his head in that Piranesi, on seeing him sketch a figure, direction, he started, and with an expresexclaimed, “This is not designing, but sion of terror exclaimed, “ Lord, have building a man.”
mercy upon me, what is that?" . During his residence in Italy, Mr. Fuseli In 1788, Mr. Fuseli was elected an kept a journal, the manuscript of which is associate of the Royal Academy; and on still in being, and would, if published, the 10th of February, 1790, he obtained the prove highly interesting, especially to the higher distinction of academician. lovers of the fine arts. He here also drew Between that year and 1800, he proseveral designs, and painted some glowing duced his “Milton Gallery,” being a series pictures, chiefly on subjects in the works of forty-seven pictures taken from the of Shakspeare and Milton. While abroad, greater works of the English epic poet. he contracted an intimacy with several These representations were severely critiEnglishmen of rank, particularly Lord cized at the time of their exhibition, and Rivers, who proved his steady friend even the most enthusiastic admirer of the through life. He also associated with | artist could not but allow that he had sufyoung artists of the same country, and | fered his imagination to run into extraamongst the rest, with Northcote, who vagance. As a speculation, the Milton painted his portrait at Rome.
gallery disappointed the painter and the After residing eight years abroad, he public. In a few months the exhibition turned his attention towards England, | closed finally, and the pictures passed into whither he was urgently called by a num- the hands of different persons. ber of persons, who admired his genius, | On the removal of the eccentric Barry and wished to see it employed to advan from the preceptorial chair of the Royal tage. Having taken Zurich in his way, Academy in 1799, Mr. Fuseli was apand continued about six weeks with his pointed to that honourable station. Though friends, he bent his course to London, in former cases he had evinced an unwhere he arrived in 1779. The first pic common facility in literary composition, ture he exhibited at the Royal Academy, he was now remarkably slow in preparing after his return, was the “Night Mare,” his lectures, the first of which, on ancient which at once stamped his reputation, art, was delivered at Somerset House, in
March, 1801, and was followed by two | One of his earliest friends in England others, one on modern art, and another on was the celebrated Horace Walpole, afterinvention. These were printed in the wards Earl of Orford; for whose patronage course of the same year, with a dedication he was indebted to the ingenious Cipriani. to that eminent patron of the arts William That artist was a favourite of Mr. Wal. Locke, esq., of Norbury Park, in the county pole's, who employed him in many works of Surrey.
which adorn the elegant villa of Strawberry Mr. Fuseli having held the office of Hill. Mr. Walpole desired to have a professor of painting until the year 1804, picture of Hero and Leander; but Cipriani was appointed, on the death of Mr. Wilton, said it was a subject that did not suit him, Keeper of the Royal Academy; but as though he knew a young and aspiring there was a standing law, that no member artist who could execute it better than any should enjoy two offices in the institution man in England. This excited the curiosity at the same time, he resigned the profes of Mr. Walpole; and Mr. Fuseli, on being sorship. However, on the death of Mr. introduced to him, completely gained his Tresham, in 1810, he was unanimously esteem and admiration. The picture was re-elected ; and the royal academicians painted, as well as several others, which no repealed the law, in order to enable him to doubt are still in the possession of the retain both situations. In consequence of noble family. this, he delivered three additional lectures; | The oldest and most attached of Mr. the first on the resumed subject of inven | Fuseli's friends was the late worthy Joseph tion; the second on composition and expres- Johnson of St. Paul's Churchyard, at sion; and the third on chiaro-oscura; but whose hospitable table he was a frequent they were not published till the year 1820. and welcome guest. Indeed so much was
In these lectures, after giving a charac his company valued, that whenever there teristic sketch of various writers on art, | happened to be a party at Mr. Johnson's, ancient and modern, Mr. Fuseli thus neatly and Mr. Fuseli did not appear to enliven compliments the excellent Reynolds. the circle, it was considered a blank day.
“Of English critics whose writings pre- His conversation was always pleasant, and ceded the present century, whether we con. he was particularly happy in repartee. He sider solidity of theory, or practical useful- also possessed strong argumentative powers; ness, the last is undoubtedly the first. To but he was a determined enemy to all compare Reynolds with his predecessors lengthened debates. Whenever he diswould equally disgrace our judgment, and covered that he had taken the wrong side impeach our gratitude. His volumes can of the question, he would escape from the never be consulted without profit, and dilemma, not abruptly or sharply, much less should never be quitted by the student's ) with pertinacious rudeness; but with a hand, but to embody by exercise the pre good-humoured witticism. His sallies of cepts he gives, and the means he points this kind were extremely felicitous; but out.”
though he was a complete master of the In the short interval of peace, after the English language in its grammatical purity, treaty of Amiens, Mr. Fuseli went over to he never could get rid of his foreign accent, Paris, where, however, he staid only six which sometimes gave a ludicrous effect to weeks, owing to the unsettled state of his facetious discourse ; especially when affairs, and the gloomy aspect of the poli- set off by a vehement, and often a grotesque tical hemisphere. During his residence mode of gesture and action. there, he paid a minute attention to the At one time, when dining with Mr. interesting collection at the Louvre. Of Johnson, a gentleman called to him from those inestimable works of ancient and a distant part of the room, “Mr. Fuseli, modern genius, he conceived the idea of I lately purchased a picture of yours." writing a critical account; but the rekin- “ Did you," says Fuseli ; " what is the dling of the flames of war put an end to the subject?” “I really don't know," answered design, and the ultimate restoration of those the gentleman. “That's odd enough," valuable productions to their original own said the painter; "you must be a strange ers prevented its renewal.
fellow, to buy a picture without knowing In 1805, Mr. Fuseli was judiciously | the subject." At this the other being netemployed by the London booksellers in tled, retorted, “I don't know what the revising and continuing the Dictionary of devil it is." Mr. Fuseli, “Perhaps it is Painters by Pilkington, which work he the devil, I have often painted him.” The considerably improved and enlarged by | Gentleman,"Perhaps it is." Fuseli, “Well, articles from his father's biographical works then, you bave him now? take care that he on the Swiss and German artists.
| does not one day have you."
During the exhibition of his Milton gal- , with grammatical elegance, and in Greek he lery, a well-dressed stranger came up, and was perfectly at home. It formed indeed this laconic conversation took place. “These his amusement, and he even composed pictures, sir, are from Milton?” “They Greek verses extemporaneously. Being are so.” “Milton wrote Paradise Lost?” once in company with Porson, he threw “ He did.” “I never read it; but now I off four or five sonorous lines, and then will.” “You had better not; it will be a asked to what author they belonged. “I very tough job.”
really do not know," answered Porson, When Fuseli lived in Berner-street, two after a short pause. Upon this Fuseli of his fellow academicians, who were not burst into a laugh, and said, “ It would only remarkable for talent, but for sloven be a wonder if you should; for I comliness; called upon business connected posed them myself on the spur of the with the institution to which they belonged. moment.” On the subject of their mission a disagree. “When Mr. Cowper was preparing his ment arose, and the discussion, which | translation of the Iliad for the press, Fuseli commenced above stairs, did not terminate having seen the prospectus of the work on at the street door. Fuseli was all impa Mr. Johnson's table, made some observatience, and at last, with an indirect allu tions upon it, which being reported to the sion to their mean appearance, exclaimed, author, struck him so forcibly, that he “Come, go away, go away, I don't wish requested the assistance of the critic in the my neighbours to think I have bom revision and correction of his manuscript. bailiffs about me.”
The request was complied with, and in a He had a great dislike to common-place letter of the poet to his friend Mr. Unwin, conversation. After sitting in silence one | dated March 13, 1786, he says, day while some idlers were in eager chat “I have put my book into the hands of about the weather, and other important the most extraordinary critic that I have points, Fuseli started up, and said, “We ever heard of. He is a Swiss ; has an have had pork for dinner to-day." The accurate knowledge of English ; and for company stared, and one of them ex his knowledge of Homer, has, I verily beclaimed, “Dear me, Mr. Fuseli, what an lieve, no fellow. Johnson recommended odd remark.” “Not at all,” replied he, him to me. I am to send him the quires “it is as good and pertinent as any thing as fast as I finish them off, and the first is that has been said here for an hour.” now in his hands."
Though occasionally irritable, his vio Again, in a letter to his bookseller, dated lence soon subsided, and the natural affa- February 11, 1790, Cowper says, “I am bility of his temper obliterated the dis very sensibly obliged by the remarks of agreeable impression produced by the fit Mr. Fuseli, and beg that you will tell him of exacerbation.
so; they afford me opportunities of imAn eminent engraver who is remarkably provement, which I shall not neglect.” deaf, tapped one day at the painting room On the appearance of this translation in door. «Come in,” said Fuseli; but in public, Mr. Fuseli gave an excellent critoo low a tone to be audible. Another tap tique upon it in the Avalytical Review, to followed. “ Come in," again said the which periodical work he was a frequent painter, with his voice a little raised; but contributor. Cowper, in a letter to Mr. not so as to be heard by the visitor. A Samuel Rose, says, “I have read the crithird tap: “Come in,” roared Fuseli with tique of my work in the Analytical the lungs of a stentor, accompanying the Review, and am happy to have fallen into call with an expression not strictly classical. the hands of a critic, rigorous enough The astonished" Mr. Landseer then entered indeed, but a scholar, and a man of sense; the lion's den; but as soon as discovered, and who does not deliberately intend me a hearty laugh and cordial welcome apolo mischief. I am better pleased, indeed, gized for the seeming rudeness.
that he censures some things, than I should Fuseli was sometimes very strong in have been with unmixed commendation; describing characters. Speaking once of a for his censure will accredit his praise. contemporary artist, whose morals were In his particular remarks he is for the not the most correct, and the subjects of most part right, and I shall be the better whose pencil evinced a corresponding taste, for them; but in his general ones, I think Mr. Fuseli said, “He paints nothing but he asserts too largely, and more than he thieves and murderers, and when he wants could prove." a model, he looks in the glass.”
| From this it is evident that the amiable The scholarship of Fuseli was deep and poet was not indifferent to the opinion of extensive. The Latin language he wrote critics; and it is also as clear, that he was