The Microcosm of London or London in Miniature: Astley’s Amphitheatre

published by Rudolph Ackermann in 3 volumes, 1808–1811.

ASTLEY’S AMPHITHEATRE. 

The Amphitheatre at Westminster bridge has, within these twelve years, been twice destroyed by fire; and the expence of rebuilding, & c. &c. to Messrs. Astleys, the two proprietors, has been estimated as amounting to nearly thirty thousand pounds. The present theatre is the most airy, and in some respects the most beautiful, of any in this great metropolis. The building is one hundred and forty feet long; the width of that part allotted to the audience, from wall to wall, sixty-five feet; and the stage is one hundred and thirty feet wide, being the largest stage in England, and extremely well adapted to the purpose for which it was built, the introduction of grand spectacles and pantomimes, wherein numerous troops of horses are seen in what has every appearance of real warfare, gallopping to and fro, &c. &c. The whole theatre is nearly the form of an egg; two thirds of the widest end forms the audience part and equestrian circle, and the smaller third is occupied by the orchestra and the stage. From this judicious arrangement, the whole audience have an uninterrupted prospect of the amusements. It is lighted by a magnificent glass chandelier, suspended from the center, and containing fifty patent lamps, and sixteen smaller chandeliers, with six wax-lights each. The scenery, machinery, decorations, &c. have been executed by the first artists in this country, under the immediate direction of Mr. Astley, jun. who made the fanciful design. 

A very good idea of its general appearance, company, &c. is given in the annexed print. 

For a looker-on to describe some part of the amusements would be difficult, perhaps impossible; and luckily it is not necessary, for in an advertisement published November 1807, Mr. Astley himself has described one of them in a manner so singularly curious, that we think it ought to be transmitted to posterity; and have therefore inserted it in this volume. 

“TO THE EDITOR OF THE MORNING CHRONICLE. 

“Sir, 

“Having been strongly requested to give some explanation of the utility of the country dances by eight horses, to be performed this and tomorrow evening, I request you will be so obliging as to insert the following hints. 

“First, I humbly think that a thorough command and pliability on horseback, is obtained by such noble exercises. Secondly, that in executing the various figures in this dance, the rider obtains a knowledge of the bridle hand, also capacity and capability of the horse, more particularly at the precise time of casting off and turning of partners, right and left, &c. &c. Thirdly, I also conceive that the horseman may be greatly improved when in the act of reducing the horse to obedience on scientific principles! ! ! and not otherwise. Fourth, as a knowledge of the appui in horsemanship is highly desirable, whether on the road, the chase, or field of honour, I expressly composed the various figures in the country dance for this desirable purpose; and which my young equestrian artists have much profited by, as some of them three months since were never on horseback. It was from this observation, during forty-two years practice, that I gave this equestrian ballet the name of L’Ecole de Mars; and I am strongly thankful that my humble abilities have afforded some little information, as well as amusement, to the town in general. 

“I am, with respect, 

“The public’s most humble and faithful servant, 

“Philip Astley.” 

Pavilion, Newcastle-street, Strand .” 

From all this, a spectator would be almost tempted to think, that, notwithstanding the numerous and learned dissertations of philosophers to exalt their own species, horses rival man in his superior faculties. I have heard a story on this subject, which I believe has not found its way into Joe Miller; but be that as it may, it is a good story, and in a degree illustrates this subject, and I think my reader will not be displeased at the insertion of it. 

Some years ago, a very learned and sagacious doctor of the university of Oxford, composed and read a long lecture on the difference of man from beast; and when describing the former, asserted that man was superior to all other animals; because there was no other animal, except man, who either reasoned or drew an inference, as the inferior order of beings were wholly governed by instinct. 

On the conclusion of this philosophical discourse, two of the students, who were not quite satisfied of the fact, walked out to converse upon it, and seeing a house with “Wiseman, drawing master,” inscribed upon the sign, went into the shop, and asked the master what he drew? “Men, women, trees, buildings, or any thing else,” was the reply. “Can you draw an inference?” said one of them. The man took a short time to consider it, and candidly replied, that never having seen or heard of such a thing before, he could not. The students walked out of his house, and before they had proceeded far, saw a brewer’s dray with a very fine horse in it.“ A fine horse this,” said one of them to the driver. “A very fine one indeed,” said the fellow.“ Seems a powerful beast,” said the other, “I believe he is indeed,” replied the fellow. “ He can draw a great load, I suppose?” said the Oxonian. “ More than any horse in this county,” answered the drayman. “Do you think he could draw an inference?” said the scholar. “He can draw any thing in reason, I’ll be sworn,” replied the drayman. 

The scholars walked back to the lecture room, and found the company still together; when one of them, addressing the doctor with a very grave face, said to him, “Master, we have been enquiring, and find that your definition is naught; for we have found a man, and a wise man too, who cannot draw an inference, and we have met with a horse that can” 

Besides the Amphitheatre, Messrs. Astleys have a very elegant Pavilion, for exhibiting amusements of a similar description, which they have lately erected, and fitted out in a most complete style, in Newcastle street in the Strand, and named Astley’s Pavilion. 

At this place the horses have displayed some feats of so wonderful a description, as could not easily be conceived unless they were seen. In this place eight horses have lately performed country dances, &c. in a manner that has astonished all the spectators. To this have been added divers horsemanships, the twelve wonderful voltigers, &c. 

The annexed print, which is- 

A VIEW OF THE AMPHITHEATRE AT WESTMINSTER BRIDGE, 

gives a very good idea of the scene. Mr. Rowlandson’s figures are here, as indeed they invariably are, exact delineations of the sort of company who frequent public spectacles of this description; they are eminently characteristic, and descriptive of the eager attention with which this sort of spectators contemplate the business going forward. Small as the figures are, we can in a degree pronounce upon their rank in life, from the general air and manner with which they are marked. 

Mr. Pugin is entitled to equal praise, from the taste which he has displayed in the perspective and general effect of the whole, which renders it altogether an extremely pleasing and interesting little print. 

With respect to teaching horses to perform country dances, how far thus accomplishing this animal, renders him either a more happy or a more valuable member of the horse community, is a question which I leave to be discussed by those sapient philosophers, who have so learnedly and so long debated this important business, with respect to man. 

The school of Jean Jaques Rousseau, who insist upon it, that man, by his civilization, has been so far from adding to his happiness, that he has increased and multiplied his miseries* will of course insist upon it, that a horse in his natural state must be infinitely happier, than he can be with any improvements introduced by man; that all these artificial refinements must tend to diminish, instead of increasing his felicity; and that, as a horse, he had much better be left in a state of nature, than thus tortured into artificial refinement. 

The advocates for Swift’s system of the Houyhnhnms, in Gulliver’s Travels, admitting a horse to be superior to a man, even in his natural state, will unquestionably be of the same opinion ; and we must seek farther for the advantages to be derived by introducing a teacher of dancing, and a master of the ceremonies, to this noble and dignified animal. 

It is recorded, that at a much earlier period, a right worshipful mayor of Coventry wished to teach his horse good manners. Queen Elizabeth, in one of her progresses to that city, was met, about a mile before she arrived there, by the mayor and aldermen, who desirous of declaring the high honour which they felt she would thus confer on their city, employed the mayor to be their speaker. The mayor was on horseback, and (as the record saith) the queen was also on horseback, behind one of her courtiers. A little rivulet happening to run across the road where they stopped, the mayor’s horse made several attempts to drink; which the queen observing, told his worship, that before he began his oration, she wished he would let his horse take his draught. “That, an please your majesty, he shall not,” replied the mayor, “that he certainly shall not yet. I would have him to know, that it is proper your majesty’s horse should drink first, — and then, he shall.”

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Belles & Beaux: A Christmas Collection by the Bluestocking Belles

Just in time for Christmas 2022 comes this boxed set of eight charming stories of love, family, and miracles. Each Belle has contributed a tale set in the festive season–one just long enough to fit in between tasks at this busy time of the year. The tales are unrelated, except by the festive season.

Some have been written for this collection, some are made-to-order stories never before published, some have been used as fan giveaways. All are delightful.

So order your copy now for the opportunity to pour the drink of your choice, find a favourite chair, and step into one of our worlds: https://books2read.com/BellesBeaux

The Magic Christmas Stew

by Susana Ellis

“Dear Daniel, if I’d known you were coming, I’d have put on a proper dinner rather than the simple fare we are accustomed to,” fussed his sister-in-law as the white soup was served. “A nice roast beef, perhaps, or braised lamb. Cook does a fine lamb in savory jelly.”

“Louisa, my dear, I’m sure my brother will find our simple dinners to be far superior to fare on the battlefield,” chided her husband. “I can’t imagine beans and hardtack were all that appetizing.”

Touching a napkin to his lips, Daniel shook his head. “My stomach is still not accustomed to proper meals, even after four months in London.” He grinned. “There was a chap in my regiment who used to make what he called ‘Magic Stew.’ We all contributed whatever we had from our food allotment and such things as we could forage, and no matter what was in it, we thought it the best stew we had ever tasted.”

“What was in it?” inquired Louisa. “Perhaps I could get Cook to replicate it.”

Daniel laughed. “I shouldn’t even attempt it. The ‘magic’ came from being on the march and having long lost the expectation of having tasty meals. I am convinced, Louisa, that you would not find a pot of assorted army rations with the odd vegetable tossed in at all tasty.”

The Magic Christmas Stew

Belles & Beaux

A Mistletoe Kiss: Sherry Ewing
As Christmas approaches, Sophie Templeton’s one wish is a kiss beneath the mistletoe from the man who holds her heart. Spencer, Earl of Wilmott has been quietly waiting for Sophie to grow up. Has he left it too late to make his offer?

The Magic Christmas Stew: Susana Ellis
The life of an idle spare was no life at all for retired Captain Daniel Winthrop. He was capable of doing many things, but they all required a wealthy bride. Governess Emily Bainbridge feared being pursued for her fortune, so she kept hers a secret. Will this pair find the courage to conquer their pride and risk all for love?

Flowers for His Lady: Alina K Field
After her fall from grace years ago, Eleanor Gurnwood has made a family of the villagers in her vicar-brother’s parish. His rising career means she must choose between continuing as his minion or staying with the village. Then her past rides in on a white horse in the form of Major Sir Bramwell Huxley.

An Angel’s Promise: Rue Allyn
Artis MacKai might be only a little girl, but she is not going to let a blizzard, wolves, or a deadly enemy stop her from rescuing the stolen mare and foal who are the hope of her family. It will take the spirits of her parents, a determined boy, and her desperate brother to save her.

Room at the Inn: Caroline Warfield
A fatherless child requires a village with room in their hearts. A hardhearted baroness makes it impossible. The Honorable Declan Alworth steps up to make room in his heart and his home for the little treasure. How can the vicar’s niece, Maera Willis, resist either one of them?

Zara’s Locket: Jude Knight
After Zara MacLaren is dismissed from her post on Christmas Eve, things go from bad to worse. When a goldsmith recognises the locket he once made in the hands of a would-be seller, he sets out to find her. What seems bad fortune might just turn into a Christmas miracle.

Three Ships: Elizabeth Ellen Carter
Laura Winter lives on a tidal island that is home to a lighthouse. On a late November day a violent storm brings not only the handsome Lieutenant Michael Renten but also a clutch of pirates bent on wreaking mischief.

The Beau of Christmas Past: Cerise DeLand
Years ago, Alyssa and Declan were caught enjoying a Christmas kiss, which broke Alyssa’s betrothal to another man, and caused the pair to be exiled, far from their families and one another. Home for Christmas, will they find the past something to be overcome? Or fulfilled?

The Microcosm of London or London in Miniature: The Admiralty

published by Rudolph Ackermann in 3 volumes, 1808–1811.

The Admiralty is a brick building, containing the office and apartments for the lords commissioners of the Admiralty, who superintend the marine department, and is contiguous to the Horse Guards on the north. With respect to the architecture, the principal front facing Parliament-street displays a proof that the noble lord and board who presided at the time it was built, had objects of more consequence than symmetry and proportion to attend to: it was designed and erected by Shipley. The screen in the front (which was designed and erected by Adams) is so peculiarly elegant, that it in a degree redeems the other part from disgrace. On the top of the Admiralty are erected two telegraphs, the inside of which may be seen by proper application to the porter, or person who works the machine. 

The lord high admiral is classed as the ninth and last great officer of the crown; and the honour it conferred, and trust it vested, were formerly considered to be so great, that the post was usually given either to some of the king’s younger sons, near kinsmen, or one of the chief of the nobility. To the lord high admiral belongeth the cognizance of contracts, pleas, or quarrels made upon the sea, or any part thereof which is not within any county of the realm; for his jurisdiction is wholly confined to the sea. The court is provided for the trial and punishment of all offences committed on the high seas, and is a civil court. Courts-martial in the Admiralty have a judge advocate appointed to assist them. The present judge of the Admiralty is the  Right Honourable Sir William Scott, Knight, LL. D. the salary 2500/. The present king’s advocate general is Sir John Nicholl, Knight, LL. D. 

In King Henry III.’s days, and in the reigns of Edward I. II. and III. Richard II. Henry IV. V. and VI. there were several admirals; for the cautious wisdom of those days would not trust a subject with so great a charge, nor permit any one man to have a certain estate in a post of so great importance. But, nevertheless, in those days there was a great admiral of England. 

King Henry VL in the fourteenth year of his reign, constituted John Holland Duke of Exeter, and Henry Holland his son, admirals of England, Ireland, and Aquitaine for life. 

The power of this great officer is described in a statute of Charles II.: it is enacted that he may grant commissions to inferior vice-admirals, or commanders in chief of any squadron of ships, to call and assemble courts-martial, consisting of commanders and captains; and no court-martial, where the pains of death are inflicted, shall consist of less than five captains at least; the admiral’s lieutenant to be as to this purpose esteemed as a captain: and in no case when sentence of death shall pass, by virtue of the articles (for regulating and better governing his majesty’s navies, ships of war, and forces at sea,) aforesaid, or any of them (except in case of mutiny), there shall be execution of such sentence of death, without leave of the lord high admiral, if the offence be committed within the narrow seas. But in case any of the offences aforesaid be committed in any voyage beyond the narrow seas, whereupon sentence of death shall be given in pursuance of the aforesaid articles, or any of them, then execution shall be done by order of the commander in chief of that fleet or squadron wherein sentence was passed. 

He hath also power to appoint coroners to view dead bodies found on the seacoast or at sea; commissioners or judges for exercising justice in the High Court, of Admiralty; to imprison and to release, &c. 

Moreover to him belong, by law and custom, all fines and forfeitures of all transgressors at sea, on the seashore, in ports, and from the first bridge on rivers towards the sea; also the goods of pirates and felons, condemned or outlawed; and all waifs, stray goods, wrecks of sea deodands; a share of all lawful prizes, lagon, jetson, flotson; that is, goods lying in the sea, goods cast by the sea on the shore, not granted formerly, or belonging to lords of manors adjoining to the sea; all great fishes, as sea-hogs, and other fishes of extraordinary bigness, called royal fishes, whales only and sturgeons excepted. 

“De sturgeoni observatur quod rex ilua intergram: de balneo vero sufficit si rex habeat caput et reginse candum.” Master William Prynne, who is one of the commentators upon the above curious law, says, that the reason must be, that “our wise and learned lawgivers willed the queen to have the tail of the whale, that her majesty might have whalebone to make her stays forgetting that this was made law upwards of two hundred years before stays were ever worn or thought of. Note farther, that the bone used for stays, is taken out of the head, and not the tail of the fish. 

On this ancient law being once mentioned to the late Dr. Buchan, author of Domestic Medicine, ike. &c. he repeated the following little impromptu, which I think has never before been printed: 

“If a sturgeon should chance to be cast upon land, 

“Honest George, Heaven bless him! the whole may command; 

“But if equal misfortune befal a poor whale, 

“Let the king have the head, and the queen the tail.” 

It is not the object of this volume to say much concerning the great power and interest which the king of England hath in the British seas; and as to the antiquity of the Admiralty Court, and of the name of Admiral, it may be found in a record mentioned by the Lord Chief Justice Coke (Coke’s Institute, p. 142, entitled “De Superioritate Maris Angliae, et Jure Officii Admiralitatis in eodem), said to be among the archives in the Tower of London. 

He is called admiral from amir, an Arabic word signifying prefect us, and in Greek marimis. His patent formerly run thus: “Anglise, Hiberniee, et Aquitaiise magnus admirallus, et praTectus generalis clargis et marium dictorum regnorum.” 

The various distinguished actions which have been recorded of many of our admirals, and establish the honour and superiority of the British navy, would fill volumes. To enumerate them would occupy more space than can be here allotted to it, and does not come into the plan of this work; but to close the recital of any thing tending to the establishment of our naval character, without inserting the name of the late Lord Nelson, -would be a very improper omission. 

Painters have exhausted their art in pictured representations of his actions; sculptors have hewn marble monuments to eternize his heroic professional abilities, which have been placed in the most conspicuous situations in different public buildings throughout the kingdom; and poets have invoked the muse, and exerted their utmost efforts to perpetuate his fame, in praises that, used to any other individual,  might have been deemed extravagant panegyric: but the whole nation appear to have been so gratefully alive to his exalted merit, and so highly to revere his memory, that it is hardly deemed equal to what his conduct peremptorily claimed from his surviving countrymen. The Right Honourable Horatio Viscount Nelson, and Duke of Bronte, was a most active, brave, and able officer. He defeated the French fleet in Aboukir Bay, August 1, 1798, and took eight sail of the line; for which he was raised to the peerage. He was second in command at the battle of Copenhagen, where he displayed great courage and conduct; for which he was raised to the dignity of viscount. He completely defeated the combined fleet of France and Spain, off Cape Trafalgar, October 21, 1805, in which he lost his life. 

In the advices some of our admirals have transmitted to the Board of Admiralty and others, there is a brevity, which Shakespeare says is the soul of wit; there is, however, a brevity, which is so admirable a model of epistolary writing, that I cannot resist transcribing one or two of them; premising, that as they are taken from memory, they may not do justice to the originals. 

The first is from Sir George Rodney to the Governor of Barbadoes, and is as follows: 

“Dear General, 

“The battle is fought, — the day is ours, — the English flag is victorious; — we have taken the French admiral, with nine other ships, and sunk one. “G. B. R.” 

The second letter was, I think, transmitted to the Admiralty. 

“We have met the French fleet, and taken, sunk, or destroyed, as per margin.” 

The last I shall subjoin is from a foreigner, but seems mixed up with a large portion of British spirit . It was written to Admiral Benbow, who died in October 1702, at Jamaica, of the wounds he received in an engagement with M. du Casse, in the West Indies, off the high land of St. Martha, in the same year. 

Soon after Admiral Benbow’s return to Jamaica, he received a letter from M. du Casse, of which the following is a translation: 

“Carthagena, August 1702. 

Sir, 

“I had little hopes on Monday last but to have supped in your cabin; yet it pleased God to order otherwise: I am thankful for it. As for those cowardly captains who deserted you, hang them up; for, by G — d, they deserve it. 

“Du Casse.” 

The next print is a correct interior view of THE BOARD ROOM OF THE ADMIRALTY, with its appropriate decorations of globes, books, maps, & c. The lords commissioners are represented as sitting at the table, and may be naturally supposed engaged in some business relative to the naval interest of Great Britain: and considered in that point of view, may be fairly said to be transacting a business of more real importance to this country, than any other subject that could be debated; and if taken in all its nautical relations, the acknowledged preeminence of our navy, and the various appertaining et-ceteras, it is also a matter of infinite importance to all Europe. 

After what has been said, it does not seem necessary to make any remarks on the extent of the building; but, as it has been before remarked, that the noble lords were engaged in transactions of more importance than attending to the symmetry and proportion of their house, which was probably left to the architect, who might in many cases leave it to the management of his foreman, it may afford some amusement to our readers, to recite a few sportive sallies of the wits of the time on the brick and mortar of the principal front. 

They said, and truly said, that it is a contemptible piece of architecture. Of the portico of this building, composed of four Ionic columns, with a pediment of stone, a story is told, that, from the strange disproportion of the shafts, is highly probable. The architect, Shipley, had made them of a proper length, when it was found that the pediment of one of his shafts had blocked up the window of one of the principal apartments; and he endeavoured to remedy the error, by carrying his columns to the roof of the building: and in truth, in its present state, one is compelled to admit the truth of what was remarked by the late George Selwyn, that though the columns are certainly neither of the Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian order, they would be admirable models to take for a new one, which might be denominated the clis, or disproportioned order; “or,” added he, “if we chose to give it immortality, baptize it with an appropriate title, and name it the Robinsonian order, in honour of Sir Thomas Robinson.” 

The figure of Sir Thomas Robinson must be in the recollection of many of our readers; — so long, so lank, so lean, so bony, that he struck every one who saw him, as distinct from all other men, and out of all manner of proportion. When the late Lord Chesterfield was confined to his room by an illness, of which he felt a consciousness that he should never recover, a friend, who visited him in the character of one of Job’s comforters, gravely said, he was sorry to tell his lordship, that every body agreed in thinking he was dying, and that he was dying by inches. “Am I?” said the old peer, “am I indeed? why then I rejoice from the bottom of my soul, that I am not near so tall as Sir Thomas Robinson.” 

To return to the building: certain it is that such columns never were seen either in Greece, or Rome, or any other country. 

The screen in the front, which was designed and erected by Adams, is so far from being liable to any part of this censure, that it forms a striking contrast, and would, if it were possible, shew in a more glaring light the gross absurdities of the principal front of the building. 

On the inside of the Admiralty are two telegraphs, which may be seen by a proper application to the porter, or person who works, the machine. 

More about the Admiralty Boardroom.

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The Microcosm of London or London in Miniature: The Royal Academy

published by Rudolph Ackermann in 3 volumes, 1808–1811.

Previous to the institution of a Royal Academy, there was an exhibition at the Lyceum in the Strand. It was denominated THE SOCIETY OF ARTISTS OF GREAT BRITAIN; and the profits were to be applied to the relief of distressed artists, their widows and children. In this place were exhibited some very fine productions by Mortimer and other of our most celebrated painters. 

The princes of the house of Hanover had many virtues of a description that adorn and dignify human nature. George II, was a gentleman of high honour and undeviating integrity; but he possessed no portion of taste for the fine arts, the professors of which were very coldly considered during his reign. 

The accession of his present majesty displayed a very different scene, and those who had talents found now a sovereign who had taste to discern and appreciate them, and sought every opportunity of affording them countenance and protection.

The Royal Academy

In the year 1774, old Somerset Place was purchased of the crown, and an act of parliament passed for embanking the river Thames before Somerset House, and for building upon its scite various public offices, &c. The part of the building appropriated to the artists, is the object of our present enquiry. 

The room on the ground-floor is allotted to models of statues, plans, elevations, and drawings. 

The coved ceiling of the library was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Cipriani. The center is by Sir Joshua, and represents the Theory of the Art, under the form of an elegant and majestic female, seated on the clouds and looking up wards: she holds in one hand a compass, in the other a label, on which is written, 

Theory is the knowledge of what is truly nature. 

The four compartments in the coves of the ceiling are by Cipriani, and represent Nature, History, Allegory, and Fable. These are well imagined, and sufficiently explain themselves. 

The adjoining room, being originally appropriated to models and casts from the antique, of which this society has a most valuable and curious collection, is plain and unornamented. 

The council room is more richly decorated ; the stucco is in a good taste, and in the center compartment of the ceiling are five pictures painted by Mr. West. The center picture represents the Graces unveiling Nature; the others display the four elements from which the imitative arts collect their objects, under the description of female figures, attended by genii, with Fire, Water, Earth, and Air, exhibited under different forms and modifications. The large oval pictures which adorn the two extremities of the ceiling, are from the pencil of Angelica Kauffman, and represent Invention, Composition, Design, and Colouring. Besides these nine large pictures, there are in the angles, or ospandrells in the center, four coloured medallions, representing Apelles the painter, Phidias the sculptor, Apollodorus the architect, and Archimedes the mathematician; and round the great circle of the center, eight smaller medallions, held up by lions, on which are represented, in chira-obscuro, Palladio, Bernini, Michael Angelo, Fiamingo, Raphael, Dominichino, Titian, and Rubens; all of which are painted by Rebecca.

Sir Joshua Reynolds

Sir Joshua Reynolds was the first president ; and his urbanity of manners, and high rank in the arts, gave him a respectability with the society, which it will not be easy for any of his successors to equal. 

It is not proper to pass the name of this great man without some general account of his character: 

“His art was nature, and his pictures thought.” 

He was born heir to the manor of portrait-painting, the soil of which he has so improved, enriched, and fertilized, as to give this hitherto barren spot in the province of art, an importance it was never before thought capable of receiving. At the hour he began to paint he was the leader of his art, and, whatever improvements were made by his contemporaries, preserved that rank to the last year of his life. He was sometimes praised for excellences which he did not possess, and sometimes censured for errors of which he was not guilty. To analyze his character fairly, it is necessary to consider the state of the arts when he began to paint; and to say a man was superior to the painters who immediately succeeded Hudson, is, with very few exceptions, saying little more than that he was a giant among pigmies. By his fondness for experiments in colours, he frequently used such as vanished before the originals they were designed to commemorate, and many of them the world need not lament. 

Every succeeding year of his life he improved; and that some of his later pictures have been painted with colours that fled, every man of true taste will regret; at the same time that the mezzotintoes so frequently engraved from them, shew us in shadow, that such things were. He did not aim at giving a mere ground-plan of the countenance, but the markings of the mind, the workings of the soul, the leading features which distinguish man from man; by which means he has represented real beings with all the ideal graces of fiction, and united character  to individuality. Invention and originality have been said to be the leading excellences of a poet or a painter, and the president has been accused of borrowing from the works of others. Let it be remembered, that the merit does not lie in the originality of any single circumstance, but in the conduct and use of all the branches and particular beauties which enter into each composition. Such appropriation has a right to the praise of invention, and to such praise was Sir Joshua entitled. He frequently united the elegance of the French style with the chastity of the Roman; he imitated the brilliant hues of Rembrandt, but never introduced what was either mean or disgusting; he had the richness of colouring of Rubens without his excess and tumult; and by thus judiciously selecting and skilfully blending the colours of the various masters, he has formed a style wholly his own, on the merit of which other painters have separately about as high claim, as the mason who hewed the stones for Whitehall had to the honours due to Inigo Jones. 

Considered in every point of view, he has given a new character to portrait-painting, and his pencil may, without exaggeration, be called creative. 

The School

The stated professors of painting in its different departments, read lectures to the students in their various branches; and as they possess a most capital collection of casts and models from antique statues, &c. they have what may be fairly deemed a good school for drawing. A school for colouring they still want; and it has been recommended to them to purchase a collection of pictures, to which the students might resort, and compare their own productions with those of the great masters, whose works have stood the test of ages. The Lectures by Sir Joshua Reynolds are published, and are models of elegant composition as well as scientific taste. Those by Mr. Barry were published a few years ago, and contain much original and useful information, blended with some of this singular painter’s peculiarities. 

Mr. Sheldon, professor of anatomy, delivers six lectures annually, during the summer season. 

Prize medals (of silver), for the best academy figure, are delivered once a year. 

Gold medals for historical compositions in painting, sculpture, and designs in architecture, once in two years. The latter are presented to a full assembly, and succeeded by a discourse from the president. 

Students have generally during the whole year an opportunity of studying nature from well chosen subjects, and of drawing from the antique casts. 

Admission to the lectures is by a ticket signed by an academician; they are held on Monday evenings, at eight o’clock, in Somerset Place. 

The annual exhibition generally opens in May, and every person admitted pays one shilling ; and sixpence for a catalogue, if he wishes to have one. 

A VIEW OF THE STUDENTS IN THE ROYAL ACADEMY, AT SOMERSET HOUSE, DRAWING FROM THE LIFE. 

The room in which this is done we have already described; and by the manner in which it is arranged, and their errors being pointed out, a number of our young students draw with great correctness. It is devoutly to be wished that their colouring was as meritorious as their drawing; but for colouring they have not yet a good school, though several of the royal academicians have made many attempts to obtain it; but, alas! those attempts have not hitherto been crowned with success. 

THE GREAT ROOM AT THE ROYAL ACADEMY, AT THE TIME OF AN EXHIBITION.

This most spirited drawing is covered with the representation of pictures and figures, in a manner with which it would not be easy to find one with which it could be paralleled; nor would it be easy to find any other artist, except Mr. Rowlandson, who was capable of displaying so much separate manner in the delineations placed on the walls, and such an infinite variety of small figures, contrasted with each other in a way so peculiarly happy, and marked with such appropriate character. The peculiar mode by which different persons shew the earnestness with which they contemplate what they are inspecting, and display an absorbed attention to the object before them, is incomparably delineated; and the whole forms an admirable little picture of that busy scene, in which such crowds are annually engaged in watching the progress of the fine arts as annually exhibited at the Royal Academy. 

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Regency Advertisements: Tour Around London (1807)

La Belle Assemblée, March 1807

 

If you are interested in the historical details of towns around London, this book is worth acquiring, especially since it’s free on Google Books.