Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 49.djvu/201
study of a Roman bravo) and a portrait of the dwarf Baiocco (a notorious street beggar) were further memorials of this visit. A more interesting portrait than these was one he painted at Venice on his way home of Edward Wortley-Montagu, Lady Mary's eccentric son, in Turkish costume, a work to which the painter, inspired by his surroundings, gave something of the depth and richness of Venetian colour.
Returning to London via Paris, after two years' absence, Romney found himself somewhat straitened for money. His erratic brother Peter had got into debt and difficulty at Cambridge, where he had set up as a portrait-painter, and Romney generously paid his debts and established him at Southport. This drain upon his means seems to have seriously embarrassed him for the moment, and even made him consider the possibility of leaving London and starting a provincial practice. He finally, however, decided on the bold step of taking the large house and studio, No. 32 Cavendish Square, vacant by the recent death of Francis Cotes, R.A. Here he installed himself at Christmas 1775. His natural misgivings were dispelled, after some weeks of anxiety, by a visit from the Duke of Richmond, who commissioned the artist to paint a three-quarter length of himself. The duke was the president of the Society of Arts. He brought a long array of fashionable sitters in his train, besides giving Romney numerous orders for replicas of his own portrait, and for portraits of various members of his family. In a comparatively short time Romney was dividing the patronage of the great world with Reynolds. ‘All the town,’ said Lord Thurlow, ‘is divided into two factions, the Reynolds and the Romney, and I am of the Romney faction.’ Thurlow sat to the artist some six years later for the famous portrait at Trentham, and amused himself during the sittings by discussing a cycle of illustrations to the legend of ‘Orpheus and Eurydice,’ which he wished Romney to undertake. To this end Thurlow himself made a translation of the legend from Virgil, with an elaborate commentary, reading it aloud as the painter worked. Romney made several cartoons in charcoal on the lines suggested, afterwards presented by his son to the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge and the Royal Institution at Liverpool.
Among the more notable pictures painted between 1775 and 1781 were portraits of Georgiana, duchess of Devonshire—a work he was never able to finish, the great lady proving a most unpunctual sitter—and of the young Countess of Derby (Lady Betty Hamilton); the beautiful group of Lady Warwick and her children; the Duchess of Gordon and her son; Mrs. Hartley and her children; Mrs. Stables and her children; Mrs. Carwardine and child. The Hon. Louisa Cathcart, afterwards Lady Mansfield, sister of Gainsborough's famous ‘Mrs. Graham;’ Mrs. Davenport the actress; Charlotte, daughter of Lord Clive; Harriet Mellon, afterwards Duchess of St. Albans; the two pretty daughters of his friend Cumberland; the fair ‘Perdita’ Robinson; Mrs. Trimmer; Lady E. Spencer, afterwards Countess of Pembroke; the Misses Greville; Sir Hyde Parker; Bishop Porteous of Exeter; the famous Kitty Bannister—all sat for portraits during these years, to which also belong the beautiful romping group of the Stafford family, and the groups of the Clavering and the Beaufort children. Garrick proposed to sit, an idea which nearly cost the painter his life; for getting wet through in a futile attempt to study the great actor in his last appearance at Drury Lane (10 June 1776), he fell into a fever. He was cured by the good offices of Sir Richard Jebb [q. v.], who became his doctor from this time forth, but would never accept any fee beyond an occasional drawing.
Romney's biographers, his son more especially, have insisted strongly on the ill-will of Reynolds, and, making all allowances for partisan exaggerations, it seems evident that Sir Joshua's attitude towards his rival was marked by a hostility not unlike that he showed to Gainsborough. Romney seems never to have given any just cause of offence. He had, indeed, a sincere admiration, often generously expressed, for the president's gifts. Reynolds, on the other hand, had little sympathy with Romney, either as artist or man. No two personalities could have been more sharply opposed, and some at least of Sir Joshua's dislike may have been the distaste of a strong, equable nature for one essentially weak, ill-balanced, and over-emotional. No doubt he was also human enough to resent the brilliant success with which ‘the man in Cavendish Square’ had encountered him on his own ground. To this unfriendliness as much as to any other cause was due Romney's persistent refusal to send any of his works to the Royal Academy, although, on its foundation in 1768, he was strongly urged by his friend Meyer to contribute with a view to his election. No picture of Romney's was seen on the academy walls till 1871, sixty-nine years after his death, when he was represented by one of his most exquisite groups, ‘The Lady Russell and Child,’ painted in 1784. In his determination to hold aloof he was en-