Page:Life of William Blake, Gilchrist.djvu/39

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ÆT. 10— 13.]
9
CHILDHOOD.

into celebrity by William Shipley, painter, brother to a bishop, and virtual founder also, in 1754, of the still-extant Society of Arts,—in that same house, where the Society lodged until migrating to its stately home over the way, in the Adelphi.

Who was Pars? Pars, the Leigh or Cary of his day, was originally a chaser and son of a chaser, the art to which Hogarth was apprenticed, one then going out of demand, unhappily,—for the fact implied the loss of a decorative art. Which decadence it was led this Pars to go into the juvenile Art-Academy line, vice Shipley retired. He had a younger brother, William, a portrait-painter, and one of the earliest Associates or inchoate R. A.'s, who was extensively patronized by the Dilettanti Society, and by the dilettante Lord Palmerston of that time. The former sent him to Greece, there for three years to study ruined temple and mutilated statue, and to return with portfolios, a mine of wealth to cribbing 'classic' architects,—contemporary Chambers' and future Soanes.

At Pars' school as much drawing was taught as is to be learned by copying plaster-casts after the Antique, but no drawing from the living figure. Blake's father bought a few casts, from which the boy could continue his drawing-lessons at home: the Gladiator, the Hercules, the Venus de Medici, various heads, and the usual models of hand, arm, and foot. After a time, small sums of money were indulgently supplied wherewith to make a collection of Prints for study. To secure these, the youth became a frequenter of the print-dealer's shops and the sales of the auctioneers, who then took threepenny biddings, and would often knock down a print for as many shillings as pounds are now given, thanks to ever-multiplying Lancashire fortunes.

In a scarce, probably almost unread book, affecting—despite the unattractive literary peculiarities of its pedagogue authors—from its subject and very minuteness of detail, occurs an account, from which I have begun to borrow, of Blake's early education in art, derived from the artist's own lips. It is a more reliable story than Allan Cunningham's pleasant