Page:Life of William Blake, Gilchrist.djvu/44

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14
[1771–72.
LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE.

(all bearing one Christian name) engravers to the Society of Antiquaries. This Basire, born in London, 1730, now therefore forty-one, and son of Isaac Basire, had studied design at Rome. He was the engraver of Stuart and Revett's Athens (1762), of Reynolds's Earl Camden (1766), of West's Pylades and Orestes (1770). He had also executed two or three plates after some of the minor and later designs of Hogarth:—the frontispiece to Garrick's Farmer's Return (1761), the noted political caricature of The Times, and the portrait sketch of Fielding (1762), which Hogarth himself much commended, declaring 'he did not know his own drawing from a proof of the plate.' The subjects of his graver were principally antiquities and portraits of men of note,—especially portraits of antiquaries: hereditary subjects since with the Basire family. He was official engraver to the Royal as well as the Antiquarian Society. Hereafter he will become still more favourably known in his generation as the engraver of the illustrations to the slow-revolving Archæologia and Vetusta Monumenta of the Society of Antiquaries,—then in a comparatively brisk condition,—and to the works of Gough and other antiquarian big-wigs of the old, full-bottomed sort. He was an engraver well grounded in drawing, of dry, hard, monotonous, but painstaking, conscientious style; the lingering representative of a school already getting old-fashioned, but not without staunch admirers, for its 'firm and correct outline,' among antiquaries; whose confidence and esteem,—Gough's in particular,—Basire throughout possessed.

In the days of Strange, Woollett, Vivares, Bartolozzi, better models, if more expensive in their demands, might have been found; though also worse. Basire was a superior, liberal-minded man, ingenuous and upright; and a kind master. The lineaments of his honest countenance (set off by a bob-wig) may be studied in the portrait by his son, engraved as frontispiece to the ninth volume of Nichols's Literary Anecdotes. As a Designer, Blake was, in essentials, influenced by no contemporary; as engraver alone influenced