Page:Life of William Blake, Gilchrist.djvu/43

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ÆT. 14.]

At the age of fourteen, the drawing-school of Mr. Pars in the Strand, was exchanged for the shop of engraver Basire, in Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields. There had been an intention of apprenticing Blake to Ryland, a more famous man than Basire; an artist of genuine talent and even genius, who had been well educated in his craft; had been a pupil of Ravenet, and after that (among others) of Boucher, whose stipple manner he was the first to introduce into England. With the view of securing the teaching and example of so skilled a hand, Blake was taken by his father to Ryland; but the negotiation failed. The boy himself raised an unexpected scruple. The sequel shows it to have been a singular instance—if not of absolute prophetic gift or second sight—at all events of natural intuition into character and power of forecasting the future from it, such as is often the endowment of temperaments like his. In after life this involuntary faculty of reading hidden writing continued to be a characteristic. 'Father,' said the strange boy, after the two had left Ryland's studio, 'I do not like the man's face: it looks as if he will live to be hanged!' Appearances were at that time utterly against the probability of such an event. Ryland was then at the zenith of his reputation. He was engraver to the king, whose portrait (after Ramsay) he had engraved, receiving for his work an annual pension of 200l. An accomplished and agreeable man, he was the friend of poet Churchill and others of distinguished rank in letters and society. His manners and personal appearance were peculiarly prepossessing, winning the spontaneous confidence of those who knew or even casually saw him. But twelve years after this interview, the unfortunate artist will have got into embarrassments, will commit a forgery on the East India Company:—and the prophecy will be fulfilled.

The Basire with whom ultimately Blake was placed, was James Basire, the second chronologically and in merit first of four Basires; all engravers, and the three last in date