Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/189

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183
GEORGE STUBBS, R.A.

the whirring of tiny windmill wheels. All this was in commotion, flying over and disappearing down the chimneys. Where there were no children, Christmas, guided by his kobolds, passed quickly, never making a mistake. But, sometimes, just as he was approaching a chimney with his hands full, a kobold would tremblingly say, "He is dead; it is useless. There are no more little shoes in the house. Keep your playthings, my little king; it would make the poor mother weep to see them."

For a long, long time the small lights wandered about in this wise. Then all at once a cock with a bad cold sang out in the fog; a streak of daylight appeared in the heavens, and immediately all the mysterious charm of Christmas was over. The feasts of the roofs had finished, and that of the houses had begun. Soon a soft, sweet sound ascended from the chimneys at the same moment with the smoke of the newly-lighted fires. It was the cry of joy or shout of laughter in children's voices, who now in their turn cried out, "Christmas! Christmas; Long live Christmas!" and over the deserted roofs the sun, a fine winter's sun, artificial though rosy-tinted, ascended, and threw its first rays on the glittering snow, and looked like the spangles, the mother-of-pearl, the golden fringes which had fallen from the baskets of the little king!




From Temple Bar.

GEORGE STUBBS, R.A.

The name of this eminent artist is familiar to few people at the present day. In some great mansions the housekeeper will pronounce it, and a visitor who catches that unknown monosyllable in the midst of her drawling roll, may glance with admiration at the big picture overhead, but will probably again forget. And in old county inns of Yorkshire, where men love the weight-carrying horse their fathers bred, you may find Stubbs' name on prints which the villagers still admire. By such works, indeed, he appears to be solely remembered amongst our critics. "Stubbs?" they say — "Oh, a man who painted racehorses!" Yet it may be observed that whilst the great Sir Joshua asked but seventy guineas for a portrait "as far as the knees," Stubbs' commissions ran to one hundred guineas each.[1] Nay, it seems probable that Sir Joshua paid for his picture of the "War-Horse" half as much again as he himself would have asked for a portrait of like size. The older a man grows, the less reason does he see to entertain youth's fond fancy that people come wiser as the generations roll on. I, for my part, am quite convinced that, in giving half a crown apiece for six Chelsea cups and saucers, my grandfather showed much more judgment than did a gentleman the other day who offered me fifteen guineas each. Holding a very strong belief that our forefathers, quite as much, to say the least, as we, were guided by common sense in what they did, I consider that the mere prices paid George Stubbs demand from us a little study of his merit. For he was no fashion. Of the birth I shall presently show, not recommended by a patron, nor pushed by a clique, his very great success was due to nothing besides industry and talent. Observe that the same people saw Reynolds' pictures, Gainsborough's, Wilson's, and Stubbs' — saw them side by side, and gave to the latter that substantial testimony I have mentioned to their approval of his display in the great competition.

He did not paint race-horses alone, nor was he only a painter. A man who qualified himself to give lectures on anatomy at York Hospital before he reached his twenty-second year; whose scientific knowledge, and skill in displaying it, called forth enthusiastic compliment from the savants of foreign lands; whose work Sir Edwin Landseer used for constant reference — such a man deserves to be remembered. In the library of Mr. Mayer, at Bebington, is a collection of notes written by Upcott, from the painter's lips. These I have gathered into connected form, and I present them here with the hope that by their publication critics may be led to

  1. "I am just returned from Blenheim; consequently did not see your letter till yesterday, as they neglected sending it to me. My prices for a head is thirty-five guineas; as far as the knees, seventy; and for a whole-length one hundred and fifty. It requires in general three sittings, about an hour and a half each time; but, if the sitter chooses it, the face could be begun and finished in one day; it is divided into separate times for the convenience and ease of the person who sits; when the face is finished, the rest is done without troubling the sitter.
    "I have no picture of the kind you mention by me. When I paint any picture of invention it is allway engaged before it is half finished.
    "I beg leave to return my thanks for the favorable opinion you entertain of me, and am, with the greatest respect,
    "Your most obedient humble Servant,
    Addressed to
    "Mr. Daulby,"J. R."
    "To the care of[Joshua Reynolds.]
    "Mr. Wm. Roscoe,
    "Lord Street"