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Praise-worthy actions are by thee embraced,
of his cousin Chesterton's accomplishments as a justice of peace, fox-hunter, and knight of the shire, even including his prudent abstinence from matrimony, were quite sufficient to justify this classification.
EPISTLE THE SIXTEENTH.
SIR GODFREY KNELLER,
PRINCIPAL PAINTER TO
The well-known Sir Godfrey Kneller was a native of Lubec, but settled in London about 1674. He was a man of genius ; but, according to Walpole, he lessened his reputation, by making it subservient to his fortune. No painter was more distinguished by the great, for ten sovereigns sate to him. What may tend longer to preserve his reputation, no painter ever received more incense from the praise of poets. Dryden, Pope, Addison, Prior, Tickell, Steele, all wrote verses to him in the tone of extravagant eulogy. Those addressed to Kneller by Addison, in which the series of the heathen deities is, with unexampled happiness, made to correspond with that of the British monarchs painted by the artist, are not only the best production of that elegant poet, but of their kind the most felicitous ever written. Sir Godfrey Kneller died 27th November, 1723.
Dryden seems to have addressed the following epistle to Sir Godfrey Kneller, as an acknowledgment for the copy of the Chandos' portrait of Shakespeare, mentioned in the verses. It would appear that, upon other occasions, Sir Godfrey repaid the tributes of the poets, by the productions of his pencil.
There is great luxuriance and richness of idea and imagery in
EPISTLE THE SIXTEENTH.
Once I beheld the fairest of her kind,
Shadows are but privations of the light;
Prometheus, were he here, would cast away
But vulgar hands may vulgar likeness raise ;
By slow degrees the godlike art advanced ;
Rome raised not art, but barely kept alive,
* The ancients did not understand perspective; accordingly their figures represent those on an Indian paper. It seems long before it was known in England; for so late as 1634, Sir John Harrington thought it necessary to give the following explanation, in the advertisement to his translation of Orlando Furioso.
“ The use of the picture is evident;-that, having read over the book, they may read it as it were again in the very picture; and one thing is to be noted, which every one haply will not observe, namely, the perspective in every figure. For the personages of men, the shapes of horses, and such like, are made large at the bottom, and lesser upward; as, if you were to behold all the same in a plain, that which is nearest seems greatest, and the farther shews smallest, which is the chief art in picture."
Thus, in a stupid military state,
Long time the sister arts, in iron sleep,
Thy genius gives thee both ; where true design, Postures unforced, and lively colours join, Likeness is ever there; but still the best, (Like proper thoughts in lofty language drest,) Where light, to shades descending, plays, not strives, Dies by degrees, and by degrees revives. Of various parts a perfect whole is wrought; Thy pictures think, and we divine their thought.
Shakespeare, thy gift, I place before my sight ;* With awe, I ask his blessing ere I write; With reverence look on his majestic face; Proud to be less, but of his godlike race.
* This portrait was copied from one in the possession of Mr Betterton, and afterwards in that of the Chandos family. Twelve engravings were executed from this painting, which, however, the ingenious Mr Stevens, and other commentators on Shakespeare, pronounced a forgery. The copy presented by Kneller to Dryden, is in the collection of Earl Fitzwilliam, at Wentworth-house; and may claim that veneration, from having been the object of our author's respect and enthusiasm, which has been denied to its original, as a genuine portrait of Shakespeare. It is not, however, an admitted point, that the Chandos picture is a forgery: the contrary has been keenly maintained ; and Mr Malone's opinion has given weight to those who have espoused its defence.