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SOME ACCOUNT OF
THE LIFE AND WRITINGS
SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
The Author of the following admirable works, having, for near half a century, been well known to almost every person in this country who had any pretensions to taste or literature, to the present age an account of him, however brief, may seem wholly unnecessary; nor should the reader be detained, even for a few minutes, from the pleasure which awaits him, but that Posterity, while they contemplate with delight and admiration those productions of his pencil which place him on a level with Titian and Vandyck, will naturally wish to know something of the man, as well as of the painter.
Joshua Reynolds was born at Plympton in Devonshire, July 16th, 1723; the son of Samuel Reynolds and Theophila Potter. He was on every side connected with the Church, for both his father and grandfather were in holy orders; his mother was the daughter of a clergyman, and his maternal grandmother the daughter of the Rev. Mr. Baker, an eminent mathematician in the last century, of whom we have an account in the BIOGRAPHIA BRITANNICA. His father's elder brother, John, was also a clergyman, a Fellow of Eton College, and Canon of St. Peter's, Exeter. *
Mr. Samuel Reynolds taught the grammarschool of Plympton, which could have
* This gentleman, who died in 1758, left his library, and the greater part of his fortune, to Exeter College in Oxford.—There is a mezzotinto print of him, scraped by M-Ardell, (from a portrait painted by his nephew, now in Eton College,) which has erroneously been supposed to represent the father of the painter. See Bromley's Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits, 4to. 1792, , p. 280.
afforded him but a moderate subsistence; nor was he enabled by any ecclesiastical preferment to provide for his numerous family, amounting to eleven children in all, of whom Joshua was the seventh. Five, however, of these children died in their infancy. — His father had a notion *, that it might at some future period of life be an advantage to a child to bear an uncommon Christian name; which might recommend him to the attention and kindness of some person bearing the same name, who, if he should happen to have no natural object of his care, might be led even by so slight a circumstance to become a benefactor. Hence our author derived the scriptural name of Joshua, which, though not very uncommon, occurs less frequently than many others : of this baptismal name, however, the Register of Plympton by some negligence or inaccuracy has deprived him. † * From Dr. Percy, Lord Bishop of Dromore.
+ In the Register of Plympton, by which it appears that he was baptized on the 30th of July, he is styled
Under the tuition of Mr. Reynolds he was for some time instructed in the classicks ; but at an early age his inclination for that art of which he afterwards became so illustrious a professor, began to display itself ; and his imperfect attempts * at delineation were encouraged by his father, who was himself fond of drawings, and had a small collection of anatomical and other prints. The young artist's first essays were made in copying several little things done by two of his elder sisters, who had likewise a turn for the art; and he afterwards (as he himself
“ Joseph son of Samuel Reynolds, Clerk :" probably in consequence of the entry not being made at the time of the baptism. The name, I suppose, was written originally on a slip of paper in an abbreviated form — “ Jos. son of Samuel Reynolds," — and was at a subsequent period entered erroneously by the clergyman or clerk of the parish.
* Lady Inchiquin has one of these very early essays; a perspective view of a book case, under which his father has written — “ Done by Joshua out of pure idleness ;" it is on the back of a Latin exercise. Joshua's idleness was, his preferring the employment of his pencil to that of the pen.
ánformed me) eagerly copied such prints as he met with among his father's books, particularly those which were given in the translation of Plutarch's Lives, published by Dryden. But his principal fund of imitation was Jacob Cats' book of Emblems, which his great grandmother by the father's side, a Dutch woman, had brought with her from Holland. — When he was but eight years old, he read with great avidity and pleasure THE JESUIT's PERSPECTIVE, a book which happened to lie on the window-seat of his father's parlour; and made himself so completely master of it, that he never afterwards had occasion to study any other treatise on that subject. * He then attempted to draw the School at Plympton, a building elevated on stone pillars; and he did it so well, that his father said, “ Now this exemplifies what the author of the • Perspective' asserts in his Preface, — that, by observing the rules laid down in his book,
* From himself in 1786.