Anecdotes of Painting in England: With Some Account of the Principal Artists - Vol. 2

By Horace Walpole | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XV.

PAINTERS IN THE REIGN OF KING WILLIAM.

THIS prince, like most of those in our annals, contributed nothing to the advancement of arts. He was born in a country where taste never flourished, and nature had not given it to him as an embellishment to his great qualities. He courted Fame, but none of her ministers. Holland owed its preservation to his heroic virtue, England its liberty to his ambition, Europe its independence to his competition with Louis XIV.; for, however unsuccessful in the contest, the very struggle was salutary. Being obliged to draw all his resources from himself, and not content to acquire glory by proxy, he had no leisure, like his rival, to preside over the registers of his fame. He fought his own battles, instead of choosing mottoes for the medals that recorded them; and though my Lord Halifax promised 1 him that his wound in the battle of the Boyne

" Should run for ever purple in our looms,"

his majesty certainly did not bespeak a single suit of tapestry in memory of the action. In England he met with nothing but disgusts. He understood little of the nation, and seems to have acted too much upon a plan formed before he came over, and, however necessary to his early situation, little adapted to so peculiar a people as the English. He thought that valour and taciturnity would conquer or govern the world ; and vainly imagining that his new subjects loved liberty better than party, he trusted to their feeling gratitude for a blessing which they could not help

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1
It has been observed that I have misquoted Lord Halifax, who does not promise King William an immortality in tapestry for his wound, but tells him, the French would have flattered him in that manner. It is very true : I mistook, quoting only by memory, and happily not being very accurately read in so indifferent an author. The true reading is but more applicable to my purpose. Whoever delights in such piddling criticisms, and is afterwards capable of reasoning from a passage when he has rectified it, may amuse himself in setting this right. I leave the passage wrong as it stood at first, in charity to such commentators.

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