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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thee gone, continued he, throwing the shilling out of the window ; and, returning to his work, produced one of his best pieces. This story he related to the gentleman who bought the picture. His drawings are in the style of Ruisdale and Berghem. 1


born in London about 1672, was a portrait-painter, and happy in taking likenesses, but I suppose never excellent, as his price was but five guineas for a three-quarter cloth. He married the daughter of one Green, an attorney, by whom he had several children, of which one son followed his father's profession. In 1704 the father resided in Warwick-lane, and afterwards near Covent-garden. He died an aged man in the Charter-house. Besides painting, he performed on the violin and flute, and played at the concert held at the house of that extraordinary person, Thomas Britton, the smallcoal-man, whose picture he twice drew, one of which portraits was purchased by Sir Hans Sloane, and is now in the British Museum. There is a mezzotinto from it. T. Britton, who made much noise in his time, considering his low station and trade, was a collector of all sorts of curiosities, particularly drawings, prints, books, manuscripts on uncommon subjects, as mystic divinity, the philosopher's stone, judicial astrology, and magic : and musical instruments, both in and out of vogue. Various were the opinions concerning him; some thought his musical assembly only a cover for seditious meetings ; others for magical purposes. 2 He was taken for an Atheist,

" His last works are very inferior. He painted ten pictures in one day, and each of them full of variety of agreeable scenes, which were fixed up in taverns, where he used to consume his time. Many connoisseurs came there to see and admire them." Pilkington.—D.
Britton was one of the most extraordinary men of his day, and is mentioned, or rather described, both in the Spectator and Guardian, vol. viii. p. 203, and No. 144 ; his concerts were frequented for forty years, and that by men of fashion and ladies of rank, who were seen climbing up a ladder to a low room, in which they were held. Both Dr. Burney and Hawkins, in their histories of music, have spoken of his knowledge of the science with great respect. He died in 1714, aged about sixty, having been sacrificed to a jest. As he held all the Rosicrucian tenets respecting invisible spirits, a ventriloquist was procured to say to him, whilst engaged in a concert, "Thomas Britton, go home, for thou shalt die." The warning sent him home, where he died in a few days. He sate twice to Woolaston, and


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