Anecdotes of Painting in England: With Some Account of the Principal Artists - Vol. 3

By Horace Walpole | Go to book overview

THE
LIFE OF MR. GEORGE VERTUE.

(1684—1756.)

The ensuing account is drawn from his own notes in which the highest praise he ventures to assume, is founded on his industry. How many men in a higher sphere have thought that single quality conferred many shining others! The world too has been so complaisant as to allow their pretensions. Vertue thought the labour of his hands was but labour—the Scaligers and such book-wrights have mistaken the drudgery of their eyes for parts, for abilities—nay, have supposed it bestowed wit, while it only swelled their arrogance, and unchained their ill nature. How comtemptuously would such men have smiled at a ploughman, who imagined himself authorized to abuse all others, because he had turned up more acres of ground !—and yet he would have toiled with greater advantage to mankind.

GEORGE VERTUE was born in the parish of St. Martin'sin-the-Fields, London, in the year 1684. His parents, he says, were more honest than opulent. If vanity had entered into his composition, he might have boasted the antiquity of his race: two of his name were employed by Henry VIII. in the Board of Works ; but I forget : a family is not ancient, if none of the blood were above the rank of ingenious men two hundred years ago.

About the age of thirteen he was placed with a master who engraved arms on plate, and had the chief business of London ; but who, being extravagant, broke, and returned to his country, France, after Vertue had served him between three and four years. As the man was unfortunate, though by his own fault, the good-nature of the scholar has concealed his name. As it is proper the republic of letters should be acquainted with the minutest circumstances in

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