The Autobiography and Memoirs of Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846) - Vol. 1

The Autobiography and Memoirs of Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846) - Vol. 1

The Autobiography and Memoirs of Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846) - Vol. 1

The Autobiography and Memoirs of Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846) - Vol. 1

Excerpt

Two likenesses of Haydon hang in the National Portrait Gallery. One, by Miss Zornlin, is a full face, and might be a prophetic portrait of Mussolini. That vast and noble brow, enlarged and ennobled by incipient baldness beyond the limits of verisimilitude; those flashing eyes; that square strong jaw; that wide mouth with its full, floridly sculptured lips; that powerful neck -- are not these Il Duce's very features? But Miss Zornlin was not a very good painter. A competent portraitist knows how to imply the profile in the full face. Miss Zornlin's implications are entirely misleading, and if it were not for Haydon's own self-portrait in the National Gallery, and the drawing of him as a youth in the possession of Sir Robert Witt, we should never have guessed that this truculent dictator was the possessor of a very large, yet delicately modelled and somehow fraillooking aquiline nose, and a chin which, while not exactly weak, was not so formidably protuberant as one might have expected. It is as though Mussolini had been strangely blended with Cardinal Newman.

From whatever angle one looks at it, the face is remarkable. One would notice it in a crowd; one would know at once that it belonged to some unusual spirit. It is a face that bears the stigmata almost of genius. Haydon had only to look in the glass to realise that he was a great man.

Nor was a grand appearance Nature's only gift to him. The other attributes of genius -- a little tinged, it is true, with vulgarity -- were not lacking. He was endowed with a sharp and comprehensive intelligence; an excellent judgment (except where his own productions were concerned); a dæmonic vitality; the proverbial "infinite capacity for taking pains"; a mystical sense of inspiration, and a boundless belief in his own powers. His special gifts were literary and discursive. His brain teemed with general ideas. He . . .

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