LESLIE, NEWTON, AND EGG
IN concluding the early life of our three drama-painters, we left Leslie, a student of the Royal Academy, using his best leisure to perfect his art-education; and adding to his means by painting the portraits of his American friends. The art of his two countrymen, Allston and West, had so impressed him that his first attempts were in the grand style; and even when descending from 'Saul and the Witch of Endor', to Shakespeare, he turned to the historic plays rather than to the comedies, his subject being 'The Death of Rutland'. The former of these works the governors of the British Institution, with their usual sagacity, turned out of the gallery; the latter, after exhibition at the Royal Academy, where Leslie tells us it had an 'excellent situation', was purchased for the city of Philadelphia, his American home. In 1817 he paid a visit of two months to Paris, Brussels, and Antwerp, making diligent study of the pictures by the old masters; and in 1818 he made a journey into the south of England, where he obtained much insight into the characteristics of rural life. As the year advanced he began to find that the true bent of his genius was neither for historical nor religious art, but for humorous comedy; which he treated with beauty and character of a far more refined kind than either of the distinguished painters we have classed with him. The same year he painted a small picture of 'Slender and Anne Page', from the Merry Wives of Windsor; a comedy which afterwards afforded subjects for some of his finest works.
He tells us that, on his return from Devonshire in 1818, he painted for his friend, Mr. Dunlop (to whose then residence in Dawlish his visit had been made), the picture of 'Sir Roger de Coverley going to Church accompanied by the Spectator', which was very popular in the exhibition of 1819. That Washington Irving, his great friend, suggested the subject is more than likely. Perhaps there is no scene so full of episodes of peaceful beauty and kindly feeling as the gathering together of a rural population to the service of a village church; no doubt Irving and Leslie in their rambles through the land had seen many similar scenes; and it was a happy thought that led the painter to a kindred subject from one of England's classic authors, and including in the Bachelor Knight one of the most genial creations