THE FIRST PIONEERS FROM FRANCIS BARLOW TO JAMES SEYMOUR
IN 1725, or a little later, a very good collector of original research, George Vertue, put his hand on a few early prints composed and etched by Francis Barlow. They were done for a book written by a minor poet, Edward Benlowes, an ardent Royalist, who inherited Brent Hall in Essex, and began life with money enough to help authors and artists; but died in bitter poverty, at Oxford, in his seventy-third year, 1676, hungry and cold, during a very hard winter, according to Anthony Wood.
Benlowes invited Barlow to etch some illustrations for a poem divided into cantos, also a portrait of the author, and Barlow formed an original blend of allegory with two contrastive things--hints of country life, and a minor poet's downright vanity. Barlow was chosen for this commission because of his known affection in art for birds and animals, drawn from nature. I say "known affection" because of a few words in Evelyn's diary which were written on January 19th, 1656: "Went with Dr. Wilkins to see Barlow, the famous painter of fowls, beasts, and birds."1
Fame being a will-o'-the-wisp, George Vertue always wanted to find out when and how artists became men of known name. Dates in their careers he noted carefully. Dates, indeed, form biographical step-ladders, which enable us to go up and down the rise and decline of important lives. Vertue, himself an engraver, viewed with a professional eye his find of____________________