Surrounded by the portraits of those I have long counted my friends, I like to chat with the people about me concerning these pictures, my companions on the wall, and the men and women they represent. These are my assembled guests, who dropped in years ago and stayed with me, without the form of invitation or demand on my time or thought. They are my eloquent silent partners for life, and I trust they will dwell here as long as I do. Some of them I have known intimately; several of them lived in other times; but they are all my friends and associates in a certain sense.
To converse with them and of them—
“When to the sessions
of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past”—
is one of the delights of existence, and I am never tired of answering questions about them, or gossiping of my own free will as to their every-day life and manners.
If I were to call the little collection in this diminutive house a Gallery of Pictures, in the usual sense of that title, many would smile and remind me of what Foote said with his characteristic sharpness of David Garrick, when he joined his brother Peter in the wine trade: “Davy lived with three quarts of vinegar in the cellar, calling himself a wine merchant.”
My friends have often heard me in my “garrulous old age” discourse of things past and gone, and know what they bring down on their heads when they request me “to run over,” as they call it, the faces looking out upon us from these plain unvarnished frames.
Let us begin, then, with the little man of Twickenham, for that is his portrait which hangs over the front fireplace. An original portrait of Alexander Pope I certainly never expected to possess, and I must relate how I came by it. Only a year ago I was strolling in my vagabond way up and down the London streets, and dropped in to see an old picture-shop,—kept by a man so thoroughly instructed in his calling that it is always a pleasure to talk with him and examine his collection of valuables, albeit his treasures are of such preciousness as to make the humble purse of a commoner seem to shrink into a still smaller compass from sheer inability to respond when prices are named. At No. 6 Pall Mall one is apt to find Mr. Graves “clipp’d round about” by first-rate canvas. When I dropped in upon him that summer morning he had just returned from the sale of the Marquis of Hastings’s effects. The Marquis, it will be remembered, went wrong, and his debts swallowed up everything. It was a wretched stormy day when the pictures were sold, and Mr. Graves secured, at very moderate prices, five original portraits. All the paintings had suffered more or less decay, and some of them, with their frames, had fallen to the floor. One of the best preserved pictures inherited by the late Marquis was a portrait of Pope, painted from life by Richardson for the Earl of Burlington,