LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Life of William Roscoe
Chapter II. 1781-1787

Vol I. Contents
Chapter I. 1753-1781
‣ Chapter II. 1781-1787
Chapter III. 1787-1792
Chapter IV. 1788-1796
Chapter V. 1795
Chapter VI. 1796-1799
Chapter VII. 1799-1805
Chapter IX. 1806-1807
Chapter X. 1808
Chapter XI. 1809-1810
Vol II. Contents
Chapter XII. 1811-1812
Chapter XIII. 1812-1815
Chapter XIV. 1816
Chapter XV. 1817-1818
Chapter XVI. 1819
Chapter XVII. 1820-1823
Chapter XVIII. 1824
Chapter XIX. 1825-1827
Chapter XX. 1827-1831
Chapter XXI.
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Is admitted an attorney, and enters into partnership at Liverpool—his acquaintance with Miss Jane Griffies, and correspondence with her—his marriage with her—visits London—his taste for collecting prints and books—his love of art.—“Society for promoting Painting and Design” established at Liverpool—his lectures there—his first acquaintance with Fuseli—writes “The Origin of Engraving,” a poem—reference in that poem to Lorenzo de’ Medici—his collection of prints—his correspondence with Mr. Strutt, author of the “Dictionary of Engravers”—his contributions to that work—is elected an honorary member of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester.

Having completed the period of his clerkship, Mr. Roscoe was, in the year 1774, admitted an attorney of the Court of King’s Bench, and commenced the practice of his profession at Liverpool. In the course of the same year he entered into partnership with a gentleman of the name of Bannister; but this connection lasted only a short period. A second engagement of the same kind was more fortunate; and, in conjunction with Mr. Samuel Aspinall, who had long been known by the respectability of his practice, he became actively engaged in the duties of his profession.

He did not, however, neglect the studies which had already attracted so much of his attention; and, in the society of the friends who have already been mentioned, he continued to prosecute his literary enquiries during the intervals of business.

Amongst those with whom, at this early period of his life, Mr. Roscoe was in habits of intimacy, was the family of Mr. William Griffies, a respectable tradesman of Liverpool. Of the three daughters of Mr. Griffies, the second, Jane, soon
attracted his admiration, and won his affection, by her gentle yet lively manners, by the sweetness of her disposition, and by the many admirable qualities of her truly feminine mind. Although the state of his circumstances at this time gave little promise of an immediate union with the object of his attachment, it was not the wish, and perhaps it was scarcely in the power, of one possessing the frank and ardent character of Mr. Roscoe, to conceal from her the feelings she had inspired. From that moment, to the close of his long and eventful life, he never found reason to regret, for one instant, the judgment of his youth.

A similarity of tastes, if it could not add strength to an attachment founded upon higher principles, yet lent it no mean ornament. Affection may be won by sweetness of disposition, and esteem and respect by talents and by virtue; but no other quality can confer the nameless interest which arises from a happy congruity of tastes and of pursuits. To feel with one heart, to judge with one mind, and to look to the same high and pure sources for happiness, are the most beautiful links in the golden chain of domestic union. At an early age, Miss Jane Griffies had evinced a great attachment to literary pursuits, especially to poetry; and had selected and arranged, with much taste and judgment, a collection, in several volumes, from the works of the most popular
writers of the day. A journal, which she was in the habit of keeping at this period of her life, is also a proof of her love of study, and of her pleasing and simple style of composition. To promote and encourage her taste for writing,
Mr. Roscoe, although they both resided in the same town, induced her to commence a correspondence with him; which, continuing for many years, until the period of his marriage, forms an interesting record of his views and feelings at this period of his life.

“Your journal,” he observes, in one of the earliest of these letters*, “is now discontinued; and as I know you have an aversion to being idle, I should think myself very fortunate could I engage your leisure hours in a communication of this kind. Nothing can be more innocent—nothing more rational; and though the generality of mankind might think it a little silly, I hope you and I have too great an opinion of our own consequence to be guided by vulgar opinions.

* * * * *

“I cannot help pleasing myself with the reflection, what an infinite variety of subjects this intercourse would give rise to. Convinced of the perfect confidence which subsists between us, how freely might our thoughts expand themselves! The desire of pleasing might cause some little attention to the mode of expression,
whilst the certainty of a mutual indulgence would prevent us from being apprehensive about trivial inaccuracies.

“I own this scheme begins to grow a favourite with me, and I beg my dearest Jane will not overthrow my expectations.”

In a letter, written soon after the foregoing, he alludes to the circumstances which, for the present, prevented his marriage.

“It is a remark which has been made by us both, that our situation is a very particular one. Whilst we are separate, we enjoy every convenience that a frugal competence can afford; but there seems at present to be an invincible bar to our united happiness, which time only can remove. If, however, we are unfortunate in this circumstance, let us be grateful to Providence for the many advantages we enjoy, to make amends in some degree for the suspension of better times. The frequent opportunity we have of enjoying each other’s company—sometimes in an unreserved and uninterrupted exchange of sentiments; the similarity of our tastes and dispositions; and, above all, the conviction we have of the lasting continuance of each other’s affection: these are advantages seldom experienced amongst lovers, and which, if they cannot confer happiness, must at least banish discontent.

“My dearest Jane cannot imagine how proud I am to reflect, that whilst numbers around
us are almost every day united upon sordid, capricious, and unworthy motives, we have chosen a nobler plan, and formed a connection upon the most liberal, the most disinterested principles. Conscious of the rectitude of our conduct, and the innocence of our hearts, we have nothing to fear; but can place our confidence in that great Being who never deceives those who put their trust in him—that Being who has ever been a guardian to us both, and who, I hope, will at length crown his goodness by rendering us happy in ourselves, and in the knowledge of each other’s happiness.”

Occasionally more gloomy prospects of the future presented themselves, and it was with difficulty that he reconciled himself to his situation.—“It would be impossible for me to attempt to write on any other subject, whilst I feel so much anxiety from the thought of our unfortunate and hopeless situation. Deprived as we are of almost the most distant prospect of an union that can promise a probability of happiness, how can our attachment be unembittered? It is in vain that I love my Jane with the most unreserved affection, or that she assures me of a return of my passion. Obstacles that appear insurmountable forbid us to indulge the thought of a more endearing connection.

“It is but of late that I have felt the full force of this misfortune. Always ready to flatter
myself, I imagined a time might come that would be more favourable to our wishes. That expectation now subsides; and in the prospect of my future life I see no object that can reasonably induce me to desire its continuance.”

The pain which the postponement of his hopes occasioned, was, however, alleviated by the reflection, that the self-denial he practised enabled him to support those whom nature and fortune had made dependent upon his industry.

“Hitherto,” he observes, in a letter written during the same year, “my path through life has been clouded with anxiety; and though the pleasures of love and of friendship have at times raised me above the recollection of unhappiness, the consciousness of my situation always returns with additional uneasiness; yet, my dearest Jane, think not I blame the dispensations of that Being, whose goodness to me has been manifested throughout my whole life. If my own situation is not the most desirable, it is with no common degree of satisfaction that I reflect, I have been enabled, so far, to screen a helpless parent, and a deserving sister, from the hardships of an unfeeling world; and whilst I make that reflection, I never can be wholly unhappy.”

The same ideas are expressed in the following lines, written about the same period:—
“Oh I if, upon my natal morn,
Plenty had fill’d her liberal horn,
And Fate thy hopeless lover blest
With arts to win thy gentle breast;
Then thou, the partner of his life,
Hadst own’d the tender name of wife;
Thy smiles had every bliss improved,
Thy sympathy each care removed,
Thy calm advice his passions sway’d,
Thine hand, in sickness, raised his head;
Whilst he, with love’s pervading eyes,
Had mark’d thine embryo wishes rise,
And ere to full perfection brought,
Precluded every anxious thought.
“But Heaven forbade—some happier youth,
(Oh, may he equal me in truth!)
Born under favouring stars, shall gain
That heart thy Roscoe loved in vain—
For him that candid smile shall rise,
On him shall beam those lucid eyes;
His ears those much loved accents bless,
And his be every fond caress.
—Oh, may he know thy worth, and own
A soul to love that worth when known;
Whilst I for humbler views resign
Each flattering hope that once was mine;
Resolved, whilst penury remains,
To seek no partners in my pains,
But thankful still, if Heaven supply
The hard earn’d fruits of industry,
Enough to soothe a sister’s fears,
And screen a parent’s sinking years.”

Many poetical pieces are scattered through this correspondence. “I must yet,” he says, in a letter, dated the 9th of May, 1777, “copy you a sonnet, if I have room, which I suppose
some of my brethren would call an extempore, as it has been fabricated in about ten minutes:—
“O my loved Julia! in whose tender breast
Each fairer virtue ever finds a place,
And every milder charm and softer grace,
With each ennobling passion loves to rest;
Thou who, in humble state, canst boast a mind
In loftiest spheres that might applauded move,
Yet shrinking from the public gaze, to find
The warmer transports of domestic love—
Like some fair flower, that, hid from human eye,
Pours all its fragrance on the trackless vale,
Has thy unsullied life its vernal glow
Accomplished—and that happier shepherd I,
To whom kind Heaven the treasure did reveal,
Dearer than every gift its kindness could bestow.”

Occasionally a few verses of a lighter and livelier character are interspersed, as in the following parody of his favourite Shenstone.—“I think I some time since promised to make you a present of an inkstand, and I have accordingly got one for you; but when I once begin to rhyme, I never know where to leave off, so must present it in verse:—
“A present I’ve bought for my fair,
An inkstand of curious device,
But to tell what it cost I’ll forbear,
She’ll say ’t was a barbarous price.
“For he ne’er could be true, she averr’d,
Who in nicknacks his money would spend,
And I lov’d her the more when I heard
Such savingness at her tongue’s end.”


In the spring of the year 1778, Miss Jane Griffies visited London, where she had an opportunity of gratifying the literary tastes of Mr. Roscoe, by assisting him in the collecting of his library, which, from his earliest youth, had been one of his chief pleasures. “Let me know,” she says, in a letter addressed to him soon after her arrival, “what particular books of the Elzevir editions I must buy, and the extent of the price, as I called at a place where there will be some in a few days.” In a subsequent letter she sends him a list of such books as she thought would be suitable to his collection. “I am obliged,” he observes in his answer, “beyond measure, by your kindness in sending me the list of books; indeed, my dear Jane, there is nothing gives a more indisputable proof of affection, than those little attentions to the pursuits and inclinations of each other which have long marked our connection, and in which I hope you have never found me deficient.”—“I thank you,” he says, in another letter, “for the trouble you have taken in procuring and sending me the list of Elzevirs from Otridge, which I have looked over; but they are so extremely dear, that I really cannot find in my heart to purchase any. I could like Cicero vastly, but three guineas is a most enormous price for ten volumes not above the breadth of my three fingers. I this day got a catalogue
published by
Lockyer Davis, in Holborn, out of which I should take it as a very particular favour if you would get me the undermentioned books. If it is convenient, I would have you send them the first opportunity, as I fear they will otherwise be gone, and I am particularly anxious about the first book. * * * Should you get the above, or any of them, you will be so kind, if you dare venture (which indeed I have no right to expect), to pay for them, and get the bookseller to send them to the next waggon, directed to me.”

While Miss Griffies was residing in London, the lady who had supplied the place of the mother whom she had lost in her infancy, was seized with an alarming illness, and it became the duty of Mr. Roscoe to communicate the distressing intelligence of her sickness, and subsequently of her death. This portion of the correspondence illustrates so well a peculiar quality of Mr. Roscoe’s mind,—the firmness and resignation with which he ever submitted to the inevitable misfortunes of life,—that it would be unjust to omit it.

“As I cannot write on any other subject, whilst I have any circumstance to communicate which can in the least degree affect your peace of mind, I am under a necessity of acquainting you that for these three days past Mrs. Wilson has been very low and poorly, and from
her great age and natural weakness, there is, in my opinion, great reason to apprehend she cannot get over any considerable length of time. We are not without hope that a few days may restore her to her usual state of health, as you know she has often sudden complaints, which she as speedily gets the better of. But should it be otherwise ordered, I trust you will submit to the appointments of Providence without murmuring at its dispensations; and, instead of indulging an excess of grief (equally injurious to your health and inexcusable in a moral view), will return thanks to the Author of all good for the length of days this good woman has enjoyed, and the many comforts she has equally received and communicated for such a length of time. Whatever the sincerest affection and kindest tenderness could do for her, I have been a witness she has long experienced. And to add to her former blessings, she has not even now the least degree of pain, nor makes the least complaint, and her death (whenever it happens) will, I apprehend, be as calm, easy, and imperceptible, as a person falling asleep. Tell me, then, what more is to be wished for, unless we were impious enough to desire that she should never die?”

The next letter communicates the account of Mrs. Wilson’s death.

“It is now my painful office to give you the
melancholy information that Mrs. Wilson is no more. She died about two o’clock this afternoon, without a struggle or even a sigh, and will undoubtedly now participate in that happiness which God has appointed, as the reward of a life spent in undissembled goodness, in usefulness and innocence.

“If in this painful moment you perform that duty which you owe to yourself, to your friends, and the memory of the deceased, you will call your reason, and even your affection to the living, to your assistance, and submit, with a calm and humble resignation, to an event which was alone in the power of Providence, and which you had every reason to expect could not be far distant; and instead of repining at the dispensation, your emotions should be only those of gratitude to God for his kindness to her through a long and happy life, and his greater kindness in allotting to her an easy and tranquil death.

“It is not, my dearest Jane, that I would wish you to repress entirely those emotions of tenderness which a heart sensible as yours must feel on the loss of a person so deservedly dear to you. Nature will not be restrained by the intrusion of cold advice and unfeeling reasoning; and where we are deeply wounded, we must deeply feel. Yet, my dearest girl, the severest sorrow has its intervals; and it is at these moments I would wish you to consider those fa-
vourable circumstances in this event which I have before pointed out to you, and which cannot fail of affording you real consolation. Your sisters bear the event with resignation, and, as they have nothing to feel for the deceased, only distress themselves on your account. As I am certain you bear them the sincerest affection, this will be another inducement to you to avoid indulging an excess of grief.

“I must again repeat to you, do not, by any means, harbour a thought of leaving London till the time you intended. There needs no reason to convince you how fruitless such a scheme would be; and, I again repeat, what almost irks me to say, we should be sorry to see you, as it will be depriving yourself of pleasure to answer no purpose.”

In a letter written a few days afterwards, he points out the uselessness of immoderate grief.

“But you will, perhaps, tell me that your painful sensations are not entirely selfish; that they have a reference to the loss you have lately sustained; and that you lament the respected person who has been your guardian from your infancy. Need I urge any thing to convince you of the weakness and folly of such conduct? As well might you lament the condition of a friend, who, from a state of precarious indigence, pain, and sickness, was suddenly restored to health and to affluence. When neither yourself
nor the person you grieve for, are, in any respect, objects of compassion, but, on the contrary, in a state of prosperity, how can you find food for sorrow?

“Another, and, perhaps, a more efficacious way, will be for you to mingle in the amusements and diversions of the gay place you are now in; and that, not merely as a spectator, but as a partaker. There is, perhaps, a kind of delicacy which represents a conduct of this kind as too little respectful to the memory of the person we lament; but it is certainly a false kind of delicacy, as it serves only to make ourselves miserable without a shadow of advantage to our lost friends, who, we must suppose, if they now superintend our earthly concerns, would be glad to see us cheerful and happy in the joint pursuit of our pleasure and our duty, rather than wasting our time, our health, and our peace of mind, in vain and fruitless, not to say criminal, lamentations.”

As the professional engagements of Mr. Roscoe increased, and demanded an additional devotion of his time and attention, he found it necessary to circumscribe, in some degree, those more agreeable studies which he had hitherto pursued with so lively a relish. His great object now was, to make himself sufficiently independent to gratify the first wish of his heart; and with this view he applied himself with unremitting assiduity to the discharge of his professional
duties. His industry and intelligence soon won the regard of his partner,
Mr. Aspinall, with whom he lived upon terms of the most friendly understanding. “I am extremely happy,” he says, in a letter written in the spring of the year 1779, “in my present connection; my partner is one of the most well-behaved, and, at the same time, one of the most friendly hearted, sincere men I ever met with, and has, on every occasion, behaved to me with a great deal of affection and generosity: as I know his temper and his wishes, it gives me an opportunity of repaying his kindness, which I should think myself ungrateful if I neglected.” In the same letter he states his own views with regard to his settlement in life, from which it will be seen how free his mind was from any feelings of vulgar ambition.

“You know my sentiments with regard to pecuniary matters, and I hope the principles and grounds of my opinions are not entirely imaginary. My utmost ambition would be to attain, by the industry and labour of my early days, such a competency as would enable those around me, and with whom I should be most nearly connected, to know themselves secure of the necessaries of life, in any event, and permit me to enjoy a few tranquil years of leisure and retirement, under the guidance of my own native and unrestrained disposition; which has
ever had a tendency to avoid crowds, noise, and contention, in the company of a few, very few, chosen friends; whilst the unabating ardour of conjugal affection, increased and refined by years, should add a double relish to every enjoyment. To you I need not point out the advantages of this plan, and the good effects which may arise from a steady pursuit of it; and I flatter myself I have shown some adherence to it already, in quitting some enticing and pleasing pursuits, which must have inevitably interfered with my general design. It is true, the amusements of poetry and the incense of praise constitute of themselves some degree of happiness, and, it may be said, happiness should never be slighted. But, alas 1 I am a traveller; and before I intend to indulge myself, I purpose to get to the end of my journey. If every beautiful prospect, and every shepherd’s pipe, must allure me out of my road, what probability is there that I shall ever find myself at rest?”

“How should I rejoice,” says his correspondent, in her answer to the above letter, “were your circumstances such as allowed the indulgence of those pursuits so consistent with your genius, so agreeable to your taste; but though it may be prudent to make a sacrifice of them at present, yet I hope it will prove a momentary one, and that, after a short time, an establishment in your profession will yield you more
leisure, and lead to the renewal of those pleasures you now relinquish.”

The circumstances of Mr. Roscoe’s situation at this time are alluded to in a very pleasing manner by his correspondent, Mr. Barton:—

“It is time to say something with regard to yourself. Have you yet recovered from your lameness? How are you going forward in your new connection? When did you hear from London? And when——? I perceive you have already filled up the blank, and I hope the question will ere long be an unnecessary one. Need I add (but I am sure I need not), that whenever the endearing connection takes place, I most sincerely wish it may be attended with all the happiness that can (and surely the most substantial happiness may) result from it. In some cases, too, we may, I think, most justly, do more than wish—we may both hope for and expect this happiness. Where cultivated understandings, sensibility of heart, and, above all, an honest, undissembled, mutual attachment, are to be found in the married state, happiness, and that of the most refined and rational kind, cannot possibly be wanting; may it be yours, my worthy friend, to find, as I am well convinced you deserve it.”

At length the period arrived, when the state of his business permitted the union which had so long been the object of his wishes; and on the
22d of February, 1781, he was married to
Miss Jane Griffies, at St. Ann’s Church, Liverpool. For some years after this event, he devoted himself assiduously to the practice of his profession, though without altogether neglecting the studies more agreeable to his taste. Notwithstanding the additional expense of his new establishment, he continued to add to his collection of books; and “a sumptuous edition of Ariosto,” which he had commissioned his friend Mr. Barton to purchase for him about this time, appears to have revived that taste for Italian literature which he had derived from his friend Francis Holden.

In the spring of the year 1782, Mr. Roscoe visited London, on professional business, and took advantage of the opportunity thus afforded him, to add, so far as his slender resources extended, to his small collection of books and prints.

“Our trial,” he says in a letter to Mrs. Roscoe, “cannot possibly come on till the 28th or 29th of this month; so that I am likely to have enough of London, having already made some discoveries which many wise heads have made out before me, and handed to posterity by the name of proverbs, such as “Happiness begins at home,”—“Man never is, but always to be blest;” and those lines of Goldsmith certainly haunt me,—“Even whilst fashion’s brightest scenes,” &c.— but it is yet time enough to make complaints.

“I have laid out about forty shillings in prints,
and find no inclination to any more extravagance in that article. My book account already amounts to a good deal more, but I trust I shall have prudence enough to restrain it in decent bounds. Be assured, I am not without a full sense of the danger I run in the many temptations which surround me in this line, but my affection for you is the great security which must prevent me from trespassing in this respect, as well as in all others.”

“This morning,” says Mrs. Roscoe, in answer to the above letter, “I received your letter, and sincerely thank you for every kind consideration; but do not restrain yourself too much; and do me the justice to believe, that whenever I suggest a plan of economy it does not proceed from narrow motives, but from a consciousness of the many dependencies upon us. Heaven has hitherto favoured us with unlooked-for blessings, and, I trust, will continue the enjoyment of them. To doubt its providence would be the highest ingratitude.”

Even the very moderate expense upon which Mr. Roscoe at this time ventured in gratifying his taste for literature and art, was a source of anxiety to him. “There is one circumstance,” he observes, in a letter addressed, during his visit to London, to Mrs. Roscoe, “which is a continual mortification to me, viz. the thought that I am not likely to get any thing by my journey, exclusive of the expenses I have imprudently gone
to in buying things which I might very well have done without. In books and prints I have spent full as much as I proposed, but have now put a stop to it, and shall keep myself within bounds. What I have purchased besides, I intend to convert into money on my arrival at Liverpool, which I can do without losing a farthing.”

“You seem,” observes Mrs. Roscoe, in answer to the foregoing letter, “to consider the present expenses of your journey as extravagant; but this I cannot admit of. You may not have another opportunity of visiting London again for a long time, and a little indulgence is only reasonable; but I perfectly agree with you as to the necessity of a general economy. By a strict attention to it now, we shall open a path to competence, and to that easy independence so desirable to us both. When I mention competence, you know my ideas are not extensive. I only wish to be in a situation to render a service to others without the disagreeable reflection of injuring the interests of those who depend on us alone. I have sometimes been afraid you have thought me sordid and ungenerous; but indeed I never valued money for itself.”

During this visit to the metropolis, he was present at Westminster Hall on the occasion when Lord Mansfield, in imitation of the Lord Chief Justice North, desired the attorneys to proceed in the absence of counsel.


“I am just returned from Westminster Hall, and have seen Lord Mansfield trying causes without a single counsel in court. The attorneys pleaded for themselves, and most extraordinary figures some of them cut. This arises from an obstinacy on both sides, between Lord Mansfield and the counsel; the latter think it absolutely necessary to keep holiday on Whit Monday and Tuesday, while his Lordship thinks it better to despatch, as fast as he can, the causes which come before him, and to which every delay adds a considerable expense.”

The taste of Mr. Roscoe for elegant literature was early associated with a love of art. When about twenty years of age, he had been, as already stated, one of the most active members of the Society for promoting the Arts of Painting, Design, &c. at Liverpool, and had celebrated the institution by the publication of an ode. From the want of efficient support, this society had only a transient existence. In the year 1784, however, Mr. Roscoe, in conjunction with Mr. Daulby, and some other gentlemen, endeavoured to create a taste for the arts in Liverpool by the revival of the “Society for promoting Painting and Design,” and by an exhibition of paintings and drawings under the patronage of that society.*

* The Catalogues of the two first exhibitions of the society, in 1783 and 1787, are now before the writer, and form interesting memorials of the history of Liverpool. Mr. Henry

Mr. Roscoe ventured to introduce into the exhibition one or two drawings from his own pencil; and the ticket of admission was etched by his hand. Through his means, also,
Sir Joshua Reynolds was interested in the undertaking. “I am very glad,” he says, in a letter addressed to Mr. Roscoe, in October, 1784, “to hear of the success of your exhibition, and shall always wish to contribute to it to the best of my power.”

One of the chief objects of this society was the diffusion of information on the subject of art by means of lectures; and in the course of the year 1785, several lectures “On the History of Art,” and “on the Knowledge and Use of Prints, and the History and Progress of the Art of Engraving,” were delivered by Mr. Roscoe. At the conclusion of one of the latter lectures, he took the opportunity of applauding the genius of Fuseli, at that time little known. He speaks of him as “an artist by no means inferior to any of those who dignify the present Royal Institution; and though,” he adds, “the public are not yet in possession of any of his works in this

Blundell, of Ince, was the president for the first year, and Mr. Roscoe the vice-president; for the second year, Mr. Ashton was president, and Mr. Roscoe formed one of the committee. The exhibitors are chiefly natives of Liverpool: but a picture by Fuseli, two by Barrett, and two by Stothard, appear in the first exhibition; and in the second, the names of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Gainsborough, Fuseli, Farrington, and Wright of Derby, occur.

line, I shall not be apprehensive of incurring any future impeachment of my judgment when I mention the name of Fuseli.”

It was during his visit to London in 1782, that Mr. Roscoe first saw and admired the paintings of Fuseli, with whom he then contracted a friendship which was cemented by numerous good offices towards that celebrated painter. In a letter to Mrs. Roscoe, written at a later period, he mentions the pleasure he derived from the society of Fuseli:—“Last night Wakefield and I got tea and supped with Fuseli, who is in great spirits, and very friendly. * * * He is a wonderful man, and certainly the most agreeable companion that can be, when pleased; and even when not so, his very anger and resentment may be tolerated for the sake of the wit and liveliness they produce.”

Of the genius of Fuseli he had formed the highest opinion, and from the period of their first acquaintance he became interested in his success, and used his influence for him in the disposal of his pictures.

“A letter from me,” says Fuseli, in 1783,—“a letter, too, of acknowledgments for your very friendly and vigorous exertions in my favour, does not, perhaps, come with a very good grace. I might, indeed, plead the painter’s privilege with a poet, if I knew not that the habits of a more serious employment have made
you an exception from the fraternity of Irregulars. All I can say is, that I have never forgotten those few agreeable moments spent with you in London, and on the road; and that the flattering hopes of being able to see you at Liverpool made me neglect writing. Those hopes have not yet left me; in the mean time I shall make it a point to employ myself in a manner not altogether unworthy of your good wishes and encouragements.”

In the year 1785, Fuseli, on the invitation of Mr. Roscoe, paid a visit to Liverpool, the recollection of which appears, from his letters, to have afforded him much pleasure.

It was about this time, while his attention was devoted to the study of art, that Mr. Roscoe produced a poem of some length, under the title of “The Origin of Engraving.” This piece, which has never been published, displays an intimate acquaintance with the different styles of the great masters in that branch of art, and evinces no inconsiderable poetical skill in the introduction of the various descriptions.

The following lines allude to the revival of art in the fifteenth century, and, with the note appended to them, are curious, as showing the attachment of the writer, even at this period, to the great subject which afterwards employed his pen:—
“In elder Greece when arras and science reign’d,
The finer arts an equal rank maintain’d,
High ’midst the rest, the Muse of Painting shone,
And bade the admiring world her wonders own;
To nature true, the graceful outline flow’d,
With more than life the vivid colours glow’d;
Applauding nations saw with grateful joy,
And wealth and honours crown’d the fair employ:
Yet whelm’d amid the wreck of former days,
Lie the gay monuments of ancient praise,
And though revolving years have spared the name,
Dimm’d is the radiance of the painter’s fame.
Long droop’d the sacred art—but rose at length
With brighter lustre and redoubled strength;
When great Lorenzo*, ’midst his mild domain,
Led the gay Muses and their kindred train;
Then, as the bard the imagined story drew,
The kindling artist bade it rise to view;
Till the strong comment shamed the sister art,
And found a nearer passage to the heart.”

For several years Mr. Roscoe had been in the habit of amusing himself, during the hours of leisure which his profession afforded, by forming a small collection of engravings, in the study of which he found great pleasure. The opportu-

* “Lorenzo de’ Medici, called the Magnificent, (born in 1448, died in 1492,) was the director of the Florentine republic for upwards of twenty years, and the father of John de’ Medici, afterwards pope, by the name of Leo X. To the munificence and taste of Lorenzo is principally to be attributed the sudden progress of the fine arts in Italy at the close of the fifteenth century. But this is only a small part of his praise. If a full enquiry be made into his life and character, he will appear to be not only one of the most extraordinary, but, perhaps, upon the whole, the most extraordinary man that any age or nation has produced.”

nities supplied by his occasional visits to London were gladly taken advantage of; and as the indulgence of the taste was at that period less expensive than at present, he succeeded in obtaining such a collection as enabled him to prosecute with gratification and advantage the study of this branch of art. The late
Mr. Joseph Strutt being at this time engaged in preparing for publication his “Biographical Dictionary of Engravers,” Mr. Roscoe communicated to him some observations on the art, the receipt of which Mr. Strutt acknowledges in the following letter, dated in 1785:—

“I received your obliging letter last night, with the excellent Essay on the art of engraving, for which I return you my most sincere thanks. The observations contained in it are, as you remark, entirely new; and, from the mode of their arrangement, precisely what are highly necessary to precede a work like mine. As you have kindly permitted me to make use of them, I shall certainly give them to the public in the form in which they stand, which cannot possibly, as I conceive, be altered for the better; and I hope you will favour me, whenever you can find leisure, with any observations that may strike you, either concerning the art itself, or any of the artists; for every assistance from a person of your taste and judgment will contribute greatly to the enriching of the work, which of course, as a mere dictionary, must be exceedingly dry.”


In the Dissertation which is prefixed to his Dictionary, Mr. Strutt has accordingly availed himself of a portion of the Essay thus furnished, which he introduces with this remark:—“With respect to the use and excellency of the art of engraving, I beg leave to subjoin the following observations. They were drawn up by a gentleman of great taste, and are the result of a critical examination of the greatest masters; and will, I trust, be still more acceptable to the public, as they are not the remarks of an engraver, but of a gentleman no otherways interested in the cause, than as a man of science and a lover of the arts.”

It was at one time the intention of Mr. Strutt to add a third volume to his Dictionary, in the preparation of which he proposed to avail himself of the assistance of Mr. Roscoe. “I thank you,” he says, in a letter to the latter, “for your obliging permission to insert your name in the list of my benefactors, but still more for the name of friend which you have kindly added; and I sincerely wish it was in my power in any manner to return those singular favours and repeated marks of friendship which I have received at your hands. But instead of paying off any arrears, I am running still deeper in debt, as you will find, when I add, that a third volume must, of necessity, follow these two, exactly upon the plan you have proposed. It will be preceded by a dissertation upon etching in general, and
painters’ etchings in particular, with complete (or as nearly so as possible) catalogues of the works of the greatest masters. This, as you justly observe, may either be connected with, or purchased separate from, the Dictionary.”

In consequence of this communication, Mr. Roscoe was induced to transmit to his correspondent an Essay, under the title of “Remarks on Etching,” and “An Idea of a Chronological Collection of Engravings,” intended to form part of the projected third volume of the “Dictionary of Engravers.”

“I received your kind present,” says Mr. Strutt, “with the obliging letter enclosed in it. I have diligently examined the whole of the work, and think it is drawn up in an admirable manner; neither could it possibly have been comprised in a less compass. I want words to express my gratitude to you for the trouble you have been at on my account. I shall certainly print it as it stands, with very few additions to the names of the artists; the number of which, with the greatest propriety, is made as short as it can be.”

Engagements of another nature, into which Mr. Strutt entered, prevented him from carrying on his design of adding to his Dictionary; and the contributions from Mr. Roscoe were returned to him, with the following observations:—“I am highly obliged to you for your kind offers,
and should receive them with the warmest gratitude if I was proceeding with the work, as I am well assured they would form a very valuable part of it. But let me endeavour to prevail upon you to give them to the public from your own hand. I mean your “Remarks on Etching;” to which may properly be added, the “Idea of a Chronological Collection,” &c. Any kind of information that I can possibly supply you with, you may at all times command. I again add, that I am confident you will greatly oblige the public by the publication. It will make a complete volume by itself, and the usefulness of such a work need not be pointed out.”

In the course of this year (1784), Mr. Roscoe was elected an honorary member of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester. His diploma bears the signatures of Dr. Percival and Dr. Henry.