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GENERAL AND COMPLETE LIBRARY.
For FEBRUARY 1795.
JOHN OPIE, ESQ. R. A.
WITH A PORTRAIT.
HERE is nothing more gratifying to a philosophic mind than
to trace the progress of GENIUS, and to see great talents gradually arise from a situation originally unpromising, till they finally arrive at affluence and distinction. This pleasure the patriotic heart of an Englishman may be said most peculiarly to enjoy, for under what government in the world has GENIUS so full an opportunity for expanding itself? where can it hope for such liberal encouragement, where for more adequate rewards? In this happy island, and under the mild and protecting auspices of the British ConstiTUTION, learning, industry, and talents, cannot toil in vain. Power cannot hurt them; and while men of distinguished abilities conduct themselves with prudence, and a due respect for the proper institutions of society, the Artist may mix with the highest NOBLE, and the latter feel no sense of degradation in the intercourse.
These reflections naturally occur to the mind in relation to the object of our present notice, who, by the exertion of those powers which nature so bountifully bestowed upon him, has raised himself to independence and the most flattering degree of eminence in his art.
Mr. John Opie, we understand, though of an ancient and respectable family in the county of Cornwall, comes from a branch that unluckily did not enjoy the hereditary possessions, and which, therefore, was obliged to try the force of industry and abilities. He was born about the year 1762 ; if we are rightly informed, at the village of St. Agnes, in the county before mentioned. In his very infancy he seemed to shew the province for which nature had intended him. Nothing appeared to please him so much as prints, pictures, and every kind of representation of the objects that surrounded him.
As he advanced in life, this original propensity became proportionably stronger, and whatever he was directed to do, he always appeared to have a disposition to neglect if it interfered with his favourite amusement of drawing. Our elegant poet, GRAY, says, with impressive tenderness,
" Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
« The.dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear; « Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen,
" And waste its sweetness on the desart air." Such, however, was not the fate of our rustic APELLES ; several gentlemen in the vicinity endeavoured to smooth the path for so promising a genius, but the circumstance to which he was principally indebted for his introduction to a more enfarged sphere of action was the following :-Dr. Wolcot, so well known by the name of PETER PINDAR, happened to live in the neighbourhood; he heard of the efforts of young OPIE, and being himself a great admirer of painting, as well as a tolerable artist, he took the boy under his protection, and perceiving the true bent of his genius, assisted its progress, and directed its pursuits.
The life of an artist is generally nothing more than a history of his works, and therefore we have little more to say, than that after distinguishing himself at Exeter, and other places, Opie at length ventured to visit the metropolis in the year 1782. He soon had some of his pictures placed in the Exhibition at Somerset-house, where the public in a short time became sensible of his merit. All the artists were struck with the works of this extraordinary young man, and acknowledged that there was a boldness in his stile which nothing but an high degree of original genius could produce.
Such merit could not long be hindered from reaching the rank to which it was so obviously entitled. In the year 1785 he was admitted an associate of the Royal ACADEMY, and upon
first Vacancy took his proper station as a Royal Academician.
We must not deny that the persevering zeal of his poetical friend, PETER PINDAR, was of considerable advantage to Mr. Ople, even after he had made some figure in the metropolis, as the pleasant bard, in many of his works, took care that the merit of his friend Opie should not be overlooked, and drew the public attention to him by many well-timed and well-deserved eulogiums.
Mr. Opie at present maintains the highest rank in his art, and as the SHAKEȘPEARE GALLERY, MÁcklin's REPOSITORY, and other public Exhibitions, are graced with his productions, it is by no means necessary for us to pass any compliments on his professional character.
Mr. Opie, we understand, is married, but as yet can boast of no progeny but that of his pencil ; if he does not, however, enjoy the gratifications of a parent, he escapes his anxieties, and finds in a pleasing and amiable partner no deficiency in connubial happiness.
As a man, he is social, intelligent, and friendly, and his conversation, like his works, always evinces the workings of a comprehensive mind.
TENDING TO ILLUSTRATE THE POEM OF
THE HISTORY OF GYGES' RING,
Vol. I. - Page 166.
ANDAULES king of Lydia, doted so much upon his queen's
beauty, that not contenting himself with the knowledge of her perfections, he would needs compel his favourite Gyges to view her naked body, and for that purpose planted the unwilling gentleman secretly in her chamber, where he might see her undressing herself in going to bed; but this intrigue was not carried on so secretly, but the queen had a glimpse of Gyges at leaving the room, and understanding the matter, took herself to be so highly affronted, that she forced him the next day to requite the king's impertinence and folly, with a wretched act of treason; for Gyges being conducted by the queen into the same chamber, killed Candaules, and was gratified with the queen's being made his wife, and the possession of the Crown of Lydia, over which kingdom he reigned thirty-eight years. -HERODOTUS, L. i. P. 5.
Tertb Haugb, Feb. 22, 1795
ORIGIN AND HISTORY
STADTHOLDERSHIP OF HOLLAND.
'HEN the United Provinces threw off the Spanish yoke,
. Prince of Orange, who was Stadtholder to the King of Spain for Holland, Zealand and Utrecht. He was declared Stadtholder by five Provinces, created Captain General and Admiral, obtained the Sovereignty over Holland and Zealand; and would certainly have