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SUPPING ON UNDERDONE LIONS. 273
know not scepticism. They of weaker faith may do homage to their incredulity, and still exhibit no want of charity towards Roualeyn Gordon Cumming, by accepting one half of his work as gospel, and attributing the rest to the suppers of underdone lions, which are clearly as inimical to quiet repose as Welch rabbits and pork.
CHANTREY THE SCULPTOE.
Francis Chantrey was a poor boy. His father rented a small farm at Jordanthorpe, near Sheffield, and died when his son was only 12 years of age. The widow in the first year of her bereavement, married again, taking unto herself as husband—much to the disgust of her son, who would never call his mother by the name she had acquired on her second marriage—a farm servant of her own, by name Job Hall. Francis, after the manner of step-sons, was quickly placed in a grocer's shop in Sheffield, but after a few weeks' misery behind the counter he was removed, at his own earnest request, and apprenticed to "Robert Ramsay, of Sheffield, in the county of York, carver and gilder," the contents of whose shop-window had caught the eye of the grocer's boy and communicated, as is the wont of such instruments, potently and mysteriously with his genius. Ten pounds were paid at the binding, and the apprenticeship was for a long seven years. The date of the indenture is Sept. 19, 1797, when Chantrey was 16 years old.
Mr. Ramsay, besides being a carver in wood, was also a dealer in prints and plaster models. Chantrey at once set about imitating both. He began to work the moment he set foot in the carver's shop, and he ceased his labors only when he died. In a former brief notice
of his character we have called attention to the thoroughly English qualities, in virtue of which Chantrey won his way to renown. His example is valuable chiefly in this regard. His patience, industry, and steady perseverance achieved everything for him that he subsequently won. His biographers (Mr. Holland as well as Mr. Jones) place Chantrey upon a pedestal somewhat too high for his deserts. We presume the amiable fault is inevitable in all biographical attempts. The hero must transcend all former heroes, or the scribe is at fault. But, in truth, there is no occasion to demand for Chantrey more than he may lawfully aspire to. His countrymen are not slow to recognise claims so valid and so well understood. Chantrey's genius was not overwhelming or astonishing; his compositions had nothing in them of high imagination and of strictly called poetic elevation. But for simplicity, beauty, and truth, his works are not to be surpassed; and they evoke admiration and applause as the undoubted, though unpretending, triumphs of a gifted mind well disciplined in the school from which no genius, however lofty, can skulk without peril of misadventure. In Ramsay's shop. Chantrey copied the prints, worked at the carvings, cleaned pictures, and tried his 'prentice hand as a modeller upon the face of a fellowworkman. He did more. At a trifling expense he hired a small room, to which he retired to spend every hour he could call his own in modelling and drawing. "It was often midnight," writes Mr. Holland, "before he came home; but neither master nor servant ever suspected he had been anywhere but in his obscure studio, drawing, modelling, or poring over anatomical plates." He was still an apprentice when he made the acquaintance of Jonathan Wilson, the medal engraver. In the old High-street of Sheffield was a low gloomy shop, called "Woollen's Circulating Library." "In a back chamber of these premises," Mr. Holland informs us, "night by night, towards the close of his apprenticeship, did young Chantrey and his friend Wilson devote themselves to the pencil, their principal exercise being to copy the drapery of a series of French prints of statuary." Subsequently meeting Mr. Raphael Smith, "the distinguished draughtsman in crayon," at his master's house, and growing impatient of wood-carving, Chantrey induced Mr. Ramsay to cancel his indentures two years before his term of apprenticeship expired. A friend advanced £50 to effect his release, and freedom being obtained, Chantrey, then in his 21st year, made the best of his way to London. Reaching that scene of his future greatness, he called immediately upon an uncle and aunt, both living in the service of Mrs. D'Oyley, in Curzon-street, Mayfair, and that lady, much to her credit, gave the young artist a room over her stable to work in, and requested his uncle to see him daily supplied with a necessary knife and fork.
At Mrs. D'Oyley's, Chantrey was still a man of all work, cleaning the pictures in that lady's house, and occupying himself now with painting and now with sculpture, yet doubtful as to which pursuit he should finally and exclusively devote his powers. A very few months after taking up his residence in Mayfair we find the active youth back in Sheffield upon a flying professional visit, making the most of his advantages at this as at every later period of his life. Mr. Holland has fished from the Sheffield Iris of April 22, 1802, a characteristic ad
EARLY EFFORTS. 2*77
vertisement referring to this artistic speculation, much too good to be lost:—
"F. Chantrey, with all due deference, begs permission to inform the ladies and gentlemen of Sheffield and its vicinity, that during his stay here he wishes to employ his time in taking of portraits and crayons and miniatures, at the pleasure of the person who shall do him the honour to sit. F. C, though a young artist, has had the opportunity of acquiring improvement from a strict attention to the works and productions of Messrs. Smith, Arnold & Co., gentlemen of eminence. He trusts in being happy to produce good and satisfactory likenesses; and no exertion shall be wanting on his part to render his humble efforts deserving some small share of public patronage. Terms—from two to three guineas. 24, Paradise-square."
The advertiser was not without custom. Indeed, Sheffield had patronised his exertions in this direction before, and Mr. Holland enumerates as many as seventy-two portraits still to be found in Sheffield and the neighborhood, all painted by Chantrey before he forsook the brush for the chisel. Among the seventy-two are portraits of Chantrey's old schoolmaster; of James Montgomery, the poet; of an old man, whose canvass announces that the work is "done by Francis Chantrey, a self-taught youth, of Norton parish;" of a cutler, who paid Chantrey the first guinea he received for the exercise of his pencil; and of an ambitious confectioner, who gave the artist £5 and a pair of top boots! for a likeness "in oil, of the brownish tint, rather tamely executed."
Two years elapsed from the first visit to Sheffield, and Chantrey had made sufficient progress in sculpture to justify a more ambitious appeal to the patronage of his fellow-townsmen. The Sheffield Iris of Oct. 18,