HL Deb 04 March 1856 vol 140 cc1770-89

said, that, in bringing forward the Motion of which he had given notice for the gradual formation of a Gallery of National Portraits, he begged, in the first place, to observe that the question was not altogether new to Parliament. Four years since, just before the last general election, and while he was still a Member of the House of Commons, he introduced this project in a conversation on the Miscellaneous Estimates. A right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) who represented the Government at that time—it was the Government of the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby)—expressed himself in approving terms of that proposal. Other Members expressed the same approbation in private, and he was so far encouraged as to give notice that, if he had the honour of a seat in the next House of Commons, he would bring the matter forward as a substantive Motion. He was not able to fulfil that intention, because, as it chanced, at the general election, he had not the good fortune to obtain a seat; but now, although in another place, he would endeavour to redeem his ancient pledge.

He thought he could not better introduce this question to their Lordships than by asking the greater number of them to recall to mind what they had seen in the galleries of the Palace of Versailles. Many among their Lordships must there have felt no small degree of weariness and disgust on passing through an almost interminable line of tawdry battle scenes and Court pageants of the largest dimensions. Not a few of these battle scenes would no doubt recall the words of a modern author, who had described another such huge picture in England as "an acre of spoiled canvas." Many such acres of spoiled canvas presented themselves upon the walls of Versailles; but their Lordships would also recollect the great pleasure, and as it were refreshment, with which they passed from these tawdry battle pieces and Court pageants into a gallery of much smaller dimensions, and much less gorgeous decorations, containing excellent contemporary portraits of celebrities in French history. He thought few Englishmen could have been at Versailles without wishing that in our own country, while the errors of the larger galleries should be avoided, some attempt should be made not only to emulate, but to extend the example set in the smaller one. In this country the portraits of our great historical characters were very numerous—he doubted, indeed, whether in any country this class of pictures so much abounded—but they were scattered far and wide—many of them in country houses and in private collections; and it was only now and then that an opportunity offered itself of purchasing, either a single specimen, or a whole collection of historical portraits. Now, the object of his Motion was, that the country should avail itself of every opportunity that might occur of making purchases, with a view to the formation of a National Gallery of Portraits. There were many advantages to be derived from the formation of such a gallery. It would afford, not only great pleasure, but much instruction to the industrious classes; and that he would put forward as a main recommendation of the scheme. It would also, in a special degree, be a boon to men of letters—to persons who had an opportunity of long and extended study. In proof of this, he would appeal to the testimony of one of the most thoughtful and eloquent writers of the present age—he meant, Thomas Carlyle. It was a letter published a few months ago in the proceedings of a learned Society in Edinburgh; but as it was probably not very widely circulated, he would take the liberty of reading a few sentences from it to their Lordships— First of all, then, I have to tell you as a fact of personal experience, that in all my poor historical investigations it has been, and always is, one of the most primary wants to procure a bodily likeness of the personage inquired after—a good portrait if such exists; failing that, even an indifferent, if sincere one. In short, any representation made by a faithful human creature of that face and figure which he saw with his eyes, and which I can never see with mine, is now valuable to me, and much better than none at all. This, which is my own deep experience, I believe to be in a deeper or less deep degree the universal one, and that every student and reader of history who strives earnestly to conceive for himself what manner of fact and man this or the other vague historical name can have been, will, as the first and directest indication of all, search eagerly for a portrait—for all the reasonable portraits there are; and will never rest till he have made out, if possible, what the man's natural face was like. Often have I found a portrait superior in real instruction to half-a-dozen written biographies, as biographies are written; or, rather let me say, I have found that the portrait was as a small lighted candle, by which the biographies could for the first time be read, and some human interpretation be made of them. And, further on, in the same letter, Mr. Carlyle adds on the more general question— It has always struck me that historical portrait galleries far transcend in worth all other kinds of national collections of pictures whatever; that, in fact, they ought to exist in every country as among the most popular and cherished national possessions. Lord Chancellor Clarendon made a brave attempt in that kind for England, but his house and gallery fell asunder in a sad way, and as yet there has been no second attempt that I can hear of. He thought the testimony of so gifted a man as Mr. Carlyle was so high, that though he could easily accumulate other authorities to the same effect, he should leave it to stand alone. Again, as regarded Art, he thought it might be also shown that the formation of such a gallery would be of very great importance to its promotion. In the first place, it would be of immense advantage to portrait painters to be able to see in a collected form a series of portraits of men famed in British history, from the first rude attempts of panel painting in the thirteenth or fourteeeth century, down to the finished execution of the works of Reynolds and Lawrence. It would enable them to soar above the mere attempt at producing a likeness, and to give that higher tone which was essential to maintain the true dignity of portrait painting as an art. But if, beyond doubt, to have these in a collected form would be of the greatest advantage to the portrait painter, in relation to historical painting such a collection would be of still greater value. In illustration of that fact, he would refer to the case of his friend Mr. Ward, who had had the high honour of being commissioned to paint at the public charge some pictures for the decoration of the building in which they were then assembled, that is, for other parts of the Palace of Westminster. Their Lordships would, no doubt, recollect that he had painted for that purpose the two great pictures of "The Execution of Montrose," and "The last Sleep of Argyle." Mr. Ward had told him that it was scarcely possible to conceive how much difficulty he had met with in ascertaining the correct likeness of the personages, together with the dress, and the decorations of the time, in preparing those two pictures. He would therefore leave it to their Lordships to conceive how much Mr. Ward would have been assisted in his work by an opportunity of ascertaining these points; and it could not be doubted that if the country possessed such a gallery as he was now advocating that assistance would have been at hand. To historical painters, therefore, a collection of portraits such as he had indicated would be of essential help. If further testimony were required of the great importance of such a collection to art, he might give it in the words of that eminent man who was especially charged with the interests of art in this country, being the President of the Royal Academy. It appeared that in January last Mr. Sidney Herbert suggested to Sir Charles Eastlake the purchase of a portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh for the National Gallery. Sir Charles wrote in reply. It was a private letter, but he (Earl Stanhope) had been permitted to make use of it on this occasion— I thank you for your information about the portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh. … For the National Gallery it is not, I think, adapted. But whenever I hear of portraits for sale, of historical interest, I cannot help wishing that a gallery could be formed exclusively for authentic likenesses of celebrated individuals, not necessarily with reference to the merit of the works of art. I believe that an extensive gallery of portraits, with catalogues containing good and short biographical notices, would be useful in many ways, and especially as a not unimportant element of education. After such testimony it was not necessary to say more in proof of the advantages which would accrue to living art from the establishment of such a gallery as he had suggested. But there was another point of view in which, he thought, the formation of a gallery containing portraits of men honourably distinguished in war, in statesmanship, in art or science, would be valuable. It would be useful as an incitement to honourable exertion. Their Lordships would all remember the exclamation ascribed to Nelson, just before one of his battles—he thought it was the battle of the Nile—"A coronet, or Westminster Abbey." Of a coronet he would say nothing, lest he should be supposed to desire to revive recent debates; and, with respect to a place in Westminster Abbey, it was quite as difficult to attain as would be a seat in their Lordships' House. The whole available space for monuments in that edifice was now already filled. But his argument was—if the thought of a tomb in Westminster Abbey was so inspiriting to such a mind as Nelson's, at so great a moment, that he was content to risk his life for it as his worst alternative, would not a collection of the portraits of distinguished men, who had themselves risen by such an incentive to exertion and to fame, and the hope that the likeness of him who gazed upon them might hereafter be found worthy to stand beside them— might not such a hope, even with far inferior minds to Nelson, and on far less occasions than was the battle of the Nile, be an additional incentive to honourable emulation and to the performance of great deeds? He did not mean that men would on that account the more neglect, nor ought they the more to neglect, the more solid and substantial rewards of honourable exertion; but he thought that the hope of a place among the effigies of their country's worthies might be another incentive still; he thought that honourable distinction at all times served as an incentive to exertion, and he had no doubt that such a gallery would make it felt over a much wider sphere. Their Lordships would not fail to remember the saying of one of the wisest and most sagacious men that ever lived, "contemptu famœ contemni virtutes."

He had thus stated some of the advantages which would accrue from the establishment of such an institution; but he should only have performed part of his duty did he not also explain to their Lordships by what means these advantages might well be secured. In the Motion which he had given notice to submit to the House he had proposed that the matter should be considered in connection with the site of the present National Gallery. He understood that Her Majesty's Government were contemplating the construction of a new National Gallery, and he should suggest that a portion of the new building should be set apart for the gallery of portraits; but he should be sorry if the carrying out of the project was postponed until arrangements should be made in that respect. To plan and build a gallery of a new description must be a work of time, and even should they have a building ready, the few portraits they could at first obtain would appear mean and almost unsightly if placed in a gallery of great size. He thought, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government might assign some temporary apartment for the purpose. There might be one or two rooms in Marlborough House, or in that Palace in which they were assembled, set apart for the purpose; and he had no doubt, if such were done, the scheme would at once find favour with the public and make its way. Supposing that done, and the idea of a gallery agreed to, the supplies to it were the next consideration. These would depend upon two sources, purchases and presents. It would, of course, be necessary to establish some authority which should direct purchases and consider offers of presents. It would be of the greatest importance that anybody exercising that authority should possess sufficient discernment to make proper purchases, and also an authoritative power of refusal in cases of offers of portraits, the reception of which in a national collection would not be warranted by the importance of the persons represented. Such a body actually existed in the Fine Arts Commission which was established by Sir Robert Peel in the first year of his Administration. This Commission, which was especially appointed with reference to the Palace of Westminster, had for its President His Royal Highness Prince Albert, distinguished for his love and patronage of art; and for its Secretary Sir Charles Eastlake, the President of the Royal Academy. Under this Commission most of the decorations of the Palace in which their Lordships were assembled had been executed; the marble statues of statesmen which ornamented one of the halls had been placed there under its authority. With regard to these statues, the Fine Arts Commission had, in the first place, to consider, on historical grounds, who should be the persons selected for this honour; and they had then to determine on artistic grounds what sculptors should be employed to execute the works. He thought that the Fine Arts Commission, under the Presidency of Prince Albert, and perhaps with the accession of some new names to its present number, might safely continue its labours in a new direction, under a new Commission. He thought they would be competent to direct the purchases, and also competent to decide what persons were entitled to the honour.

Adverting to the question of expense, it would of course be a matter for the House of Commons to consider what should be the annual vote for such a purpose; but he was inclined to believe that, a building once obtained, a very moderate sum would suffice to provide the portraits worthy of being placed in it. He thought a yearly sum of £500 would suffice, although, of course, a much larger sum, if it could be granted, would be preferable; and although, at all events for the first year, it might be better to take a sum of £1,000; but it should be clearly understood that, in the event of the purchases made in any one year not requiring the whole sum voted by Parliament, the balance should remain as a fund for future purchases, as opportunities might occur, because objects of art not being in constant supply, there might be no good purchase to be had one year, but several in the next. It might appear that the sum of £500 was a very insignificant one for such an undertaking, and it was, therefore, proper that he should give some grounds for his belief that very considerable things might be done even with that moderate sum. He had watched the sale of some remarkable portraits within the last few years, and the prices were such as would enable the Commission, with the sum mentioned, to make purchases of very considerable value. He would give a few instances. He was present some years since, when, in a sale room, a full-length portrait of Mr. Pitt, by Gainsborough, an undoubted original, was sold by auction for 100 guineas, the purchaser being the late Sir Robert Peel. He might also mention a portrait of Chatham—of whom only three first-rate portraits, as far as he could ascertain, were known to exist, and one of those three, by Hoare—was sold to Sir Robert Peel for eighty guineas. Their Lordships had lately heard a good deal about Blackstone—about eleven years ago the original portrait of Blackstone, from which the engraving was taken which was prefixed to all the editions of that learned Judge's Commentaries, and which was an excellent work of Gainsborough, was sold for eighty guineas to the late Sir Robert Peel; and, at another sale, an original portrait of Mr. Percival was purchased by Sir Robert Inglis, for £42. Those instances justified him in believing that with a very moderate sum of money a valuable collection of national portraits could be formed. Undoubtedly the body to whom the duty of expending that money should be intrusted ought to exercise its power with the greatest care and discernment as to the merits of the person, and the undoubted authenticity of the portraits. Another part of its duties would consist in deciding upon offers of presents which might be made. He believed from that source many valuable portraits might be expected, for even since he had given notice of his Motion, several persons, including Members of their Lordships' House, had expressed to him their intention, if the idea was carried out, of making presents—some of which were of remarkable interest—to the national collection. When it was remembered how many of their Lordships were descended from men famous in the history of this country, it was not unreasonable to expect valuable contributions from those who possessed, as many did, four or five portraits of their eminent ancestors, and the honour of having a place assigned to such portraits in a national collection would be a great incentive to their liberality. There might be other cases, too, where persons possessing valuable portraits had no convenient place for them in their own houses, or where persons had succeeded to large pictures while having but small houses, and to whom, therefore, such pictures would be only an incumbrance; such persons would willingly bestow them upon a national collection such as he (Earl Stanhope) suggested. The most careful supervision on the part of the Commissioners, however, would be required in deciding upon the acceptance or refusal of the offers of presents which would be made to the body exercising the supreme control. He attached the greatest importance to the authoritative power of refusal, and believed the whole success of the undertaking would depend upon the proper exercise of that power; for if they admitted into a national collection portraits of those who possessed no adequate claim to such honour the inevitable consequence would be that the gallery would be deprived of all the distinction which he (Earl Stanhope) wished to see attached to it. Sure, therefore, the power of refusal must be necessarily exercised in many cases, he thought it would be facilitated by a rule that in no case should the portrait of any living individual be admitted into the gallery which he wished to see founded. But even with that reservation they might expect many cases to occur where portraits would be offered of men, highly respectable in public and private life, who had attained high rank in the army or other services, but who, not from any fault of their own, had not obtained opportunities of distinguishing themselves; in all such cases the portraits should be refused. There ought not to be in this collection a single portrait as to which a man of good education passing round and seeing the name in the catalogue, would be under the necessity of asking, "Who is he?" Such a question ought to be decisive against the admission of the portrait. The success of the whole scheme depended on confining the gallery to men of real distinction, of real fame. He would even suggest that a portrait should not be admitted unless a considerable majority, say three-fourths of the Commission, decided in favour of it. There was another question—namely, whether the superintending body ought not to be allowed the power of parting with duplicates? Suppose a present of a portrait sent to the gallery, and that there was in the gallery at that time a portrait of the same person at the same time of life, and, in fact, a kind of counterpart—it might be then in the power of the Commission to receive the present, and to dispose of the portrait which they already possessed. But these were points of detail with which it was not necessary to detain their Lordships. He proposed to give a general power to the superintending body to receive or to refuse the presents that might be tendered.

He thought he had now explained the main features of his plan. If only a temporary apartment were secured, and only a grant of £1,000 were made on the Estimates of this year, and an authority named to make purchases and receive presents, he ventured to say the whole thing would be done; his opinion being, that such would be the popular favour with which this gallery would be regarded that there would be no want of portraits, but that donations would come in such considerable numbers that there would be no fear of the failure of the scheme. He only desired to see the project commenced; for, once commenced, he felt sure of its success.

There were at present two collections of portraits in this country, about which it might be expected he should say something. It was some time ago thought that they might form the foundation of a portrait gallery, such as he had described, out of the collections at Hampton Court and at the British Museum; but there were obstacles to both. With regard to the collection at Hampton Court, he would not wish to remove it, because he should be sorry to interfere in any way with the inducements that now existed to those confined for the greater part of the year within the walls of the city to make a summer's holiday excursion to see the pictures there. With respect to the British Museum, there were some portraits there, many of which were curious and some valuable, but all of them ill placed over the cabinets of natural history. Some persons might suggest to transfer the whole of this collection to a national gallery of portraits; but he did not think the whole of them would be worthy of a place there, and, according to the principle he had laid down, it would be necessary to make a selection, and to take the best and leave the worst. This would hardly be fair to the Museum, and, further still, there might arise a question whether the trustees had a legal power to part with the pictures in their charge without the especial authority of an Act of Parliament. He thought it better, therefore, to propose a collection of portraits irrespective of those two sources. He supposed it was unnecessary for him to state that in the proposed collection it should be a fundamental condition that none but authentic portraits should be admitted. It would not do to have a collection of such imaginary portraits as now covered the walls of the great gallery in the Palace of Holyrood. Their Lordships might remember the jest formerly le- velled against the antiquaries of Edinburgh—it was said they put forward only two propositions; that all the portraits at Holyrood were undoubted originals, and that all the Kings had flourished and the portraits been painted at the periods assigned, several hundred years before the invention of oil painting! All such imaginary portraits, he repeated, ought to find no place in the proposed gallery.

He thought he had now gone through all the principal considerations which he had wished to suggest to their Lordships, and it only remained for him to apologise for having detained them so long. But he knew that these questions were interesting, and he thought that they were also important to a great body of persons. When their Lordships considered the great number of their countrymen who were struggling in the various walks of art, and intent on that rugged path that led to fame, he thought that some mark of sympathy was due to the cause in which they toiled—that some token of encouragement should be given to their exertions. Depend upon it the time was past when, in considering the education of the people of this country, they could disregard the refining influence of art. This truth was every day becoming more widely understood and acknowledged—that the fine arts, under just rules and guidance, were to be ranked not merely among the ornaments of human life, but among the appointed means for the elevation and improvement of the human mind. He believed this to be a step in the right direction, and a movement in advance; and, so believing, he would confidently leave it in their Lordships' hands, and moveThat a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty would be graciously pleased to take into Her Royal Consideration, in connection with the Site of the present National Gallery, the Practicability and Expediency of forming by degrees a Gallery of Original Portraits, such Portraits to consist, as far as possible, of those Persons who are most honourably commemorated in British History as Warriors or as Statesmen, or in Arts, in Literature, or in Science.


said, it would be unnecessary for him to address more than a few words to their Lordships upon the subject which his noble Friend had introduced. In the outset he must say that he was much gratified when his noble Friend intimated to him his intention of bringing this matter forward:—such a proposition could not come from any person with greater grace than from his noble Friend, whose name had been so long connected with pursuits so honourable to himself and so beneficial to his country in the path of historical research. He saw no objection whatever to the adoption of the Motion; agreeing as he did with his noble Friend that such a gallery as this would materially illustrate the history of the nation, while it could not fail to administer to the gratification and delight of all classes, descending even to the lowest. If there were one or two points on which he had any doubt before, they had been removed by the manner in which his noble Friend had treated the subject. His noble Friend had met one objection by stating that it was not intended in any way to interfere with or diminish the sum now applied to the acquisition of objects of high art, or to expend less in that way than was now expended. The first object of a National Gallery ought to be the cultivation of public taste by acquiring the highest works of art of every country and of every time, so as to establish a standard of national taste, which would benefit not only the artist but the public, and he should much regret to see any money diverted from that great object. He should have hesitated to adopt the project of his noble Friend if it had involved an expenditure which would have alarmed the other House of Parliament. He was therefore extremely glad to hear his noble Friend state that he should propose no greater expenditure than £500 a year after the gallery was once formed. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) thought that such a sum would hardly be sufficient; for it must be remembered that the very establishment of such a gallery would tend to raise the value of pictures of this class. At the same time, if the gallery were founded, he agreed with his noble Friend that a strong power of refusal as well as of acceptance should be vested in and exercised by those who had the superintendence of it. He feared that as it now stood the Motion would limit the selection of objects, and be therefore would suggest that it might be made somewhat more general, so as to include some particular cases which seemed at present not to be provided for by the words "as warriors or statesmen." [The Earl of ELLEN-BOROUGH: Lawyers and bishops would be excluded altogether.] With that alteration there would be every disposition on the part of the Government to accede to the Motion, and to give their best assistance towards carrying it into effect.


I agree with the noble Marquess that the public is very greatly indebted to my noble Friend for having made this proposition, of which I approve entirely. I not only think it would be a subject of the greatest gratification to all educated persons—to all persons who have read anything of history, to survey in a portrait gallery the lineaments of those whose great actions have redounded to the fame of their country, and have raised it to the proud position in which it now stands; but I agree with my noble Friend in hoping that such an exhibition would be productive of much public advantage. There can be no doubt that the admission of portraits to this gallery, guarded as it should be by the most stringent provisions for the exclusion of the unworthy, would be the highest honour which could possibly be conferred upon any man for his services to the State. The noble Marquess has adverted to the accidental inaccuracy with which my noble Friend has drawn his Motion. No doubt, as it now stands, it would exclude all bishops and judges who have not at the same time been statesmen or literary men; it would exclude many of the martyrs; it would practically exclude that man whom my noble Friend, I am sure, well recollects, and whose worth and extraordinary qualities we all appreciated—the late Archbishop of Canterbury—a man who approached nearer to perfection than any Christian bishop of whom I have ever read in any time. Not only would the words of the Motion as they now stand exclude men like the late Archbishop of Canterbury—men of virtuous minds, who have done the State great service—if they happen not to come within the particular definition which is adopted here; but by the words, "most honourably commemorated in British history," the Motion would, I regret to say, exclude many of the most remarkable men who have rendered the greatest public services recorded in English history. It would exclude Wolsey; it would exclude Bacon; it would exclude the Duke of Marlborough; it would exclude Cromwell; and many others who might be enumerated. [Lord BROUGHAM: Cromwell?] Yes; I apprehend the words, "who are most honourably commemorated," would undoubtedly have that effect. I therefore hope my noble Friend will adopt the words I have placed before him, "That an humble address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that she will be graciously pleased to take into consideration the formation of a gallery of portraits of the most eminent men in British history." By such a Motion the whole object in view is entirely obtained. But when I consider the manner in which my noble Friend proposes that this object shall be carried into execution I differ from him altogether. This gallery is either to be regarded as a plaything, or as a matter of great public concern. I think it should be looked upon in the latter light, and, therefore a point of the greatest importance is, that you should exclude every man who has not the highest right of admission to this Temple of Fame. My noble Friend proposes that the Fine Arts Commission shall decide this. Now, it is not a question of fine arts at all; it is a question of great men, not of great pictures. If you really mean to make this gallery a thing of importance; if you mean to excite the ambition of men, not only in the highest, but in inferior stations of life; if you wish to divert their minds from the sole contemplation of that which is to give them present advantage and worldly profit, and to make them think of immortality and of a reward for their services in public estimation hereafter, you must take care that no persons are selected for a place in the gallery but those thoroughly approved by impartial men competent to decide upon their merits. As the funds must be provided by Parliament, perhaps the best Commission would be one which consisted of three Members of the House of Commons and two of this House, or two Members of the House of Commons and one Member of this House; and to that Commission should be assigned the duty of deciding upon the persons whose portraits are to be received. Such nomination having been made, the Fine Arts Commission would be properly employed in deciding in what manner the portraits of those persons should be obtained. For these purposes something more than £500 a year will be required. If, however, we begin with this miserable pittance, and place the pictures in any little room that can be found, the thing will never be supported by the public, and will fail altogether; it will be worth nothing unless it be made a matter of public importance. But, leaving this part of the subject, I repeat that I am most desirous to see established a Commission of the description I have indicated, named after the greatest consideration, and composed of persons in whom the public place the highest trust. No man who looks to the past, or examines into the present, of public feeling, can fail to see that there always prevails the greatest tendency towards exaggeration with respect to the value of the services of those who live in or about our own times, and on this point the greatest errors may be committed with the greatest honesty of purpose. The other day I happened to be reading Ben Jonson, and in his Discoveries I found these observations made by him— Cicero was the only wit whom the Roman people equalled with their Empire—ingenium par Imperio. We have had many men equal to him. And then he enumerates sixteen persons, all having lived within the previous century, whom he places on the same level with Cicero in literature and in eloquence. Of these sixteen persons I certainly may have heard, but I had totally forgotten seven. I found them, certainly, by carefully looking through a biographical dictionary; but, in fact, their memories, like the memories of many other men distinguished in their own days, had altogether fallen through that sieve in which Time is constantly shaking the reputations of men. Therefore, if I may be supposed to be one of those persons decently acquainted with history, of whom the noble Earl has spoken, and if I had been passing through a gallery containing the portraits of those persons, I should have been continually asking, "Who is he?" and then my noble Friend would have turned them all out. With respect to one of the persons mentioned by Ben Jonson as so distinguished, and as equal to Cicero in literature, eloquence, and poetry—namely, Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder—I never happened to have the good fortune to meet with the poetry of Sir Thomas Wyatt, but I find that Leland speaks of it as equal to that of Dante and Petrarch; and no one has ever delighted himself by reading the Italian literature of those ages in which learning was revived, but must have seen the most extravagant exaggerations in the manner in which the writers of that period spoke of persons whose memory is altogether gone. Now, we are not exempt from the failings which have beset mankind in all ages. We are prone, like others, to exaggerate the reputations of those living in our own times, or in times just preceding: therefore, not only do I think the precaution I have mentioned is necessary for the purpose of excluding persons not worthy to be introduced into such a gallery, but I must say it would be most advisable (though that is, no doubt, for our successors rather than for ourselves to decide) at distant periods of twenty or thirty years to appoint a Commission of revision—a censorship, in fact—for the purpose of removing those who, through the erroneous judgment of their own contemporaries, have been improperly admitted. It is in this manner, by guarding against the admission or retention of persons unfit to be admitted to such a collection, that we shall really make this gallery what we must desire that it should be— that is, an object of ambition to all; for all men would naturally desire that their portraits should at some period after their death be placed there, and that their names should be thus handed down to posterity. With regard to the manner in which the gallery is to be formed, I think those who have to carry it out will meet with one great practical difficulty—and that is, that it will not be easy to find portraits of persons distinguished in art and literature. The pictures of statesmen and warriors are more easily to be had; but literary men and artists are not in the habit of having their portraits taken—whether it is that they are more modest, or that it does not fall in their way. The persons who do that are aldermen, sheriffs, railway directors, rich grocers, rich merchants, speculators, and wealthy Regent-street tradesmen—these are the persons who have their portly persons displayed upon canvas, and whose portraits illustrate or disfigure our annual exhibitions. The case is, however, different with hard-working, sensible men of literature. They, as I have already said, do not go to have their portraits painted, and in this respect there will be a deficiency. You can hardly go to a literary man of eminence and say to him, "Will you sit for your portrait; and when you are dead it may be that your representatives will be asked to allow it to be hung in the national collection?" Yet if that be not done, I hardly see how that part of the department can be furnished with portraits. There is, however, one suggestion which I wish to offer to my noble Friend, and that is, that I think it would be desirable that he should introduce into Parliament a Bill enabling public bodies, and more especially colleges; and also individuals in possession of pictures which are heirlooms, not to sell them, but to present them to this gallery. The por- traits of most of the remarkable ecclesiastics, statesmen, and men of science of former times are to be found in those collections alone which belong to public bodies; but public bodies have no power of parting with them; and my impression is, that men who had ancestors worthy of the honour, if the power were given to them, would themselves naturally feel desirous of presenting their portraits to the gallery. I shall say nothing further than that I think, that if the Government undertake this project of my noble Friend, and studiously and carefully endeavour to secure the exclusion of all unworthy persons, and of all who from accident, or the exaggerated opinion of contemporaries may have gained admission to it, will be an object of emulation to all, and that it will be, in fact, a gallery of the portraits of those who in all ages have deserved best of their country, they will have performed a great public service, and will have done a great deal to induce men so to act, that they may deserve that which is the greatest of all honours—an association with the great names of their country.


said, he must confess that there was great force and great truth in what had fallen from the noble Earl, especially in what he had said respecting the undoubted tendency of living men to exaggerate the services of those with whom they were acquainted when they had arrived at a certain degree of eminence. But at the same time he thought the noble Earl placed this institution too high as an incitement of men to exertion. It was very true that immortality, such as extended down to distant ages, was one of the greatest incitements in the human breast to noble exertion, but he doubted whether the hanging up of a picture had ever occurred to the mind as any part of that immortality to which men aspired. Again, he must differ from him in his estimate of such a gallery as a place for the reception of the portraits of men of the greatest class only; on the contrary, he looked upon it rather as an historical gallery, which should contain not only the first men of the age, but those who had supported the first-class men in their exertions. For instance, there was no one of their Lordships who would not wish to see the Duke of Wellington's portrait surrounded with the officers who were second to him, or even in the third class, who had supported him in the field—such portraits as those of Sir George Murray, Sir Thomas Picton, and the late Lord Raglan; or, again, the portrait of Lord Nelson surrounded by the portraits of Collingwood, Hardy, and Blackwood. He much questioned whether the power of revision to which the noble Earl referred would be efficacious in practice; and for that reason he thought it would be better to restrict admission until the lapse of twenty-five years, or some other period. To that extent exclusion might be advantageous, although even that would have the effect of excluding portraits like those of the Duke of Wellington, as to whom there was no room for difference of opinion.


said, he was strongly in favour of such a gallery, because it involved a great principle of conservatism that men of eminence should be held up for the admiration and example of future ages. The ancient Athenians and Romans did not underrate the influence of portraits or statues in exciting to public emulation, and the feeling was constantly appealed to by the greatest of their orators. In the metropolis of a great country like this, which had borne no unworthy part in the history of Europe, there should be some place to remind the public of its great men. But hitherto our colder climate had not proved favourable to such ideas. The great Lord Clarendon had projected such a gallery, and the Duke of Portland half a century ago, and Sir Robert Peel in the present age, had formed the same plan. But whatever had been hitherto done in this way had been the result of private liberality, and had never risen to a national institution. We had nothing like a national Pantheon of our intellect and genius. That such an institution was not likely to be inimical to conservatism was shown by the fact, that during the French Revolution the same decree abolished hereditary dignities and destroyed the public memorials of illustrious men. He believed that the influence of such a gallery would be very great upon the national mind as a means of education, not less than as an incentive to emulation, and that it would tend to strengthen the interest and deepen the reverence which Englishmen felt for the history and institutions of the country.


said, he heartily concurred in the Motion; but he thought more of the proposed institution as a means of national education than as a stimulus to emulation; and he hoped that the desire to have one's portrait in such a gallery would never supersede that old preference of duty to glory which was one of the characteristics of the English mind. A French writer had observed that throughout the despatches of the Duke of Wellington the word "glory" was never mentioned; had they been French despatches, the word would have occurred far more frequently than the word duty. After all, the hope of fame must be a most miserable motive for the host of men who could never hope to reach posthumous celebrity; and they could only be sustained in their daily labours and sacrifices by the sense of duty. He regretted that he should appear to break across the current that seemed to run so generally in favour of the present Motion; still he did not by any means underrate the proper object of the proposed gallery, which ought not to be confined to the greatest characters, but should comprise all who were well known to history, and whose portraits, therefore, would illustrate our annals, and render the gallery an important means of increasing and diffusing the taste for history and art.


thought that such a gallery as that proposed was very much wanted as a place in which they might possess a record of the great men of all periods. Such a collection would tend to make other men emulate the great deeds of such men, and prompt them to follow in their steps. He thought the public thanks were due to his noble Friend for bringing this question before the House.


said, it might be well to mention to their Lordships that, on the last evening, the other House of Parliament, by a majority of seventy-two to sixty-four, passed the second reading of a Bill, the object of which was to take possession of the National Gallery—"the finest site in Europe"—and to erect thereon a large Imperial hotel. Their Lordships might congratulate themselves if by their vote that evening "the finest site in Europe" should be preserved for a gallery of art.


supported the Motion, and observed that the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal had too much undervalued the hope of posthumous fame as a motive to honourable exertion and to public service. Nothing could more cheer a man who sacrificed himself to public duty than the belief that his country would cherish his memory and honour his name.


in reply, thanked their Lordships for the personal kindness, as well as the general approbation and as- sent with which they had received his Motion. With reference to the objection which had been taken by the noble Marquess and the noble Earl, that the words of the Motion would involve the exclusion of the portraits of Bishops and Judges from the gallery, he would say that he thought the words "in literature or in science" sufficient to include those learned dignitaries, whose portraits it was, of course, most desirable to obtain. However, he was quite willing so to modify the terms of his Motion if in any quarter they were deemed not sufficiently general. It had been said that £500 a year was a very inadequate sum to carry out a project like the one he had proposed; he had, however, only named that sum as sufficient to commence with. He doubted not that, when the gallery was once in full progress, a much larger sum would be freely voted for its support. The arrangements which he had suggested were, he considered, adequate to make a beginning of the scheme, and, once begun, it would most certainly go on and prosper. Then, again, the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) had found fault with his suggestion of the Fine Arts Commission, and had seemed to think that body fit only to deal with the question of art,—with the artistic merits or demerits of a portrait. But he might inform the noble Earl that other questions also came before that body; that, for example, one of their Reports (which by the way were laid every year before Parliament) contained a list of names selected on historical grounds from various classes of eminence, as of those whose statues or busts might properly adorn the halls of the Palace of Westminster. And when he also stated to the noble Earl, who said that he knew the names of none of them beyond the President and Secretary, that the Report in question and other Reports were signed by such men as Mr. Hallam and Mr. Macaulay, the noble Earl would probably acknowledge that this Fine Arts Commission contained members quite as competent to decide on historical questions as any Member of either House whom the noble Earl would have selected.

Motion, as amended— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to take into Her Royal Consideration the Expediency of forming a Gallery of the Portraits of the most eminent Persons in British History.

Agreed to.

House adjourned to Thursday next.

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