HL Deb 26 July 1869 vol 198 cc651-65

asked the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies (Earl Granville), Upon whose judgment and responsibility a picture in the National Gallery representing "Christ Blessing Little Children," ascribed to Rembrandt, but by many persons supposed to be a spurious work of little or no value, was purchased at the price of £7,000? The picture, he believed, was originally in the Schö;nborn Collection at Vienna; from thence it passed into the hands of a foreign gentleman of whom, in 1866, it was purchased for the National Gallery. In the following year a noble Lord stated in "another place" that according to one of the first auctioneers of the day, it would, if put up to sale, fetch literally nothing. That opinion had since been confirmed by many authorities, and, as far as he knew, no contradiction had been given. He was aware that great difference must always exist as to the value of the genuineness of many pictures, and it might appear presumptuous in him to offer any opinion in this case; but he felt bound to say that, in his judgment, even if it could be proved to be a Rembrandt, it was a very inferior work, a very costly purchase, and a very repulsive painting. Indeed, the more it was looked at the less could it be liked. He had been informed that a picture very similar to it had recently been put up to auction in St. James's Street, without obtaining a single bid. He might also mention the fact that a few years ago two pictures, one by Van Huysum and the other by Cuyp, were sold for 380 and 382 guineas, and might have been originally purchased for those sums, but were shortly afterwards purchased for the National Gallery for £1,800?


thought it would be better if this Question and that of a noble Earl opposite, who had given a notice of similar nature, were answered by his noble Friend (Lord Over stone), who, as a Trustee of the National Gallery, would be able to give a full explanation.


rose to ask for information respecting three pictures which were now or had been in the National Gallery. His first Question was, By whose authority picture 234 "Warrior adoring Infant Jesus," bought by the nation for the sum of £3,000 as a veritable Giorgione, is now called Venetian School, (1,505) and is not included in the official catalogue? He had understood that £3,000 was given for it, but he was informed that this was a mistake. His second Question was, On what grounds a picture (790) sold out of Cardinal Fesch's collection for sixteen florins, less or more, was bought of Mr. Macpherson for the sum of £2,000, and called after Michael Angelo, which great name it does not appear to have borne previously? Now it was well known that Michael Angelo never painted in oil, but simply furnished designs for his pupils. According to Vasari, he gave Anton Mini— La maggior parte de disegni e cartone fatte da lui, ch'erano cosa divina; cosi duo casse dimodegli con gran numero di cartoni finiti per far pitture, e parte d'opere fatte. Many of these were stolen after the death of Mini in France. Mr. Wornum, moreover, had not always been of the same opinion as when he published the catalogue of the National Gallery, for in his Epochs of Painting was this passage— As painter Michael Angelo is almost exclusively known for his productions in fresco; he never painted in oil colours, and there is only one tempered picture attributed to him—a Holy Family, now in the gallery at Florence—which has any pretensions to be well authenticated; it is said to have been painted for Angelo Doni; it has, however, every trace of hiving been painted by Angelo Bronzino, whatever may be the origin of the design. His third Question was, What became of a certain spurious "Ecce Homo," purporting to be by Correggio, which belonged to the nation previous to the purchase of the real picture from the collection of the late Marquess of Londonderry; when and to whom it was sold, if sold it were, what price it fetched, and whether the proceeds were carried to the national account? He hoped that his Questions would not be regarded as an attack on the Trustees of the National Gallery, for he was sure they discharged their duty with the utmost conscientiousness; but. considering how easily evidence was fabricated in favour of pictures, great caution ought to be shown in the expenditure of large sums of money in this manner.


said, that as the noble Earl (Earl Granville) could obviously make no other reply than that which might be placed in his hands by those who administered the affairs of the National Gallery, it was more appropriate that these Questions should receive a direct answer from one personally conversant with the subject. That duty would properly have fallen on his noble Friend the Marquess of Northampton, who was not more superior to himself in point of rank than in all those intellectual qualifications which would entitle him to speak with authority upon questions connected with the fine arts; but the noble Marquess being prevented from attending the House by personal infirmity, it devolved upon himself to undertake the task. Their Lordships and the public would feel with him that these Questions involved a grave imputation on the management of the National Gallery; but he trusted the explanation he was about to give would be full and satisfactory. The first Question was that of the noble Lord (Lord De L'Isle and Dudley), who asked upon whoso judgment and responsibility the picture of "Christ Blessing Little Children," ascribed to Rembrandt, but supposed to be of little or no value, had been purchased for the price of £7,000? The Question obviously divided itself into two parts— the first of which was, upon whose authority and judgment it was purchased? His answer was, that the Director of the National Gallery was responsible for the purchase. It could not, indeed, be otherwise; the Director of that institution was vested with plenary authority in the choice and purchase of pictures, and nothing could be done except on his judgment and with his full responsibility. But the Director was surrounded by a body of Trustees, to whom he was bound to report all his proceedings. If, in any case, they doubted, dissented, or condemned, it was their duty to record their opinion, which opinion was necessarily laid before Parliament; but if they abstained from any such expression of opinion, they by their silence acquiesced and shared in the responsibility of his acts. In the present case the Director reported to the Trustees in the usual way, and they recorded no dissent, and so they participated in the responsibility. The picture had been exhibited publicly on the walls of the National Gallery for three years; but this was the first time its genuineness had been, questioned in this House, and he could not help saying, therefore, that any attack upon it should have been made at an earlier period. In order to show that the Trustees were justified in purchasing the picture as a great work in itself, and as the production of a great Master, he would give a statement of the history of the picture from its execu- tion to the present time. It was believed to have been painted by Rembrandt about 1650, being a date intermediate between the great works which characterized the earlier and those which characterized the later portion of his career. The first trace of it was to be found in the celebrated Pommersfelden Collection, of which there were two catalogues, bearing date 1719 and 1746. It was now impossible to find a copy of the first catalogue, dated 1719; but a copy of the second, bearing date 1746, was happily extant, and he held in his hand a certified extract from it— Specification of the precious paintings preserved in the most noble villa at Vienna belonginging to the Schö;nborn family, together with their height and width by the Nuremburg foot measure. Then comes this item— "6. Christ sitting with the innocent children and their parents, by Rembrandt. 6–6, 4–10." The picture remained in the Schö;nborn Palace at Vienna for 150 years, without its genuineness having ever been questioned, until the year in which it was purchased for the National Gallery, being regarded through the whole of that long period, and by all the art critics of Germany, as the pride and ornament of the Vienna Galleries, and being always spoken of as "the Vienna Rembrandt." He had asked M. Boehm, an eminent modeller and sculptor, now residing in London, whose father, for nearly forty years, was Director of the Art Establishment of the Mint, and Chief Medal-list to the Emperor of Austria, what he knew of the picture, and he had received a reply, in which M. Boehm said he had always heard it mentioned as the most important work by Rembrandt in Vienna. He added, that he well re collected the great admiration entertained for it by his father, who was on several occasions consulted by Government on the purchase of works of art, and showed by his fine collection, especially of drawings and etchings by Rembrandt, that his opinion was deservedly valued. M. Boehm went on to say— The picture in question has a particular interest to me, and, though I do not offer my judgment as of any value "whatever, I think it right to mention that when asked by Mr. Boxall to enumerate the works of Rembrandt at Vienna, I mentioned this picture first and foremost of all, before I knew anything of the intended purchase by the National Gallery. I never heard the picture doubted at Vienna, and have only known it as the theme of general admiration among all connoisseurs there, occupying a prominent posisition in the Schö;nborn Gallery. I well remember the powerful impression it always produced upon me, and when I afterwards heard of its acquisition for the National Gallery I rejoiced in the addition of so valuable a picture to the treasures which it contains. The next testimony which he would quote was Forster's Handbook of Germany, 1833, in which the celebrated translator of Vasari, referring to the Schö;nborn collection, mentioned "Christ Blessing Little Children" as one of "four great works of Rembrandt" to be found there. Voesmaer, in his Life of Rembrandt, quoting the opinion of a preceding writer of eminence—Hertscheene, said— The head of Jesus is very fine. He wears a brown dress, with a red mantle. The other figures are painted in colours difficult to describe —greenish brown, red, and dark brown. The figure of Jesus very luminous and masterly painted. In Nagler's Art Lexicon, 1842, the painting was referred to as— The most excellent picture by Rembrandt in the Schö;nborn Gallery at Vienna. The head of Christ is admirable in character. The rest of the figures are copied from common nature. Moreover, this picture is of the very highest excellence in point of colour, of the greatest transparency in chiaro scuro, and of most brilliant effect. … A magnificent gem in a homely setting. In the article on Rembrandt in Brockhaus's Conversations Lexicon, 1830, was this passage— Among Rembrandt's works is a picture less known, but still more excellent, representing Christ with the Little Children, in the collection of Count Schö;nborn, Vienna. Again, M. Burger, in a very elaborate article in the Gazette des Beaux Arts for September, 1866, speaking of the picture as being then in the Suermondt Gallery at Aix-la-Chapelle, classed it for its importance and quality in the first rank among Rembrandt's works; and, after remarking that Mr. Suermondt had recently obtained it from the Gallery of the Counts Schö;nborn, at Vienna, he proceeded to remark— … It is remarkable that the mother, carrying her baby on the right arm, whose fine features have an exceptional elegance among Rembrandt's types, appears to be the same as the young mother standing with her back to the spectator, carrying also a baby, and ascending a step towards the Christ, in the celebrated etching known as the ' Hundred Guilders.' … The year 1648, the approximative date for the ' Hundred Guilders' etching, furnishes us moreover with an indication of the probable date of the ' Christ Blessing Little Children,' and this picture can serve us as an intermediary step between the 'Night Watch' (1642), and the ' Syndics' (1601). He would next cite the opinions of the eminent men who, on account of their minute and critical study of pictures, had been intrusted with the care of the chief European galleries. Dr. Waagen, Keeper of the Berlin Gallery, on being consulted by Mr. Suermondt before concluding the purchase, described the picture as "a very remarkable work by the hand of Rembrandt, in an excellent state of preservation, painted between 1645 and 1648," adding that the whole picture was equally powerful, transparent, and harmonious in its effect, and that he could only encourage him to obtain it even for a high price. Cavalier Giuseppe Mollini, of the Brera Gallery at Milan, writing to Mr. Boxall on the acquisition of the picture for the National Gallery, of which he had heard from Mr. Layard, remarked that it made such an impression upon him in 1835 that he recollected it precisely as if he had it now before his eyes; that it was a marvel of light and execution, and that while wanting in a certain quality of beauty, the common defect of Rembrandt, the longer the public looked at it the more would be their surprise and admiration. "For a professional connoisseur," he added, "there is enough to charm him into enthusiasm." M. Reiset, of the Louvre, on visiting the National Gallery, left a card for Mr. Wornum, bearing these words— Thousand thanks and thousand congratulations. … The little Garvagh Raphael and the fine Rembrandt from the Counts Schö;nborn have given me the greatest pleasure. Chevalier Engert, Director of the Belvedere Gallery at Vienna, regarded the picture as an unquestionable Rembrandt, which did great honour to the National Gallery. He had been favoured, too, by Lady Eastlake with a memorandum from an old note-book of Sir Charles Eastlake, who was in the habit of visiting the principal Continental galleries every summer, and of making short notes for his future guidance. In 1830 he noted this picture as a Rembrandt, with the comment—" Effect of heads in partial shade very beautiful and Correggiesque." Their Lordships would be interested in learning the opinion of the late Lord Taunton, a Nobleman of correct and cultivated taste, so recently and so grievously lost to this House and to the country, as narrated in a letter which he had received from the Solicitor General Sir John Coleridge— I learn that you are desirous to have in writing what I can remember of the few words which tell from Lord Taunton on almost the last day of his life as to the 'Entombment ascribed to Michael Angelo, and the ' Christ Blessing Little Children' ascribed to Rembrandt. It happened in this way. I had seen him the very day before his death with reference to the University Tests | Bill, which he was to assist Lord Russell in conducting, and finding that he was unwell, though he did not speak seriously of his illness, I was a very short time with him, and was just going away, when I stayed for a moment to look at his own fine but unfinished picture, said also to be by Michael Angelo. He said to me that, fine as he thought his own picture, he felt that in some respects the ' Entombment' just placed in the gallery was even finer, and that it was one of the greatest acquisitions we had had there for many years, He went on to express his strong sense of the value of Mr. Boxall's services as Director, and on my saying that I believed the Rembrandt WAS to be attacked in Parliament, he said that, whoever painted it, he thought it impossible not to see that for impressiveness and for the fine sentiment of it, it was a thoroughly great and noble picture. He spoke on these matters with great strength and decision, I cannot give you his very words. I wish I could. But of the substance I am quite sure, and, if it is of the slightest use, you are very welcome to my evidence, I wish, indeed, with all my heart that the opinions of that high-minded and accomplished gentleman had not become matter of evidence. He might also mention that when, two years ago, the picture was attacked in. the House of Commons, an article appeared in a periodical publication, anonymous, but well known as having been written by an eminent critic on works of art, advising the public to go and judge for themselves, and, instead of consulting any auctioneer, to ask their own hearts whether it was not the work of one of the greatest geniuses that ever recorded humanity and Divinity upon canvass. He had felt bound, considering that the management of the National Gallery was on its trial, to accumulate evidence in its justification, and he felt confident that both their Lordships and the public would come to a decision different from that of the noble Lord opposite. What, he might ask, might have been the effect of missing the opportunity of purchasing this picture? What would have been the taunts and censures directed against the apathy and ignorance of the Director and Trustees if, with this accumulation of evidence before them, they had allowed this important work to. become the ornament of some other public Gallery? He would now reply to the Questions of the noble Earl (the Earl of Winchilsea)—and here he felt bound to say that before putting Questions on the Paper noble Lords should be satisfied of the accuracy of the statements on which they were based. The noble Earl's first Question implied that the picture of "The Warrior adoring the Infant Jesus" was not in the official catalogue —whereas it was distinctly and prominently mentioned there; and that it was bought for £3,000, a sum which the noble Earl afterwards discovered to be inaccurate; a public Return laid before Parliament distinctly describes the picture, and gives the price as £525—just one-sixth of the sum named in the Question of the noble Earl. Nor was it bought as a Giorgione, for the catalogue simply stated that, by its former owner, as well as by many others, it was attributed to Giorgione, but that connoisseurs were of opinion that it was of the Venetian school. That picture was bought before the office of Director of the National Gallery was instituted. The late Lord Lansdowne with Sir Charles Eastlake and himself had taken upon themselves the responsibility of purchasing it, and it was exhibited for a long period in an obviously damaged condition; it had since undergone restoration under the personal superintendence of Mr. Boxall: it is a perfect masterpiece of restoration, and he could not understand how any man of taste or judgment could pass it by without stopping to pay to it the tribute of his admiration. Passing to the next Question of the noble Earl, which referred to what he was pleased to call "a certain spurious 'Ecce Homo' purporting to be a Correggio," he might observe that it formed one of a very valuable collection of pictures which had been bequeathed to the nation by the Rev. Holwell Carr. It was, at the time the bequest was made, in a frame on which was inscribed the words —" Ludovico Caracci after Correggio," and in that frame it remained until the Trustees of the National Gallery were fortunate enough to secure the original picture by Correggio. It was then withdrawn; and when the noble Lord asked whether the proceeds were carried to the national account —which, must be understood to imply that the picture had been sold and the money surreptitiously kept back—for if it did not mean that it meant nothing, and he was perfectly willing to admit it meant nothing—he must inform him that it was placed in one of the private rooms under the gallery, to which the noble Earl might have free access, and where he would find that the picture was still in the possession of the nation, untouched, and with the same frame and inscription to which he had already referred. That answer would, he hoped, be satisfactory to the noble Earl. He would, in the next place, say a few words about "The Entombment of Christ," by Michael Angelo, which had recently been added to the national collection, and with respect to which he would trouble their Lordships with the following notice, which seemed to him to be an admirable specimen of criticism of the highest kind— There is no history to guide us as to the authorship of this picture; we must therefore trust entirely to the internal evidence of the work itself. It will not I think be questioned by those conversant with art that the' Entombment' is the production of a sculptor. The style of the composition, the profound knowledge of form, and the subtle feeling displayed in the modelling of every part, satisfy us that it must be the work of a hand trained in the severe requirements of sculpture. As the eye passes over the picture we become conscious of the delicate modulation of every muscle, as if studied in clay or wrought in marble. Of this the figure of the dead Christ is a wonderful example. The exquisite beauty and expression of the head, the type of Michael Angelo alone, has perhaps never been surpassed. St. John and the Magdalen supporting the body are grandly designed. The action of the Magdalen is majestic, and full of passionate grief, and the woman standing silent behind her is the personation of unspeakable sorrow. We feel the presence of a great mind throughout the whole of this work, notwithstanding its rugged and unfinished condition. It was probably executed about the end of the 15th century—a youthful effort left incomplete by the artist either from fastidiousness or from the consciousness of its many faults of proportion; the very faults which characterize, especially in his early works, the great painter-sculptor whose name we have not hesitated to connect with this picture. No other name is known to us to which it can be attributed. That was the criticism of Mr. Boxall, the Director of our National Gallery, but the same picture was criticized by a foreigner, Baron de Triquetti — and foreigners, as was well-known, are reasonably jealous of the acquisition for the National Gallery of great works of art. Yet Baron de Triquetti did not hesitate to bear the following generous testimony to the value of the "Entombment of Christ":— The discovery of a picture by Michael Angelo, important, indisputable, but respecting which history has hitherto been silent, cannot fail to excite a lively interest among all who are interested in high art. It is to the Director of the National Gallery of London this good fortune has occurred. He has enriched the Gallery confided to his care with a work of the highest excellence. We are already acquainted with two pictures well authenticated, by the great painter of the Sistine Chapel; we shall henceforth recognize three:—1, ' La Vierge d'Agnolo Dono,' one of the glories of the Tribuna, in Florence; 2, ' La Vierge aux Anges,' of Lord Taunton, in England; 3, ' La Mise au Tombeau,' of the National Gallery. Mr. Boxall alone has had the intuitive sagacity to discover this concealed treasure. He has had the courage to face the censures which want of success would have brought down upon him. The cleaning and repair of this work will henceforth be one of its glories. This work has been a masterpiece of carefulness, patience, skill, and, above all, of deep respect for the Master. The Director of the National Gallery has in this matter established his claim upon the gratitude of all true lovers of art." The National Gallery was, it is true, very limited in extent, but in that limited extent it contained, by the universal acknowledgment of every foreign critic, an unusually large proportion of works of unquestionably high merit. To fill the important post of Director to such an institution it was necessary that a man should be a thorough gentleman, a man of high education, actuated by honourable and pure feelings, as well as one who was fond of art and sensitive in his taste with regard to it, and in all those respects he believed the present Director was eminently qualified for the position which he occupied. He felt this testimony to be due to a public servant, called upon to discharge duties of a difficult and very delicate nature, and exposed to criticisms of very varied character. The present acknowledged excellence of our National Gallery—not complete, but peculiarly select so far as it has been carried—sufficiently testifies to the efficiency of our late Director, Sir Charles Eastlake, and our present Director, Mr. Boxall. Whenever this office shall again become vacant, fortunate indeed shall we be if a successor be found, possessing the same rare combination of qualities, and competent to complete the collection with which the country ought now to be well pleased, and, indeed, justly proud. He would conclude by appealing with confidence to the sympathy of their Lordships in support of those who had used, and were using, every means in their power to render the national collection of pictures worthy of this great country.


said, they must all feel obliged to the noble Lord (Lord Overstone) for his explanation, which showed that the Trustees displayed their judgment without fear or favour in choosing pictures for the National Gallery. If, indeed, there were any part of the noble Lord's speech with which he felt inclined to find fault, it was that in which he appeared to be more than displeased at these Questions having been put. The noble Lord must be aware that Questions of this kind, when asked in either House, were not only perfectly fair in a Parliamentary point of view, but were likewise a proof of the great interest felt by the public in the success of the National Gallery. He was sure that the noble Lord himself did not desire that the people of this country should wander in stupid silence through the rooms in which these pictures were hung, and no one with such a liberal mind as his could find fault with the remarks and criticisms, however extraordinary, which those who inspected the treasures of art preserved in the Gallery might make. These were after all, nothing more nor less than expressions of opinion. The noble lord had styled the Questions put to him this evening as ungenerous Questions; but for his own part he (the Earl of Malmesbury) thought they were evidences of the pride and interest which all persons in this country, whatever their rank might be, took in the art treasures which were to be found in our National Gallery. He maintained that it was entirely a matter of opinion as to whether a picture were genuine or not, and more especially must this be the case with regard to pictures painted by the Old Masters. When it was considered that upwards of three centuries had elapsed since the Venetians put their pencils to the canvass, it was obviously impossible to have what in a court of justice would be called complete and positive evidence that such and such a picture was painted by such and such a man who lived in the 16th century; all we could do was to trace the pedigrees and successive owners of these pictures, and to draw an inference from the facts as to whether they were genuine or not. Most of the paintings in the National Gallery had, he believed, passed through that ordeal, and might be regarded with pride and confidence as genuine works of the Masters to whom they were ascribed. If it had not been for the Questions put this evening, the public would not have had the advantage of being acquainted with the complete pedigrees of the pictures to which the noble Lord had referred. Considering the great difficulty of identifying ancient pictures, he could not but admire the characteristic sagacity of a certain class of collectors—he meant those men who, having in the course of a life of practical business accumulated large fortunes, and having great taste and a desire to form galleries of pictures, almost universally discarded the Old School and laid out their money in purchasing modern pictures, the genuineness of which could be ascertained far more readily than the authenticity of works alleged to be by the Old Masters. This circumstance showed that the public were excusable if they were suspicious and timid with respect to purchasing pictures of the Old Masters; and the noble Lord and his Colleagues—for whose exertions he felt assured the country was deeply grateful —must occasionally expect Questions similar to those which had been asked this evening. The noble Lord had quoted various authorities; but it would not be difficult to show that those authorities did not agree among themselves. He himself possessed a picture which for the last 100 years had been deemed to be an undoubted Giorgione. Some lovers of art used to come to look at it two or three times a week, and he had a letter from the late Sir Charles Eastlake, in which he stated it was one of the finest Giorgiones he had ever seen. Yet when he sent that picture to the Exhibition at Paris, a gentleman employed at the Louvre pronounced it to be the work, not of Giorgoine, but of another Venetian master. Indeed, he believed there was only one way of discovering the real authors of these ancient pictures —namely, by calling in the aid of spiritualism, and bringing ourselves into correspondence with Mr. Home, who should be requested to interrogate Giorgione, Titian, and other great artists on the subject. Until their Lordships believed in spiritualism, however, they must rely upon opinions such as had been adduced this evening by the noble Lord (Lord Overstone.)


said, he had not gathered from the statements of the noble Lords that they intended to impugn generally the management of the National Gallery. He was extremely glad that they had raised this question, and he could not think they had done so in any hostile spirit, and they had elicited very satisfactory answers from the noble Lord (Lord Overstone). It appeared to him that the Director and Trustees of the National Gallery had a rather hard task to perform; but he was bound to say that, generally speaking, they had performed it in a highly satisfactory manner. In regard to the pictures which formed the subject of the present discussion, he would not, after the very elaborate evidence which the noble Lord opposite had produced of their genuineness, venture to express any very decided opinion of his own. As to the disputed Rembrandt he believed it to be a genuine picture. It had been described by Sir Edwin Landseer as a very fine conception, with a very coarse frame. In his own opinion, it was a very fine picture, though somewhat deficient in purity and refinement. The questions concerning the other pictures, especially the "Ecce Homo" and "The Warrior adoring the Infant Jesus," had been satisfactorily disposed of by the noble Lord opposite. As to the Michael Angelo, it was very doubtful whether the controversy would ever be settled; though he was inclined to think that the picture was an original. Great credit was due to the Directors for having bought so fine a work for £2,000. While on that subject he could not help expressing a hope that there would be no further delay in proceeding with the erection of the new National Gallery. If matters went on as they now did he feared that few of their Lordships would live to see the completion of the projected new building.


said, it had been a question raised in a late discussion whether it would not have been an advantage to have had Sir Joshua Reynolds among them as a Member of that House. If Sir Joshua had been a Member of that House he could not have added to what had fallen from his noble Friend (Lord Overstone), for he could only have given them his own individual opinion on a subject like that now before them; whereas his noble Friend had given them the opinions of various competent authorities. What the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury) had said as to the difficulty arising in these matters through great authorities disagreeing only rendered the argument so much the stronger when, as in this case, they found all those great authorities absolutely agreeing upon any one point. As to his noble Friend (Lord Over stone) complaining of the Questions being put, he apprehended that his noble Friend and all of their Lordships were of opinion that it was very desirable, in any matter in which the public took an interest, or on which any doubt, whether rightly or wrongly, was entertained, that a Question be put in regard to it. What he believed his noble Friend thought was that it would be better to avoid influencing the public beforehand on the subject, and to put such Questions in a rather plainer and less epigrammatic form.