I see everything I paint in this world, but
everybody does not see alike. To the eyes of a miser a guinea is more beautiful
than the sun, and a bag worn with the use of money has more beautiful
proportions than a vine filled with grapes. The tree which moves some to tears
of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some
see nature all ridicule and deformity, and by these I shall not regulate my
proportions; and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of
imagination, nature is imagination itself. As a man is, so he sees.
Letter to the Reverend John Trusler, August 13, 1799
..that I cannot live without doing my duty to lay up treasures in heaven is Certain & Determined, & to this I have long made up my mind, & why this should be made an objection to Me, while Drunkennness, Lewdness, Gluttony & even Idleness itself, does not hurt other men, let Satan himself Explain. The Thing I have most at Heart -more than life, or all that seems to make life comfortable without - Is the Interest of True Religion & Science, & whenever any thing appears to affect that Interest (Especially if I myself omit any duty to my Station as a Soldier of Christ), It gives me the greatest of torments. I am not ashamed, afraid, or averse to tell you what Ought to be Told: That I am under the direction of Messengers from Heaven, Daily & Nightly; but the nature of such things is not, as some suppose, without trouble or care. Temptations are on the right hand & left; behind, the sea of time & space roars & follows swiftly; he who keeps not right onward is lost, & if our footsteps slide in clay, how can we do otherwise than fear & tremble?
Naked we came here, naked of Natural things,
& naked we shall return; but while clothd with the Divine Mercy, we are
richly clothd in Spiritual & suffer all the rest gladly.
Letter to Thomas Butts, January 10, 1802.
I have been very near the Gates of Death & have returned
very weak & an Old Man feeble & tottering, but not in Spirit & Life,
not in The Real Man. The Imagination which Liveth for Ever. In that, I am
stronger & stronger as this Foolish Body decays.
Letter to George Cumberland, April 12, 1827.
Is it True or is it False that the Wisdom of this World is Foolishness with God?
Self Evident Truth is one Thing and Truth the result of
Reasoning is another Thing. Rational Truth is not the Truth of Christ, but of
Pilate. It is the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil.
Marginalia on Francis Bacon, Essays Moral, Economical and Political (1798
He paints in water colours, marvellous
strange pictures, visions of his brain which he asserts that he has seen. They
have great merit. He has seen the old Welch bards on Snowdon - he has seen the
Beautifullest, the Strongest, & the Ugliest Man, left alone from the
Massacre of the Britons by the Romans, & has painted them from memory....and
asserts them to be as good as the figures of Raphael and Angelo, but not better,
as they had precisely the same retro-visions & prophetic visions with
himself. The painters in Oil...he affirms to have been the ruin of art, and
affirms that all the while he was engaged in his water-paintings, Titian was
disturbing him, Titian the Ill Genius of Oil Painting. His Pictures, one in
particular, the Canterbury Pilgrims...have great merit, but hard, dry, yet with
grace....There is one (poem) to a Tiger, which I have heard recited, beginning
Tiger, Tiger burning bright
Thro' the deserts of the Night,
which is glorious. But alas! I have not the Book, for the man is flown, whither I know not, to Hades or the Mad House-but I must look on him as one of the most extraordinary persons of the age.
Charles Lamb, Letter the Bernard Bartram, May 15, 1824
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