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    Benjamin Robert Haydon - A manuscript transcript in Haydon's hand of Wordsworth's sonnet dedicated to Haydon, "High is our calling friend! - Creative art" - with a drawing of a hand below


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    Benjamin Robert Haydon - A manuscript transcript in Haydon's hand of Wordsworth's sonnet dedicated to Haydon, "High is our calling friend! - Creative art" - with a drawing of a hand below
    Benjamin Robert Haydon
    1770 - 1850

    A manuscript transcript in Haydon's hand of Wordsworth's sonnet dedicated to Haydon, "High is our calling friend! - Creative art" - with a drawing of a hand below
    Pen and ink on wove paper
    7 x 4 ½ inches; 180 x 115 mm
    Inscribed: Sonnett [sic] addressed to B R Haydon by W Wordsworth – Dec 27, 1815

    Elizabeth Dufresne, presumably a gift from the artist;
    and by descent


    High is our calling, Friend!--Creative Art
    (Whether the instrument of words she use,
    Or pencil pregnant with ethereal hues,)
    Demands the service of a mind and heart,
    Though sensitive, yet, in their weakest part,
    Heroically fashioned--to infuse
    Faith in the whispers of the lonely Muse,
    While the whole world seems adverse to desert.
    And, oh! when Nature sinks, as oft she may,
    Through long-lived pressure of obscure distress,
    Still to be strenuous for the bright reward,
    And in the soul admit of no decay,
    Brook no continuance of weak-mindedness--
    Great is the glory, for the strife is hard!

    This sonnet was one of three dedicated by Wordsworth to Haydon. It was originally written on December 21st, 1815, and Haydon later wrote in his autobiography, Now, reader! was not this glorious? During this period, he was also the recipient of four poems by Keats and one by Elizabeth Browning, amongst others. This transcript by Haydon, written within days of receiving the original (present whereabouts unknown), was found in an album belonging to his friend Elizabeth Dufresne. The hand represented below may be Wordsworth's, as Haydon drew it on other occasions, or more likely his own: it certainly symbolises the hand of 'Creative Art'.

    It is likely that Haydon first met Wordsworth in May 1812 at the Mayfair home of Sir George Beaumont, Haydon’s patron, on one of the poet’s visits to London although the first reference to the poet in Haydon’s diary appears in 1815. Fourteen years older than Haydon, Wordsworth, who had recently published The Excursion, made a deep and lasting impression on the painter and presumably the feeling of regard was mutual. In April 1815 Haydon made a lifemask in plaster of Wordsworth, describing that the poet bore it like a philosopher. The following day, as recorded in his autobiography, Haydon: afterwards sauntered along to West-end Lane and so on to Hampstead, with great delight. Never did any man so beguile the time as Wordsworth. His purity of heart, his kind affections, his soundness of principle, his information, his knowledge and the intense and eager feelings with which he pours forth all he knows affect, interest and enchant one. I do not know anyone I would be so inclined to worship as a purified being.(The Autobiography and Memoirs of Benjamin Robert Haydon, edited from his Journals by Tom Taylor, 1926, pp. 209-10).

    Just months later, in December, Haydon was delighted to receive Wordsworth’s sonnet addressed to him and it became an inspiration and a call to arms for Haydon in the difficult years that lay ahead. Robert Woof pointed out that, ‘Haydon’s delight in the sonnet partly stems from Wordsworth’s bracketing together poet and painter as creatures equal in high creative impulse: ‘every other poet has shown a thorough ignorance of its nature before – seeming not to know that the mind was the source of the means only different – if only , you will have the gratitude of every painter.’ (Robert Woof, ‘Haydon, Writer, and the Friend of Writers’, in Benjamin Robert Haydon 1786-1846, The Wordsworth Trust, 1986, p. 31). Haydon immediately asked for the poet’s permission to publish it and as a result, ‘High is our calling’ appeared in John Scott’s Champion on 4th February 1816, and in Leigh Hunt’s Examiner, 31 March 1816. In return Haydon produced portraits of Wordsworth in chalk (1818) and oil, William Wordsworth on Helvellyn, 1842 (both National Portrait Gallery), and even included Wordsworth’s head in his major composition Christ’s Entry in Jerusalem, painted between 1814 and 1820 (Mount St Mary's Seminary, Cincinnati).

    Elizabeth Dufresne, who first owned this drawing, was a neighbour of Sir David Wilkie in Rathbone Place, London, and modelled as the mother in Wilkie’s The Blind Fiddler. Their circle of mainly Scottish friends also included Benjamin Haydon and the French émigré artist Dufresne, whose marriage to Elizabeth was short-lived, ending with her departure to France. Haydon wrote affectionately of her and this period of their association in his autobiography, where he even refers to them reading Shakespeare together. He wrote: Liz was as interesting a girl as you would wish to see and very likely to make a strong impression on any one who knew her: however, I kept clear, and she ultimately married the Frenchman.