Every Artist, be he writer, painter, musician, or actor, must bear
his private sorrows as he best can, and must separate them from the
exercise of his public pursuit. But it sometimes happens, in
compensation, that his private loss of a dear friend represents a
loss on the part of the whole community. Then he may, without
obtrusion of his individuality, step forth to lay his little wreath
upon that dear friend's grave.
On Saturday, the eighteenth of this present month, Clarkson
Stanfield died. On the afternoon of that day, England lost the
great marine painter of whom she will be boastful ages hence; the
National Historian of her speciality, the Sea; the man famous in all
countries for his marvellous rendering of the waves that break upon
her shores, of her ships and seamen, of her coasts and skies, of her
storms and sunshine, of the many marvels of the deep. He who holds
the oceans in the hollow of His hand had given, associated with
them, wonderful gifts into his keeping; he had used them well
through threescore and fourteen years; and, on the afternoon of that
spring day, relinquished them for ever.
It is superfluous to record that the painter of "The Battle of
Trafalgar", of the "Victory being towed into Gibraltar with the body
of Nelson on Board", of "The Morning after the Wreck", of "The
Abandoned", of fifty more such works, died in his seventy-fourth
year, "Mr." Stanfield.--He was an Englishman.
Those grand pictures will proclaim his powers while paint and canvas
last. But the writer of these words had been his friend for thirty
years; and when, a short week or two before his death, he laid that
once so skilful hand upon the writer's breast and told him they
would meet again, "but not here", the thoughts of the latter turned,
for the time, so little to his noble genius, and so much to his
He was the soul of frankness, generosity, and simplicity. The most
genial, the most affectionate, the most loving, and the most lovable
of men. Success had never for an instant spoiled him. His interest
in the Theatre as an Institution--the best picturesqueness of which
may be said to be wholly due to him--was faithful to the last. His
belief in a Play, his delight in one, the ease with which it moved
him to tears or to laughter, were most remarkable evidences of the
heart he must have put into his old theatrical work, and of the
thorough purpose and sincerity with which it must have been done.
The writer was very intimately associated with him in some amateur
plays; and day after day, and night after night, there were the same
unquenchable freshness, enthusiasm, and impressibility in him,
though broken in health, even then.
No Artist can ever have stood by his art with a quieter dignity than
he always did. Nothing would have induced him to lay it at the feet
of any human creature. To fawn, or to toady, or to do undeserved
homage to any one, was an absolute impossibility with him. And yet
his character was so nicely balanced that he was the last man in the
world to be suspected of self-assertion, and his modesty was one of
his most special qualities.
He was a charitable, religious, gentle, truly good man. A genuine
man, incapable of pretence or of concealment. He had been a sailor
once; and all the best characteristics that are popularly attributed
to sailors, being his, and being in him refined by the influences of
his Art, formed a whole not likely to be often seen. There is no
smile that the writer can recall, like his; no manner so naturally
confiding and so cheerfully engaging. When the writer saw him for
the last time on earth, the smile and the manner shone out once
through the weakness, still: the bright unchanging Soul within the
altered face and form.
No man was ever held in higher respect by his friends, and yet his
intimate friends invariably addressed him and spoke of him by a pet
name. It may need, perhaps, the writer's memory and associations to
find in this a touching expression of his winning character, his
playful smile, and pleasant ways. "You know Mrs. Inchbald's story,
Nature and Art?" wrote Thomas Hood, once, in a letter: "What a fine
Edition of Nature and Art is Stanfield!"
Gone! And many and many a dear old day gone with him! But their
memories remain. And his memory will not soon fade out, for he has
set his mark upon the restless waters, and his fame will long be
sounded in the roar of the sea.