Monday, 20 August 2012

At the National Portrait Gallery

"That night I sat up late reading. I have never met a more sympathetic library than that which my father assembled. Thanks to him I discovered The Martian and Peter Ibbetson, Wuthering Heights, and My Two Kings, by Mrs Evan Nepean, who, when she went to the National Portrait Gallery  and saw Kneller's portrait of dead Monmouth, suddenly remembered that it had once belonged to her;
 suddenly knew her former life at the court of Charles the Second, and wrote it,  in the War, and so inflamed me that I, too, have stood before the lovely, worthless James Scott and found it one of the beautiful pictures of the world - and could remember nothing!

These faces! How they fasten on one! I was safe, for some reason, from the fated fribble, but there are others ... all pressing their past, their claims, reaching out very, very quietly to draw one in ... they cease to be flat surfaces and become little stages onto which one could squeeze oneself...

And that scarred canvas,  dismissed as ' a dreadful daub' by the biographers:  Emily Bronte in stormy profile.  I am no art critic, I only value in pictures that which lies beyond them.  Emily managed to hurt me. She is, I am certain, harassed at her place in Trafalgar Square. When I first saw her I said, 'My dear, I cannot do anything about it'."

The Brontes Went to Woolworths  Rachel Ferguson


James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and Buccleuch, Studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller Bt. 1678
National Portrait Gallery, London

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