Men I Have Painted/Sir Archibald Geikie

Hamilton Men I Have Painted 252f Sir Archibald Geikie.jpg


WHILE visiting Walter Tyndale, in Haslemere, he suggested that I should take advantage of the proximity of the President of the Royal Society, Sir Archibald Geikie, and make a portrait of him.

Sir Archibald gave me the whole day between breakfast and tea for the sittings. He did not take luncheon, for he had found that the day was broken in two by a useless and injurious meal, that after lunching the mind was in no condition for work because the body became torpid and dormant, and required repose. He maintained better health and accomplished more work by eating a good breakfast early in the morning, a good tea at four o'clock, and a substantial dinner at seven o'clock. Lord Leighton had adopted the same custom, with equally beneficial results.

I had the advantage of long sittings, which enabled me to complete the portrait very quickly. If I happened to be hungry, the Tyndales' house was next door, where Mrs. Tyndale always welcomed me. Sir Archibald and I were in complete agreement upon philosophical, political, and social questions, so that we found much pleasure in attacking the weak points in the flimsy armour of imaginary opponents. Sir Archibald, like John Tyndall, was a doughty champion of the truth that he had found in rocky mountains, in sandy valleys, and in fossils deep down in the strata of the earth—truth that had often exposed the aberrations of the mind of man, for, as he would no doubt have admitted had I put the matter before him, the only false thing on earth is man. Some few animals, like the fox and the spider and the dove, know how to deceive, but as a rule Nature does not lie.

But there was one subject broached which almost caused a serious rupture between Sir Archibald and myself. I had been asked to dinner to meet a few of his friends. During the repast the little fairies who buzz around to create mischief for their own amusement put it into my head to mention Bacon in connection with Shakespeare, when in an instant Sir Archibald turned very pink, and angrily declared that he would not have that heresy mentioned in his house, that it was a monstrous and disloyal thing to give tongue or ear to anything so detrimental to the honour of English traditions. I murmured a regret; but that, instead of appeasing him, seemed to irritate him the more until a frosty and still atmosphere settled over the table, and I thought we were all going to shrivel up. At last some tactful guest broke through the ice, and when a little wine had restored the circulation we settled down to the chicken and bacon, and concluded to swallow both Stratford-on-Avon and Verulam.