Before I commence a biographical sketch of this celebrated Artist, who was one of the earliest exhibitors in the Royal Academy, and the first individual who received the gold medal as a Modeller in that institution, I think my readers will be interested by the following song, relative to the formation of the Academy itself. It was written by the Rev. Dr. Franklin, who was chosen the first Chaplain to the Establishment, and was sung by Mr. Beard at its institutory dinner. As it was never printed accurately, I here introduce a copy from the original manuscript, with which I was favoured by the author's daughter, Maria Franklin.



Here's a health to the Great, who are Patrons of Arts,
Who for good British hands have true British hearts;
Abroad who disdain for their pleasures to roam,
But encourage true merit and genius at Home.

If I was not mistaken, I heard some folks say,
That our guests seem'd to relish the feast of to-day;
That with candour they own, we at least have aim'd well.
And those deserve praise who but strive to excel.

But our artists,—the fact to our shame is well-known,—
Like our wives, are neglected, because they're our own;
Whilst Italia's fair harlots with rapture we view,
And embrace the dear strangers—to show our Virtù.

When good Master Christie tricks out his fine show,
All is not pure gold which there glitters, we know;
But with pompous fine titles he humbugs the town,
If the names are but foreign, the trash will go down:

For this purpose, some shrewd picture-merchants, they say,
Keep many a good Raphael and Rubens in pay;
And half the Poussins and Correggios you meet
Were daub'd in a garret in Aldersgate-street:

There with pencils and brushes they drive a snug trade;
There Ancients are form'd and Originals made;
New trifles are shelter'd beneath an old name,
And pictures, like bacon, are smoked into fame.

Such arts we disclaim, and such tricks we despise,
On their own little pinions our eaglets shall rise;
And upheld by your praises, perchance they may soar
To the summit of Fame, which they ne'er reach 'd before.

When strong prepossession no longer shall blind,
Nor the shackles of Prejudice fetter the mind;
The beauties of Truth then old Time shall unveil,
And merit o'er folly and fashion prevail.

Then let's drink to the Great, who are Patrons of Arts,
Who for good British hands have good British hearts;
Abroad who disdain for their pleasures to roam,
But encourage true merit and genius at Home.

The meetings of the Royal Academy, at its commencement, were at seven o'clock in the evening, as will appear from the following invitation, which was sent to Benjamin West, Esq.

"Royal Academy, 30th day of Oct. 1769.


"You are desired to meet the President, and the rest of the Visitors, at the Royal Academy, in Pall-Mali, on Friday next, the 3d day of November, at seven o'clock in the evening, to examine the layman.

"I am. Sir,

"Your most humble servant,

"F. M. Newton, Sec. R.A."

John Bacon, whose father Thomas was a Cloth-worker, was born in London on the 24th of November, 1740, and was employed, when a boy, in a Pottery at Lambeth, and afterwards by Mrs. Coade, in her Artificial Stone Manufactory,[1] during which time he obtained no fewer than nine prizes in the Society of Arts. Mr. Bacon commenced carving in marble in 1763. He then resided in George-yard, near Soho-square, in Oxford-road, and exhibited at the Royal Academy a medallion of King George the Third, and a group of Bacchanalians. In the succeeding year, he produced a model in bas-relief, the subject the Good Samaritan.

In I77I, he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy; and exhibited a cast from his model of Mars, a very beautiful performance, of which he carved in marble a statue as large as life, for the Hon. Mr. Pelham, afterwards Lord Yarborough, now in the hall of the present Lord's town-residence in Arlington-street; where there are also numerous busts in marble by Nollekens. The following year, Bacon exhibited a model of a Child; and in 1773, a bust in marble, and a design for his own door-plate in artificial stone.

Johnson, the builder of Berners-street, who had been extremely kind to Bacon in the early part of his life, made a purchase of very extensive premises in Newman-street purposely for him, but entirely without his knowledge. As soon as he communicated to him what he had done, Bacon exclaimed, "How could you do so? I am not able to enter upon any thing of the kind."—"Yes, you are," replied Johnson. "Go into them, and I shall never expect the money, unless you are quite capable of reimbursing me."[2] In 1774, Mr. Bacon took possession of these premises, No 17, Newman-street, and exhibited a bust of King George III. in marble. In 1775, he produced a model for a marble statue of Minerva in artificial stone; and in 1778, he was chosen an Academician, and presented to the Royal Academy a bust representing Sickness as his reception-piece.

The principal of his other public works are, a bronze statue of King George III. in the court-yard of Somerset-place, and also the attic decorations on the street, and back fronts of the same edifice;[3] the cenotaph in Guildhall; and the monument in Westminster Abbey, erected to the memory of the Earl of Chatham;[4] the figure of King Henry VI. in the Ante-chapel of Eton College; a monument to the memory of Guy, erected in the Chapel of his Hospital; and also two figures at the front of that building. In 1795, he executed a statue of the great and good Dr. Samuel Johnson, for

St Paul's Cathedral, which was the first monument permitted to be raised in that stupendous fabric. He also executed a statue of Howard the Philanthropist, in the same Church; a monument to the memory of Sterne's Eliza in Bristol Cathedral; one in Salisbury Cathedral to the memory of James Harris, the author of "Hermes," which consists of a figure of Moral Philosophy contemplating a medallion portrait; a statue of Judge Blackstone, for All Souls College, Oxford; a bust of Milton, erected against a column on the north side of St. Giles's, Cripplegate; a statue of Lord Rodney, erected at Kingston, Jamaica; a statue of Lord Cornwallis for India, sent thither after the Sculptor's death; a design for the monument of Captain Duff, to be erected in St Paul's Cathedral; a memorial in honour of the late Marquis Cornwallis, by public subscription at Bombay; a group in honour of the most noble Marquess Wellesley, to be erected at Calcutta, by order of the British inhabitants of that place; a design for the statue, &c. in honour of the same nobleman, to be erected at Bombay, by order of the British inhabitants; and a monument of Lord Lavington, (late) Governor of the Leeward Islands, voted by the Council and Assembly of Antigua.

As an invitation to the youth of talent to persevere assiduously in his studies, I shall now give a chronological list of the various prizes adjudged to Bacon during his unremitted application to his beloved art. To his eternal honour be it spoken, he received the whole of these encouragements between the age of nineteen and thirty-seven—a period of seventeen of his earliest years, which, in the life of man, I regret to say, have hitherto been seldom filled with so much credit.

£ s. d.
In 1759, For a model in clay 10 10 0
1760, For a model in clay 15 15 0
1761, For a model in clay 15 15 0
1763, For a basso-relief in clay 10 10 0
1764, A basso-relief in clay 15 15 0
1765, A basso-relief in clay 21 0 0
1771, For a human figure as large as life 21 0 0
1774, For a human figure as large as life 52 10 0
1775, For a human figure as large as life 52 10 0

£215 5 0

My reader will recollect, that Bacon was the first artist who had the honour of being presented, in 1769, with the gold medal from the Royal Academy, as a modeller. Such a distinguished mark of the estimation of his talents by so honourable a body, consisting of the most eminent artists of his day, together with the preceding sums, amounting to 215l. 5s., voted to him by the Society of Arts, must excite a blush upon the cheek of those who have trifled away their time, whilst it also acts as a stimulus to others, who are only commencing their career.

Mr. Thornton, a gentleman already mentioned in this work, who married a daughter of Bacon, had frequent conversations with his father-in-law, respecting the works of Roubiliac; particularly upon two of the six monuments erected in Westminster Abbey, viz. Mrs. Nightingale's, and that of the Duke of Argyle. Of the former, Mr. Bacon said, that, fine as it was, he considered it to be far inferior to that of the latter. The figure of Eloquence he looked upon as the finest specimen of Sculpture, and acknowledged its merit to be such, that he was sure he could never equal it. In his opinion of this figure, Mr. Bacon is not singular, as every person of taste who stands before it for five minutes will be convinced.[5]

Mr. Bacon died on the seventh of August, 1799, and was buried in Whitefield's Chapel, Tottenham-court-road, under the north gallery, where the following inscription has been cut to his memory:—

"What I was as an Artist,
Seemed to me of some importance
While I lived;
What I really was as a Believer
In Christ Jesus,
Is the only thing of importance
To me now."

There is an animated bust of Bacon, modelled by his son, a cast of which is preserved with the utmost veneration, by the Sculptor's old and worthy friend, John Simmons, Esq.

In a letter to Prince Hoare, Esq. dated from Newman-street, January 1, 1809, and printed in that gentleman's work entitled "Academic Annals," Bacon's son, and successor, John, gives the following notices of the works he had in hand at that time.


"The tedious continuance of our works under the brain and the chisel, often makes one year's description of the works in hand the description of a second, a third, and even a fourth year (I refer to our more extensive works).

"Those which I shall presently describe are still unfinished. My equestrian statue in bronze of King William III. is completed, and placed in the situation designed for it, in the centre of St. James's-square.

"Believe me to remain,

"Sir, &c. &c.

"John Bacon.

"P. S. I have just now in commencement a statue in marble of our beloved King, a little above the size of life, to be placed in the Bank of Ireland, by order of the Directors. This commission I glory in.[6]

"To Prince Hoare, Esq. &c."

  1. Mrs. Coade's Artificial Stone Manufactory was erected in the year 1769, at the King's Arms Stairs, Narrow Wall, Lambeth. In a descriptive catalogue of the contents of this manufactory, published in 1784, what were at that time deemed the advantages of Artificial Stone, are minutely se forth. At page 82, of Nichols's "History and Antiquities of the Parish of Lambeth," speaking of this establishment, the author says, "Here are many statues, which are allowed by the best judges to be master-pieces of Art, from the models of that celebrated artist, John Bacon, Esq.
  2. In what way this act of kindness ended, I am ignorant; but I have been also credibly informed, that after Johnson became a banker in Bond-street, and when he feared a serious run upon his house, Bacon stepped nobly forward, and lent his kind benefactor forty thousand pounds!!! From this circumstance, whether the loan amounted to such a sum or not, we are to conclude, that a man of Bacon's integrity must have repaid his truly kind friend, Johnson, in the sum he had advanced for the purchase of his premises, before he offered to lend him money.
  3. So states the late Joseph Baretti, when Secretary for Foreign Correspondence to the Royal Academy, in his work, entitled, "A Guide through the Royal Academy." This curious and rare pamphlet is unfortunately printed without a date; but, from internal evidence, I conjecture itto have been published about the year 1780. The following extracts are from pages 6 and 8. "The attic terminates with a group, consisting of the Arms of the British Empire, supported on one side by the Genius of England, on the other by Fame sounding her trumpet. The whole is a much approved performance of Mr. Bacon." Speaking of the south, or quadrangular front, the same Author observes, "The Couronnement, or attic finishing, by Mr. Bacon, like that of the Strand front, is composed of the British Arms, placed on a cartel, surrounded with sedges and sea-weeds. It is supported by Tritons armed with tridents, and holding a festoon of nets filled with fish and other marine productions."
  4. I have been informed by a gentleman, who declared he knew it to be a fact, that the engraved inscription of Chatham's monument, in Westminster Abbey, was partly written by Bacon; and he stated the circumstance to have taken place thus:—Bacon had waited a considerable time for the inscription, which had undergone so many alterations, that at last he was bold enough to venture on its completion himself, which, with his usual diffidence, he submitted to the consideration of his employers; and his proposed completion meeting their entire approbation, it was accordingly ordered to be cut upon the tablet.
  5. Canova spoke of Waterloo-bridge in the highest terms of approbation; and whenever he had occasion to speak of Sculpture, he declared that the figure of Eloquence, in Roubiliac's monument in Westminster Abbey, was the finest work of modern art which he had seen in this country.
  6. The father of the benevolent Archdeacon Markham, the late Archbishop of York, was the elder Bacon's greatest patron; and that amiable divine prevailed upon King George III. to sit to the Sculptor for his bust.