Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/413

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


Day’ (1823). To the British Institution he was a more constant contributor. In such genre subjects as those mentioned Burnet showed some humour in the manner of Wilkie, but his most frequent subjects were, like those of his brother James [q. v.], landscapes with cattle. He was a sound and careful painter, but of little originality.

Burnet devoted some time to the improvement of mechanical processes of engraving, with a view to the cheap reproduction of works of art. He produced some engravings of Raphael's cartoons at a low cost, but they had not much success. The Sheepshanks Collection contains two of his paintings, ‘Cows Drinking’ (1817), and ‘The Fishmarket at Hastings.’

In 1836 Burnet gave valuable evidence before the select committee of the commons on arts and manufactures, and as a writer on art he achieved and still maintains a deserved reputation. His thorough knowledge of his profession, both as engraver and painter, and his sound and sober judgment, give his writings a value often wanting to those of more brilliant authors. The following is a list of his most important books: 1. ‘Practical Hints on Composition,’ 1822. 2. ‘Practical Hints on Light and Shade,’ 1826. 3. ‘Practical Hints on Colour,’ 1827. These were published together as ‘A Practical Treatise on Painting,’ in three parts, 1827. 4. ‘An Essay on the Education of the Eye,’ 1837. This was added to and published with the previous three as ‘A Treatise on Painting,’ in four parts. 5. ‘Discourses of Sir Joshua Reynolds,’ annotated, 1844. 6. ‘Letters on Landscape-painting in Oil,’ 1848. 7. ‘Practical Essays on various branches of the Fine Arts, and an Enquiry into the Practice and Principles of the late Sir David Wilkie, R.A.,’ 1848. 8. ‘Rembrandt and his Works,’ 1849. 9. ‘Hints on Portrait-painting,’ 1850. 10. ‘Turner and his Works,’ 1852. 11. ‘Progress of a Painter in the Nineteenth Century,’ 1854. Burnet illustrated with etchings most of these works, of which the four parts of the ‘Treatise on Painting’ contain 130. This treatise has passed through numerous editions. Several of his other works have also been republished.

Burnet was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1860, at the recommendation of Lord Palmerston, he received a pension from the civil list and retired to Stoke Newington, where he died at his house in Victoria Road on 29 April 1868, aged 84.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists, 1878; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers (Graves); Pye's Patronage of British Art; Athenæum, June 1868; Art Journal, 1850, 1868.]

C. M.

BURNET, MARGARET (1630?–1685?), the first wife of Gilbert Burnet, afterwards bishop of Salisbury, was the eldest daughter of John Kennedy, sixth earl of Cassilis, by his first wife, Lady Jean Hamilton. She inherited from him his remarkable strength and tenacity of character, as well as the inflexible fidelity to presbyterianism for which he was so well known. She was daring in the expression of her opinions, and her letters are full of a shrewd and masculine wit. She was reputed, too, to be possessed of considerable scholarship. It is related, in illustration of her boldness, that on one occasion during the Commonwealth, while standing at an open window, she reviled some of Cromwell's soldiers as murderers of their king. The soldiers threatened to fire upon her if she did not desist, and upon her continuing actually did so, though the bullets did not strike her. After the Restoration she was distinguished as the steady and uncompromising friend of broad and liberal presbyterianism. She refused to attend the episcopal church so long as the persecution of presbyterian ministers during Rothes's commissionership continued; and she was on terms of the closest intimacy with Lauderdale, Robert Moray, and the other favourers at that time of the conciliation policy, in which she greatly assisted. To Lauderdale she continually gave most valuable information on the state of the country and the plans of his enemies (Bannatyne Club Publications). So close was the friendship between her, Lauderdale, and Moray, that in the letters which passed between the latter two she is usually spoken of as ‘our wife,’ or as one of ‘our wives,’ the other being the Duchess of Hamilton, her cousin, with whom she frequently resided (Lauderdale MSS., British Museum). The charge that she carried on a criminal intrigue with Lauderdale (Mackenzie, Memoirs, p. 165) has, however, no evidence to sustain it, and the tone of her letters to him, as well as of those between him and Moray, is altogether contrary to such a supposition. In 1671, when she was ‘well stricken in years,’ she married Gilbert Burnet, who was considerably her junior, and who on the day before the marriage, in order that it should not be said that he married for her money, delivered to her a deed in which he renounced all pretension to her fortune, which was very considerable (Burnet, History of my own Time, Clarendon Press, 1833, vi. 263). ‘The marriage was consummated in a clandestine way by an order from Young, bishop of Edinburgh, to Mr. Patrick Grahame, and that only before two of Mr. Grahame's servants, and was three years