Sunday, 18 October 2015

Warren Hastings, With fangs like those which wolves & tigers wear

Warren Hastings by Lemuel Abbott [1]

By 1797 Warren Hastings with his trial over, Hastings had retired to Daylesford from where he carried on an extensive correspondence with many former friends and colleagues.  Amongst whom was Edward Baber, once his secretary in Calcutta.

On the 7th of May 1797 Edward received the following letter at his Park Street home in London.

Letter from W Hastings to Edward Baber, page 1
The text reads:

Daylesford house 6th May 1797

My dear Baber

                                    I am so much pleased with the copy which I have just finished of my own portrait from an excellent original now in the possession of your friend, Mr Cowper, that I cannot resist the inclination which I feel to send it to you.  As an atonement for imposing upon you the labor of inspecting it, I have associated it with a recruit of chilleys.—

Yours affectionate
W Hastings

Verses to be inscribed on a portrait painted by W. Abbots.

            A mouth extended fierce from ear to ear,
With fangs like those which wolves & tigers wear;
Eys, whose dark orbs announce, and sullen mood,
A lust of rapine, and a thirst of blood;
Such Hastings was, as by the Commons painted----
(--- Men shudder’d as they look’d, and women fainted---)
When they display’d him to the vacant throne,
And had the Peers the labor’d likeness own,
and such, in all his attributes array’d,
Behold him here, on Abbott’s canvass spread!

Letter from W Hastings to Edward Baber, page 2

Tis true, to vulgar sense they lie conceal’d,
To Burke, and men like Burke, alone reveal’d.
They, their own hearts consulting, see him here
In hues reflected from themselves appear;
With Metaphysic eye the picture scan,
Piece through the varnish, and detect the man.
To Burke it shews a soul with envy curst,
Malignant, a foe to shame, untrue
To ev’ry kindred tie, and social too:
To Fox, a shifting knave, with false pretence:
Michael alone decried his want of sense.
And all in avarice agreed to find,
Or make, the ruling passion of his mind.
Yet he has friends! And they, --- nay, (strange to tell!)
His very wife, who ought to know him well,
Where daily suff’rings from the worst of men
Should make her wish the wretch impeach’d again—
Believe him gentle, meek and true of heart. –

            O Hastings, what a hypocrite thou art!

Although retired from the East India Company for many years, Edward Baber continued to follow EIC procedures cataloguing Hastings letter.

Besides illustrating Warren Hastings continuing rancour and disdain for Edmund Burke this letter raises an interesting point.

Which is the original Abbott portrait, and how many copies were there?

What became of the copies and especially the one Hastings was sending Edward Baber?

The following portrait was for instance sold by Philip Mould Ltd and now resides in a private collection in the USA.

A copy perhaps of the original by Abbott. [2]

[1] From the National Portrait Gallery