William Jackson of Exeter

Frances Burney, 1782; Diary and Letters of the Author of Madam D'Arblay, ed. Austin Dobson (1904-05) 2:161-62.

Saturday, Dec. 28. — My father and I dined and spent the day at Sir Joshua Reynolds', after many preceding disappointments. Our dinner-party consisted mere of Mr. [Benjamin] West, the painter, Mr. Jackson of Exeter, and Miss Reynolds. Mr. West had, some time ago, desired my father to invite him to our house, to see that lion, your sister, saying to him, "You will be safe, Dr. Burney, in trusting to our meeting, for I am past forty, and married."

My father, however, has had no time, and therefore I believe he applied to Sir Joshua, for the servant who brought our card of invitation said he was to carry no other till ours was answered.

The moment Miss Palmer had received me with a reproachful "At last we are met," Sir Joshua took my hand, and insisted upon wishing me a merry Christmas according to old forms, and then presenting me to Mr. West, he said,

"You must let me introduce you to one of your greatest admirers."

Mr. West is a very pleasing man, gentle, soft-mannered, cheerful, and serene. Mr. Jackson you may remember our family formerly seeing; he is very handsome, and seems possessed of much of that ardent genius which distinguishes Mr. [Arthur] Young; for his expressions, at times, are extremely violent, while at other times he droops, and is so absent that he seems to forget not only all about him, but himself.

They were both exceedingly civil to me, and dear Sir Joshua is so pleasant, so easy, so comfortable, that I never was so little constrained in a first meeting with people who I saw came to meet me.

After dinner Mr. Jackson undertook to teach us all how to write with our left hands. Some succeeded, and some failed; but both he and Mr. West wrote nothing but my name. I tried, and would have written Sir Joshua, but it was illegible, and I tore the paper; Mr. Jackson was very vehement to get it from me.

"I have done the worst," cried I, and I don't like disgracing myself."

"Pho!" cried he, just with the energy and freedom of Mr. Young, "let me see it at once; do you think you can do anything with your left hand that will lessen the credit of what you have done with your right?"

This, however, was all that was hinted to me upon the subject by him.