BLAKE CIRCLE - STOTHARD, CUMBERLAND AND HIGHMORE
Autograph journal kept by John Highmore of "An Eccentric Tour in Kent" made by the author, "an eccentric Being of no profession", in company with [George] Cumberland, "a Man of taste and science", and [Thomas] Stothard, "a painter by profession, chiefly in Mortimer's style and manner", all three being "dear lovers of, and votaries to, the goddess, Nature" (who is imagined as accompanying them on their journey and frequently addressed, the author explaining that "I can travel nowhere without a tutelary goddess" and that "the character was real, and tho' not actually present, was ever so in my imagination"), the first entry made at Sevenoaks on Saturday 22 May 1779 and the last at London on Wednesday 26 May 1779, their journey taking them over the hill between Sevenoaks and Bromley ("...Don't you think Cumberland's view of it very natural?..."), past Sir James Farnham's house (viewed from "the parsons summer house"), to Dorset Park ("...Stothard, who had been in search of Novelty another way, came in; - don't you admire his view of Dorset Park? I wonder what in the world our waiter thinks - after dinner to see us all so busy - one scribbling t'other drawing, another painting - gad says he, here's Loutherbourg, a brother brush, and an author, I suppose - Artists and Authors, - poor enough, no doubt!..."), past Bradbourne, Kempson, the river Derwent, the "park of St Clere", Wrotham (where they stayed at The Bull), to "the heights above the town" ("...Stothard took one, Cumberland two views..."), where Stothard sketches Cumberland ("...Cumberland! stop, and take a view of this cottage, it has a curious picturesque appearance, and we'll sit upon this rail before it..."), to West Malling Abbey ("...Good God! here's an abbey at the skirts of the Town, we knew nothing of! Cumberland! Stothard! you must draw this Abbey: - you Stothard take this front View - Cumberland, and I... will go into that garden, and take a side view - how romantic!... well let's see for Stothard! here he is sitting on the grass with a parcel of children round about him; - what a sweet girl that is! how naturally elegant! what a shape, what a complection, only look at her love! gad that's a clever view of Stothard's! but come let's be gone..."), to East Malling (where Stothard and Cumberland draw the landlord's step-daughter) en route to Maidstone, walking there by moonlight with Stothard looking "very much like a Captain of Banditti" ("...But here's a gate, a tree too! that large hollow tree! - how fine! - do Stothard stand you in it - there that's the position - your elbow leaning on the post before, resting your cheek upon the back of your right hand, supported by your crooked stick, rather leaning forwards, your head inclining to the right, with eyes upcast to Heaven - Good God! - how sublime an attitude! - sketch him off Cumberland...") and where, after a good deal more rhapsodizing, they end up at the "Starr Inn" [now the Star Hotel]; they then progress to the river Medway, where they find a pub, secure a flat boat, and go for a swim; afterwards they set off to Rochester, where next morning they secure a key to the castle ("...Eight oClock in the Morning, by george: do Cumberland - Stothard - do get up - now we'll go and take views of the Castle - Stothard take this view..."); after visiting the castle, they progress to Gravesend, with Highmore composing verse and his companions sketching; early the following morning they take the packet back to London, taking the opportunity to chat-up two girls on board ("...No sooner were we all three embark'd than Cumberland and I scraped acquaintance with two decent looking girls, who seemed to be on a holiday trip to London - we were very civil to them you may be sure - handed them down into the cabin and procured them seats - Cumberland got his Mistress'es cloak and sat himself down at her feet upon it, rested his drawing book on her lap, and began to sketch a number of curious characters that were ranged upon the bench... Stothard, who by the way you know is a very diffident Man, and withall a Man of no Conversation, kept walking the deck all this while in a misle of rain..."); and so back to London, 82 numbered pages, plus title-page and 8 pages of 'Dedication' and 'Preface', armorial bookplate of Anthony Highmore, and pencil ownership signature "A Highmore" on title (possibly being the author's brother and inheritor of the volume), marbled endpapers and boards, half-vellum, gilt morocco label on spine 'Tour In Kent. J.H. 1779.', minor scuffs and wear but overall in fine, fresh condition, 8vo, "London Wednesday the 26th May 1779"