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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

256               Written Sketches

that to sixty, who was told to sit at the head of the table, and
accordingly did so. This gentleman had a decided manner
and carried quite as many guns as the two barristers (for
barristers they were) who sat opposite to us. He had rather
a red nose, he dined maigre because he had to, but he did not
like it. I do not think he dined maigre often. He had some-
thing of the air of a half, if not wholly, broken-down black-
guard of a gambler who had seen much but had moved in
good society and been accustomed to have things more or
less his own way.

This gentleman, who before he went gave us his card,
immediately opened up conversation both with us and with
our neighbours, addressing his remarks alternately and im-
partially to each. He said he was an Italian who had the
profoundest admiration for England. I said at once—

" Lei non pud amare 1' Inghilterra piu die io amo ed ammiro
T Italia."

The Manning-Parry barrister looked up with an air of
slightly offended surprise. Conversation was from this
point carried on between both parties through the Italian
who acted, as Gogin said afterwards, like one of those stones
in times of plague on which people from the country put their
butter and eggs and people from the town their money.

By and by dealings became more direct between us and at
last, I know not how, I found myself in full discussion with
the elder barrister as to whether Jean Van Eyck's picture in
the National Gallery commonly called "Portrait of John
Arnolfini and his Wife " should not properly be held to be a
portrait of Van Eyck himself (which, by the way, I suppose
there is no doubt that it should not, though I have never
gone into the evidence for the present inscription). Then
they spoke of the tricks of light practised by De Hooghe ; so
we rebelled, and said De Hooghe had no tricks—no one less—
and that what they called trick was only observation and
direct rendering of nature. Then they applauded Tintoretto;
and so did we, but still as men who were bowing the knee to
Baal. We put in a word for Gaudenzio Ferrari, but they had
never heard of him. Then they played Raffaelle as a safe
card and we said he was a master of line and a facile decorator,
but nothing more.

On this all the fat was in the fire, for they had invested in