Townley, Charles

, an accomplished scholar and connoisseur, was the eldest son of William Townley, of Townley, esq. and Cecilia his wife, sole heiress of Ralph Standish, of Standish in Lancashire, esq. by lady Philippa Howard, daughter of Henry duke of Norfolk. His paternal grandmother was heiress of the house of Widdrington. He was born in the house of his ancestors October 1, 1737; and succeeded to the family estate, by the premature death of his father, in 1742. This event, united with religious considerations, sent him in early childhood to France for education; to which, however, much more attention was paid than is usual in the seminaries of that couutry. At a | tetter period he was committed to the care of Turbervile Needham, a man of considerable reputation at that time upon the Continent as a natural philosopher. His own native taste and activity of mind carried him far beyond his companions in classical attainments; and a graceful person easily adapted itself to all the forms of polished address, which are systematically taught in France. Thus accomplished he came out into the world, and was eagerly received into the first circles of gaiety and fashion, from the dissipations of which it would be vain to say that he wholly escaped. These habits of life, however, in which imbecility grows old without the power, and vanity without the will, to change, after having tried them for a few years, his vigorous and independent mind shook off at once; and by one of those decisive efforts of which it was always capable, he withdrew to the Continent, resumed his literary pursuits, studied with critical exactness the works and principles of ancient art, and gradually became one of the first connoisseurs in Europe. During this period of his life he principally resided at Rome; from whence, ki different excursions, he visited the remotest parts of Magna Graecia and Sicily. He has been heard to relate, that on arriving at Syracuse, after a long and fatiguing journey, he could take neither rest nor refreshment till he had visited the fountain of Arethusa. This, though a trifling, is a characteristic circumstance; for he never spared himself, nor ever desisted from any pursuit, till he had either obtained his object or completely exhausted his strength^

Though far from indifferent to any of the fine arts, statuary was his favourite, and he soon became too ardent a lover of antiquity to remain a spectator of its fairest forms without courting the possession. His principal agent at Rome, after he ceased to reside there, was Mr. Jenkins. How he acquired so many specimens of ancient art from the East we have now no means of learning. When his “dead family,” as he was wont to call them, grew considerable, he purchased for their reception two successive houses in London; the latter of which (in Park-street, Westminster,) he fitted up with great elegance, and made it his principal residence till his death, which happened, to the unspeakable grief of his friends, January 3, 1805.

The Townley Marbles were now become a national object; the trustees of the British Museum, therefore, | obtained from Parliament a grant of 20,000l. probably not halt the original cost; and for this sum they were purchased from the family. In the midst of an expensive war, and under the administration of one whose great mind rarely condescended to patronize the fine arts, this may be considered as a remarkable testimony to their value. They were, on the whole, undoubtedly the most select assemblage of Greek and Roman sculpture ever brought into England. That of the earl of Arundel, the first which travelled so far beyond the Alps, though much more numerous, appears from the remnants of it which are preserved, to have been filled with subjects of very inferior merit. The same perhaps may be said of a few celebrated collections yet remaining in some noble houses. But in the Townley Museum there was not a single statue, bust, or basso relievo, which did not rise far above mediocrity; and with the exception of seven or eight subjects beyond the hope or possibility of private attainment, it certainly contained the finest specimens of ancient art yet remaining in the world. Among these may be distinguished the farfamed head of Homer, the apotheosis of Marcus Aurelius, the younger Verus, the Astragalizontes, a small but exquisitely beautiful group,*


This is probably a copy from the bronze group by Polycletus, mentioned by Pliny, as existing in his time, in the Atrium of Titus, 1. xxxiv. c. 8. f See Recherches sur l’Origine et lee Progres des Arts de la Grece a Londrev M.DCC.LXXXV." Dr. Whitaker has a copy of this work, enriched with Mr. Townley’s notes, and with engravings never published of the principal tmtwes au’l busU in his possession, ait. The Homer has been engraved for the splendid edition of the Iliad lately published at Oxford. Prefixed to the introduction of the Recherches is a profile of Mr. Townley, as on a Greek medal, reverse Fiponoi A; but the likeness is not a good one. He was himself no contemptible engraver; and a sardonyx bicolor, in the same work, bears his name, Car. Townley sculpDr. Whitaker adds, that the light


thrown on the architectural projections in Basire’s beautiful plate of the cloister court of Whalley was from a correction by Mr. Townley’s hand. At the time of his death a magnificent plate of one apartment in his museum, from a painting by Zuffani, was under the engraver’s hands. It contains a tolerable likeness of himself at fortyfive; and of his friends the hon. Mr. Grevile, Mr. Astle, and Mr. D’Ancarvile. But the misfortune is, that, for the sake of effect, many of the subjects have been transferred from their real situations. The stipulated price of this plate was no less than 1200l.

the Isis, the female Bacchus, the ivy-crowned Muse, and the small bronze of Hercules Alastor, found at Biblus in Syria.

The Townley Museum was also rich in gems, terra cottas, sepulchral monuments; and, above all, in a series of Roman imperial, large brass, second only in extent and preservation to that of the late king of France, which alone had cost the collector above 3000l. The Greek medals were rather specimens than a collection; having been selected for a particular purpose, which will now be explained.

Mr. Townley was a zealous advocate for the mythological system of D’Ancarvilef; who compiled the greater | part of his curious work in Park-street, and derived some of his best illustrations from specimens in that collection. Of this system, which has not been generally received in England, it must be allowed that, amidst the silence of the earlier writers of antiquity, it is powerfully supported by the later Platonists, and the remains of ancient art. The symbols employed by sculptors and engravers to adumbrate the creative, destroying, and restoring powers of the universe, appear to have been connected with the mysteries. By the vulgar they were considered as the attributes of common Polytheism by the initiated they were referred to the Απορητα of their own system.

Though an indefatigable writer, Mr. Townley never printed any thing but a dissertation on the Ribchester helmet, in the “Vetusta Monumenta” of the Society of Antiquaries. The reason of this reserve may partly have been much native delicacy of mind, and partly a consciousness that his English style was tinctured witl\ foreign idioms. Indeed, he never spoke his native tongue but with some hesitation, and had frequent recourse to French and Italian words to remove his embarrassment. He had much native delicacy of mind; a quality never more conspicuous than in the familiar, extenuating manner in which he spoke of his own antiquarian treasures: treasures such as the Medici might have boasted of.

Contemptæ dominus splendidior rei.

To young connoisseurs, and in general to his inferiors in taste and science, who sought his assistance, he was an active and zealous patron, sparing neither his interest nor his exertions to promote their views.

But it would be injurious to the memory of this excellent person to consider him merely as a virtuoso. He was one of the most benevolent and generous of men. The demands of taste, however importunate, could never tempt him either to rapacity or retention. In his conduct to a numerous tenantry he was singularly considerate and humane: and whether present or absent from his house in | the country, the stream of his bounty to the indigent never dried up or diminished. In one year of general distress, approaching to famine, he distributed among the poor of the neighbouring townships a sum equivalent to a fourth part of the clear income arising from the estate. His personal habits, though elegant, were frugal and unostentatious. He never even kept a carriage. He was an early riser, and an exact ceconomist of his time. To his own affairs he was minutely and skilfully attentive. In his later years he grew more attached to his native place, and displayed in adorning the grounds about it a taste not inferior to that which distinguished his other pursuits. His temper, though naturally cheerful, was calm and sedate. His conversation, though regulated by the nicest forms of goodbreeding, was seasoned with a kind of Attic irony, not always unfelt by those about him. His manner had much both of dignity and sweetness. He was happy in a vigorous constitution, and still more so in a slow and sensible decay; for, after half a century of uninterrupted health and spirits, which gave but too keen a relish to every enjoyment, a. lingering disorder which hung over him for the three last years of his life, co-operating with other means, brought him to a deep and serious sense of religion; and in this sense he died.

Mr. Townley was interred, Jan. 17, 1805, in the family chapel at Burnley in Lancashire, where those who love his memory would rejoice to see the best judge of sculpture in Europe commemorated by a bust at least. Added to that memorial his name would be enough:*


The following, however, has at length been chosen, and is entitled to a place here for its classical purity and elegance:

"M. S.

Caroli Towneleii

viri ornati, modesti;

nobilitate stirpis, amoeoitate ingenii, suavitate morum,


qni omnium honarum artium, prsesertim Graecarum,

spectator elegantissimus, act tirnator acerrimus, judex peritisstmus,

earum reliqtiias, ex urbium veterum ruderibus effbssas,

cumrao studio conquisivit, sua peeunia redemit, in usutn patriae reposuit,

ea liberalitftte animi, qua, juvenis adhuc,

haereditatem alteram, vix patnmonio minorem,

fratri sponte cesserat, dono dederat.

vixit annos Lxyii menses in dies in

mortem obiit Jan. in. A. S. MDCCCV."

for, till this generation shall have passed away, the truest sepulchral panegyric would be useless in another it would be suspected. 1

I>r. Whitaker’s Hist. of Whalley.