23 DECEMBER 1916, Page 14


[To THE EDITOE OP TIER " SPECTATOR.") am not the only friend and fellow-worker of the late Sir Hugh Lane who will be grateful for your note in last week's issue. May I give you nsomewhat more detailed account of the circum- stances than has yet been published? Some influential reader of yours may help to accomplish an act of generosity and of justice. Sir Hugh Lane had for many years as his chief preoccupation the formation of a great collection of modern art in Dublin. He was of Irish birth, and his father's family had been connected with Cork and his mother's with Galway County for genera- tions. In Dublin he was the victim of an ill-mannered Press campaign, and more, as Dr. Hayden Brown, with whom he discussed the matter, has testified, as "a retaliation and iaducement for the future" than as a final decision, he made a will leaving his famous collection of French pictures to the London National Gallery. These pictures had been collected for Dublin, and were, in his own words, " complementary to the collection already there." I saw him at the time, and he made to me a promise, which his aunt and close friend, Lady Gregory, to whom I wrote, must have somewhere among her papers. After a lapse of time he would once more offer to Dublin the same or better pictures, but he wished his decision for the present, for diplomatic reasons, to seem final. I remember one sentence with, I believe, verbal accuracy : " You may be quite certain I will not leave the present Dublin Municipal Gallery to represent me; it is sot good enough." He was a man of the most vehement feelings, irascible and generous beyond any man I have ever known. And presently there came a new quarrel to occupy his thoughts. It was with the Trustees of the London National Gallery about a proposed loan exhibition of his pictures there, and I am con- vinced, having lately gone through his papers, that he was entirely in the right. From that time on, he spoke of the London Trustees with a bitterness I have never heard in any speech about his Dublin enemies. A little later he was appointed Director of the Dublin National Gallery, and his thoughts and his affections returned to Dublin. In February, 1915, he wrote a codicil leaving his French pictures to Dublin. He signed it, but it was not witnessed. He was a man of no business habits in the ordinary sense of the word, and his sister (to whom he had dictated his two previous wills, the earliest leaving everything to Dublin and the later leaving the French pictures to London) has no doubt that he considered it in the light of a postscript to an already witnessed will and therefore in itself legal. She has testified that neither of his wills would have been witnessed but for her persistency, and that at the making of the second he had forgotten all that she had told him at the making of the first. He never forgot the least detail about any picture that bad once interested him, but nothing else seemed to stay in his mind. He sealed this codicil In an envelope addressed to his sister and left it in his desk in Dublin on the eve of a dangerous voyage. He realized the danger of that voyage so clearly that at first he had refused to go unless those who invited him to America insured his life for £50,000 to free Lis estate of certain liabilities in the case of death. He wrote this codicil with great care and, his sister believes, after several rough drafts, for it was well written and he composed even a letter with difficul ty.

Nor did he change his purpose daring the few weeks that passed between the writing of it and his sailing from New York in the Lusitania.' Mrs. Duncan, Curator of the Dublin Muni- cipal Gallery of Modern Art, writes :-

" He spoke to me at length on the subject just before he sailed for America. He said he was anxious to remove his pictures from the National Gallery (they had been stored there since the public loan exhibition fell through), where they were not even seen by the public, and that he wished to bring them back to Dublin. He spoke of the need of a new building, but said that he would be content if the Corporation made good their promise to build a gallery in a reasonable time, leaving the choice of a site to them. Meanwhile he intended to rehang the pictures in the Dublin Municipal Gallery on his return from America. My recollection of this conversation is particularly clear as it made a deep Impression upon me at the time."

Iris friend Mr. Martin, who travelled to Liverpool with him when he was leaving England, is about to publish his recollection of a similar conversation which took place, I believe, in the train. Mr. John Quinn, the well-known New York lawyer and art collector and one of the governing body of the Metropolitan Museum, writes that Sir Hugh Lane told him just before the

Lusitania ' sailed that " if they would make some provision for a gallery, and I remember his saying ` not necessarily the bridge site,' he would give them the pictures as he always meant them to go there." Mr. Quinn is prepared to make a statutory declaration before the British Consul. Sir Hugh Lane's proposal to set the gallery upon a bridge over the Liffey was the only question at issue between him and the Dublin Corporation, and the moment he abandoned it all difficulty was at an end. I gave evidence some twelve months ago before, I think, the Finance Committee of the Dublin Corporation, and at my request the Lord Mayor renewed the promise already upon the books of the Corporation of a suitable building. The. Lord Mayor and the Corporation of Dublin and representatives of all the principal educational and learned Societies in that city, and such distinguished men as Mr. William

Orpen, Sir Horace Plunkett, Mr. George Russell "), and Mr. George Bernard Shaw, have sent memorials to the Trustees of the London Gallery, and we shall invite Parliament to give to those Trustees the necessary power to treat the codicil as legal, so that, in the words of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, " the last wishes of Sir Hugh Lane may be carried out."

There are no politics in the matter. Both the Irish parties are at one upon it, and the only danger is that in the press of war Parliament may not find the time or the thought for a concession in accordance with its own great traditions.—I am, Sir, &o.