Views & Reviews Between the Lines

A painter’s writings

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 02 November 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6989
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

If the artistic muse rewarded effort and devotion alone, Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846) would have been the greatest artist who ever lived. Often, and for years, he worked 16 hours or more a day at his art; he suffered every kind of deprivation for it. Alas, try as he might, he could rarely get things right. After his tragic death aged 60 (he cut his own throat after failing to kill himself with a gun), Dickens wrote with obvious regret, “All his life [Haydon] had utterly mistaken his vocation. No amount of sympathy with him and sorrow for him in his manly pursuit of a wrong idea for so many years . . . ought to prevent one from saying …

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