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and modest papers of autobiography which he contributed to the Contemporary Review,'* lets us divine rather than distinctly trace the difficulties which beset his early career; lets us see him reduced to drawing realistic fies -pre-rapbaelite flies, we may be sure—upon an office window looking out on three blank walls. And we see the narrowness of the chances by which he escaped being condemned to such a life of drudgery for ever. Millais knew scarcely any of these disabilities. There were a few years of his life during which it seemed to him, looking back, that he had been dreadfully bullied :' these were the years when he was reckoned the protagonist of the
prerapbaelites; they were probably the most valuable in his whole career. Taken in the sum, his life was one of almost uninterrupted success, of going from strength to strength. His talent was so precocious it was impossible to blink it. There is a tolerably well-known story, repeated here, of how when the two little Millais, William and John, were living at Dinan-William eight years of age, John only six—the latter made some sketches of the soldiers of the garrison, and, the sketches falling into the hands of the officers, they were taken to the barracks. Those who had not seen the boy at work swore, and were ready to wager, that their brother officers were taking them in; until John Millais was brought to the mess, and, by making a drawing of the colonel, settled the question and the wager.
Unlike the father of Holman Hunt, John Millais' people not only did not discourage, but did everything to forward the boy in his artistic leanings. The Millais were Jersey folk. Mr. John Guille Millais speaks of the artist's father as a man of great personal beauty and considerable gifts, especially as a musician, but without ambition, 'content to lead the life of a country gentleman.' How beit, he gave up this life that his son might have an artistic education in London. And, later on, apparently, his means decreased; for in 1849-50 we find the father more or less dependent upon his son. At nine years old John Millais began to draw in the British Museum; the same year (1838) he gained a silver medal from the Society of Arts. He attended Sass's school, and, the year following, was admitted to the school of the Royal Academy. We have a pleasant picture of him at this age, a little boy in a jacket and a goffered collar,' the youngest of the Academy students and always known as the child.'* John Phillip painted his head about this time, a beautiful portrait executed in the impressionist manner before impressionism, such as we not seldom find in the work of this not enough appreciated artist. Millais, handsome to the day of his death, was altogether beautiful in his youth, with the face of an
* Vol. xlix.
angel,' as Rossetti said. This gift, allied to his precocious talent, made him a natural leader to the band among whom he found himself. During all these early years he never ceased gaining medals and honours of all kinds. At seventeen he received the gold medal of the Academy for an oil painting, and, the year following, he exhibited his · Pizarro and the Inca of Peru,' which a French critic spoke of as the best historical picture in the show. When, in 1850, Ruskin wrote his first letter in defence of the pre-raphaelites, he spoke of Millais as the leader of them, and as a man simply weighed down by the medals and the honours he had received.
It was in 1846 that Millais and Holman Hunt, his senior by two years, first became friends. At this time they were closely allied, and were painting together. The two years which followed, 1847–8, were the epochal period of Millais' life, the one which influenced his whole after-achievement.
It is known that Millais always repudiated, and with some warmth, the suggestion that the pre-raphaelite brotherhood owed its existence above all to Dante Rossetti. And this view of the matter is supported also by Mr. Holman Hunt in his published reminiscences. Rossetti, who had been hovering between literature and art, was at the moment of the founding of the brotherhood scarcely out of the pupil stage. Mr. Hunt speaks of him as 'my pupil,' but he also attended the studio of Ford Madox Brown. Hunt and Millais, on the other hand, were doing independent work side by side, even helping each other, Millais painting a head or two for Hunt's
Madeleine and Porphyro,' and Hunt some of the draperies in Millais' Ettyesque Cymon and Iphigenia.' And it is 'curious,' says Mr. J. G. Millais, “to notice how alike their
work was in those days: so much so that, when Hunt examined the picture in the Millais Exhibition of 1898, he could not distinguish the parts he had painted.'
These two determined, at the beginning of 1848, to adopt a style of absolute independence as to art dogma and convention. This we called Pre-Raphaelitism,' says Mr.
* It was a name which stuck to him among his familiar friends.
Holman Hunt. But Rossetti began by calling it “Early “ Christian,'” because that name was current in Madox Brown's studio.* Truth to tell, the determining influence in this first pre-raphaelitism (for there were in a sense two pre-raphaelitisms) came neither from Millais nor from Hunt, but from Ford Madox Brown. Madox Brown was senior by some years to any of the original members of the brother
hood. His style of painting, learnt in Flanders, and thoroughly Flemish in inspiration, so greatly infected Hunt -unconsciously no doubt that the younger artist has never shaken off that influence. And all the succeeding painters who followed the lead of Millais and Hunt, Messrs. Val Prinsep, Martineau, and the rest, were, artistically, the children of Madox Brown. On another side, the intellectual side, Ruskin's prophetic voice, then not long arisen on the world, was a factor of imineasurable importance. Brown never joined the association; as an older man with a style of his own, and a certain reputation of his own, he considered it beneath him, and offended the clique by refusing. What
a crabbed old fellow he is !' Millais exclaimed when the refusal was reported. (The old fellow' was then twentynine.) But Madox Brown contributed to "The Germ,' the short-lived pre-raphaelite organ, that priceless relic of aspirations long ago fulfilled or disappointed, and of a revolution whose very meaning our day cannot easily understand.
A good deal of legend clustered round this movement even from the outset, so that we need not be surprised to read in M. Ernest Chesneau's · La peinture anglaise,' † that • the religious and even mystical element in the Pre-Raphaelite school entered not only into the works but into the life of its followers. They separated themselves from the world and worked in solitude. And at the time when their austere enthusiasm was at its highest, that is to say, in the earliest days, they added, as a sort of confession of faith, a distinguishing mark, the three letters P.R.B.' As a fact the name and the signature of the brotherhood was adopted half in jest. With Holman Hunt and with Millais the movement signified a search after sincerity, an escape from the fashionable academic conventions. But Rossetti's poet's and seer's eye saw much more in it than this. It was he who had the spirit of the propaganda ; it was his talk
* Howbeit Madox Brown alone among the set of “The Germ’had come into contact with the German pre-raphaelites of a past epoch. Life of Madox Brown,' by Hueffer, p. 43. † P. 186.
which set the legends going, and prepared the storm which was to fall upon the heads of those of the unhappy brothers who exhibited, so soon as their secret became known. And this prophetic vision of Rossetti's was the true one; for out of pre-raphaelitism great births were to proceed.
Every fresh generation witnesses its changes of taste in art as in literature. The changes which have taken place in the theory of painting since the days of the pre-raphaelites are something much more than changes of taste, whether for good or evil. They constitute in the literal sense of the term a revolution; men have been taught to adore what they burned, or would have burned, and to burn that which they adored. In intellectual centres, where people love pictures (but chiefly the Old Masters), and criticise them, but know little of the actual business of painting, Ruskin is still a great name and a great power. With the most part of the working modern artists, with Paris-nurtured painters ‘in the movement,' he is a synonym for all that is false in the theory and practice of their craft. Whichever view the future of art inay find the most right, no capable student of intellectual development can misconstrue the importance of that upheaval which we call pre-raphaelitism ; of that epoch in the history of art which is marked on the one hand by the early writings of Ruskin, on the other by the first pictures signed with the initials P.R.B., Hunt's Rienzi,' Millais' Lorenzo and Isabella,' and the Christ in the House of His Parents.'
On this practical side Millais appears as the undoubted champion of the movement, though a little strangely, when his character is considered. And he had to bear the brunt of the attacks against it. The war which raged round his pictures, and Holman Hunt's in a less degree, is in every way comparable to the greatest among known battles of the books. It bears, indeed, a close resemblance to the famous battle of • Hernani,' which had been fought eighteen years before. The story got about that these young painters desired to upset all prescribed judgements on art; and people who had no real interest in the subject roused themselves to chastise their impudence. One of the most savage onslaughts was Dickens's in `Household Words. Mr. J. G. Millais only refers to this slightly, perhaps because Dickens and Millais were afterwards friends. But as a fact the article is amusing enough in its very violence. The writer arrays before him the young men, and, as it were, threatens them with the great names of their day, most of which names have for us sunk into a mean, a secondary place. “You,' he
says to his readers, come in the Royal Academy Exhi
bition, which is familiar with the works of Wilkie, Collins, • Etty, Eastlake, Mulready, Leslie, Maclise,' and so forththe list ends with 'Herbert, Dyce, and Cope. You come in this place to the contemplation of a Holy Family (that is to say, Christ in the House of His Parents, otherwise called “The Carpenter's Shop'). “You will have the goodness to discharge from your minds all postRaphael ideas, all religious aspirations, all elevating * thoughts, all tender, awful, sorrowful, ennobling, sacred, · graceful, and beautiful associations, and to prepare yourself, 'as befits such a subject-Pre-Raphaelly considered—for • the lowest depths of what is mean, odious, repulsive, and re
volting. Thus he begins. The child Jesus of the picture is for him a blubbering red-headed boy in a bed-gown,' and Mary is a monster who ought to be exhibited in a show. And Dickens goes on in his better vein to suggest the formation of a Pre-Perspective Society, which is to do away with the laws of perspective, a Pre-Chaucer and Pre-Gower Society, which shall discard all admired poetry. 'A society to be
called the Pre-Newtonian was lately projected by a young * gentleman under articles to a civil engineer. But being
expostulated with for the timidity of his conception, he has • abrogated that idea in favour of a Pre-Galileo Brotherhood now flourishing, which distinctly refuses to perform any annual revolution round the sun.'
This is not so very terrible, this bullying, seeing that the writer has no pretence to understand the subject he is treating of. A modern painter would not be much distressed thereby. There was, no doubt, some real reason for this display of passion; not so much in Dickens the man, as in Dickens feeling the beat of the general pulse. There was some hint of rationalism in the realistic treatment of sacred subjects which the world would not put up with. For, otherwise, how can we explain that a picture so charming and simple, so naïve and yet so admirably drawn as 'The Carpenter's Shop' should have offended so? Questionless the pre-raphaelitic principles in painting were not sound. But the best of their production, and Millais' pictures constitute the best, has an infinite charm.
This great uproar began in 1850. The brotherhood gathered many accessions to its ranks-William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, a painter of small merit, W. H. Deverell, Woolner, F. G. Stephens, J. L. Tupper; and their