Work under any circumstances

Napoléon Bonaparte (‘Napoléon on St Helena’) by Benjamin Robert Haydon, oil on canvas, before 1846
NPG 6266 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Benjamin Robert Haydon was a 19th-century British artist and writer whose career was plagued by financial hardship and legal troubles. Born in 1786, Haydon’s passion for historical painting led him down a tumultuous path, as mounting debts and controversial public statements frequently resulted in his arrest; however, he remained steadfast in his commitment to his craft. Haydon kept extensive journals throughout, and when he wrote this entry in April of 1845, he was 59 and still determined to create art regardless of the obstacles he faced. Tragically, just a year later he would take his own life, his final entry ending with the line, “‘Stretch me no longer on this rough world.’—Lear.”

Diary Entry

27th. A man who defers working because he wants tranquillity of mind will have lost the habit when tranquillity comes. Work under any circumstances—all circumstances. I used to carry my sketch when arrested, and sketch and compose as I sat by the officer’s side. The consequence was I was always ready, never depressed, and returned to my work with a new thought or an additional improvement, as if I had been all the time at home.

Further Reading

Haydon’s journals were published in the 1850s and are now long out of print and copyright. They can be found on the Internet Archive. Much of his artwork can be seen over at Wikimedia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *