Walker, "A Most Beautiful Engraving"

A moƒt beautiful ENGRAVING, by WALKER, from an Original Deƒign, repreƒenting an equally elegant and ƒtriking Likeneƒs of Mrs. MONTAGU and Mrs. BARBAULD

Engraving of the Muses of England by Walker

This engraving by Walker, which appeared in Johnson's Ladies New and Polite Pocket Memorandum for 1778, was based on Richard Samuel's original portrait of The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain (now owned by the National Portrait Gallery, London).

Elizabeth Carter commented on Walker's engraving in a letter to Elizabeth Montagu:

Deal, November 23, 1777

/47/ O Dear, O dear, how pretty we look, and what brave things has Mr. Johnson said of us! Indeed, my dear friend, I am just as sensible to present fame as you can be. Your Virgils and your Horaces may talk what they will of posterity, but I think it is much better to be celebrated by the men, women, and children, among whom one is actually living and looking. One thing is very particularly agreeable to my vanity, to say nothing about my heart, that it seems to be a decided point, that you and I are always to figure in the literary world together, and that from the classical poet, the water drinking rhymes, to the highest dispenser of human fame, Mr. Johnson's pocket book, it is perfectly well understood, that we are to make our appearance in the same piece. I am mortified, however, that we do not in this last display of our persons and talents stand in the same corner. As I am told we do not, for to say truth, by the mere testimony of my own eyes, /48/ I cannot very exactly tell which is you, and which is I, and which is any body else. But this must arise from the deficiency of my sight, for some of the good people of Deal, I am told, affirm my picture to be excessively like.

  --Letter CCVI from Letters from Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, To Mrs. Montagu, Between the Years 1755 and 1800, Chiefly Upon Literary and Moral Subjects. 3 volumes. London, 1817. Volume 3, pages 47-48.

Central Figure (holding lyre):
Elizabeth Linley Sheridan (1754-92), singer and renowned beauty, she assisted her husband, playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, when he was manager of Drury Lane Theatre

Seated at easel to the right:
Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807), Swiss painter who moved to London in 1766 and one of the original 36 members of the Royal Academy

Standing behind Kauffman on the left and gesturing toward Sheridan:
Anna Lætitia Barbauld, poet, critic, and editor

Standing behind Kauffman on the right:
Elizabeth Carter (1717-1806), scholar, poet, letter-writer, and translator of Epictetus

The group of five on the left are, from left to right:

Charlotte Lennox (1729/30-1804), novelist and woman of letters, author of The Female Quixote (1752)

Hannah More (1745-1833), educator, dramatist, poet, moralist, author of the Cheap Repository Tracts, Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education (1799), Coelebs in Search of a Wife (1807), and lifelong friend of Anna Barbauld

Elizabeth Griffith (1727-93), writer and actress

Elizabeth Montagu (1720-1800), Bluestocking literary patron, letter-writer, and critic, author of Essay on the Writing and Genius of Shakespeare (1769)

Catherine Macaulay (1731-91), author of an eight-volume history of England and Letters on Education (1790)