Concerning Abbott's portrait
of William Herschel
Now in the National Portrait Gallery
From Joliffe Walker, of Bossolla
Mill, Kenwyn, Truro
To John C.W. Herschel 31 October 1938
...I send you a copy of a
letter sent to me by my father, who, as a boy, was living at
home when the incident occurred.
The letter was written some years before my father died, and
in it he wrote the following:-
"It might be interesting to those who study astronomy to
know how that very fine portrait of Sir William Herschel, which
now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery was discovered.
"My father, Mr Robert Walker, happened to be passing a house
in Pultney Street, Bath, where there was a sale of furniture
taking place; and just as he entered a picture was being offered
by the auctioneer, catalogued "A portrait of a gentleman",
which my father bought.
"He showed it to several good judges of pictures, who all
pronounced it to be a splendidly painted head; but they said
it was a pity it could not be identified.
"On the third night after it was bought my father had a
startling dream. He told me that a man, resembling the picture,
approached his bedside and said, "You seem anxious to know
who your picture represents; so I will give you my name, which
is Herschel". My father immediately awoke, jumped out of
bed, and wrote letters to Messrs, Colnaghi and three other printsellers,
asking them if they had an engraving of Sir William Herschel.
"A week later my father received one taken from his picture,
with Herschel's name on the plate. The portrait was painted by
signed J. Hanson Walker.
The engraving - which I now
possess - has the following inscription: -
GULIELMUS HERSCHEL, LLD, RSS