William Godwin's Diary


After having lost his fortune in the French Revolution, Count Truchsess proposed selling 700 pictures to London, towards the formation of a National Gallery. By 1803 the pictures had been shipped from Vienna and were housed in a purpose-built gallery on the New Road. Connoisseurs soon determined the inauthenticity of the pictures, which were supposed to be the works of the Old Masters. Regardless, William Godwin saw the exhibition twice (once with the Loffts and Mary Jane, and again with Mary Jane and Fanny).

William Blake was also impressed, and wrote in October 1804:

Suddenly, on the day after visiting the Truchsessian Gallery of pictures, I was again enlightened with the light I enjoyed in my youth, and which has for exactly twenty years been closed from me as by a door and by window-shutters.

See Richard Phillip, The Picture of London for 1805 (London: 1805); Morton D. Paley, ‘The Truchsessian Gallery Revisited, Studies in Romanticism, 16:2 (1977:Spring).