Growing reputation and ‘The Hermit of Eartham’ 1775–86
The fifteen years that followed Romney’s return from Italy in 1775 was the period of his greatest success. They overlapped with a time of increased prosperity for many, as the industrial revolution and related shifts in population away from the countryside contributed to the rise of the urban middle class. It was a time when numerous pictures were bought to enhance the fashionable houses built by the newly affluent generation. In 1776 Cumberland published his Ode to the Sun, which was dedicated to Romney in a further effort to catalyse his friend’s business. With the Earl of Warwick he had travelled to the Lake District in 1775 and the title was a wry reference to the heavy rain they had endured. In anticipation of Garrick sitting to him on 10 June 1776, despite their earlier encounter, Romney waited unsuccessfully in the rain to see the great actor’s farewell performance.