Throughout the second half of the 1830s the sources of John’s prosperity were drying up, whilst his commitments had greatly increased. He had a wife and five children and his nephew Richard, who were all entirely dependent on him and living with him in a large house. As a result, maintenance and education costs were an enormous drain on his finances. Furthermore, his three brothers, William, Jonathan, and Richard were habitually sponging on him, plus his lavish hospitality in hosting weekly entertainments for the rich and famous of London was constantly eating up his resources. Meanwhile, his schemes for improving London had resulted in failure.
By 1837 his affairs were desperate and he even considered raffling all his old paintings to raise badly needed funds…
“I feel myself a ruined, crushed man. I shall sink now: there are no more bright days for me. My eyes have been opened to the state of my affairs and I am a pauper. I am dishonoured. I know not what will become of us. I have never attended to money matters, and this is the consequence. I have earned £20,000 in a few years, and I am now without a penny. I have been plundered and deceived.”
After a decade of misfortune and a long period of deep depression, however, he showed his mettle and eventually managed to turn his fortunes around and achieved a second period of success, beginning with his painting ‘The Coronation of Queen Victoria’ in 1839. This led to further commissions and the regular exhibiting of his latest works.
A THIN VENEER
Dark days are upon me, cruel fate has brought me here,
I’ve been plundered, plagiarised, deceived by those of lesser peer;
The injustice pierced my heart like a burning spear;
My reputation tarnished by their thin veneer,
By their thin veneer, their thin veneer;
My reputation tarnished by their thin veneer.
I’ve seen money slipping through my hands like water through a weir,
For I lent my riches freely to friends that I held dear;
Fleeced by family and by many a-grasping buccaneer,
Sneering through the false smiles of a thin veneer,
Of a thin veneer, a thin veneer;
Sneering through the false smiles of a thin veneer.
Through the business of life, I lacked the will to steer,
My mind locked onto paths from which l refused to veer;
Blaming those I loved most through despondency and fear,
Whilst trying to hide the cracks with a thin veneer,
With a thin veneer, a thin veneer;
Tying to hide the cracks with a thin veneer.
I never dreamt that I would sink to a level so austere,
Feeling ruined, crushed, dishonoured with each rejection and arrear;
Teetering on the brink of a precipice so sheer,
Whilst masking my depression through a thin veneer,
Through a thin veneer, a thin veneer;
Masking my depression through a thin veneer.
Now my strong spirit will rise and the dark cloud will disappear,
Like Canute I will turn the tide of fortune drawing near;
It’s my Coronation Day and it has never seemed so clear,
Each wall that stands before me is a thin veneer,
Is a thin veneer, a thin veneer;
Each wall that stands before me is a thin veneer.
(Lyrics & Music: Gary Miller)
from Mad Martins,
releases March 31, 2017
Gary Miller - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Karen Ross - Vocals
Iain Petrie - Acoustic Guitar, Piano
'Mad Martins' is a unique project by poet Keith Armstrong and songwriter Gary Miller featuring original songs, poetry and
spoken word narration depicting the extraordinary life and times of the notorious Martin brothers, William, Jonathan and John, who were born in the late Eighteenth Century in the South Tyne area of Northumberland....more