Romney experiences a serious illness in the spring of 1796, robably the first in a series of strokes that began to afflict him.
As his final years progressed, the artist was to endure old age almost as Shakespeare described it: "Last scene of all ... is second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everyhing."
John Romney wrote that in his father "Reason, that noble faculty of the mind ... became entirely extinct before the dissolution of the body; and he departed life mentally the same as when he came into existence."
Accopmanying Romney's physical decline was an intesification of the melancholia to which he had always been prone. That gloom is amply conveyed in Romney's drawings on the "Ages of Man" and in other subjects he delt with in the mid to late 1790s.