Gilbert Stuart, painter of portraits of America's first president, achieved fame abroad and in his own country. Ruth Holberg straddles a difficult job and does a competent job of a biography that has its limitations. For she does not leave out the fact that Gilbert Stuart ate and drank too much, never paid his bills, was several times in what amounted to debtor's prison, had his furniture removed for debt, never wrote letters, never assumed any grown-up responsibility. But she falls into the way of apologizing for these faults because he painted good pictures -- as if it were an inevitable thing for a painter to be a social heel. There is the question too if the whole approach to a biography should be the presumption of a child's showing violent, brilliant talent practically in creepers. It cannot be the best thing for young readers to feel that there is some special holy sign even for those who achieve at a later age -- the normal child is quite out of the running. We still prefer The Wonderful Voyage as our favorite in her writing career.