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Title: The Collected Works of William Hazlitt - Volume 9 of 12
Author: Hazlitt, William
Language: English
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                                  THE
                   COLLECTED WORKS OF WILLIAM HAZLITT
                           IN TWELVE VOLUMES


                              VOLUME NINE



                         _All rights reserved_



                         THE COLLECTED WORKS OF
                            WILLIAM HAZLITT


                         EDITED BY A. R. WALLER
                           AND ARNOLD GLOVER

                        WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY

                              W. E. HENLEY

                                   ❦

                             The Principal

                      Picture-Galleries in England

              Notes of a Journey through France and Italy

                 Miscellaneous Essays on the Fine Arts

                                   ❦

                                  1903

                       LONDON: J. M. DENT _&_ CO.
                  McCLURE, PHILLIPS _&_ CO.: NEW YORK



        Edinburgh: T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                CONTENTS


                                                        PAGE

            THE PRINCIPAL PICTURE-GALLERIES IN ENGLAND     1

            NOTES OF A JOURNEY THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY   83

            MISCELLANEOUS ESSAYS ON THE FINE ARTS        305

            NOTES                                        439

            APPENDIX                                     489



SKETCHES OF THE PRINCIPAL PICTURE-GALLERIES IN ENGLAND WITH A CRITICISM
                        ON ‘MARRIAGE A-LA-MODE’



                          BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE


_Sketches of the Principal Picture-Galleries in England. With a
Criticism on ‘Marriage a-la-mode,’_ appeared in a small 8vo. volume (6½
in. × 4 in.) in 1824, ‘Printed for Taylor and Hessey, 93, Fleet-Street,
and 13, Waterloo-Place, Pall-Mall.’ The last page bears advertisements
of the _Characters of Shakspeare’s Plays_, _Lectures on the English
Poets_, and _Lectures on the English Comic Writers_. The printer’s name,
given behind the half-title, is ‘T. Green, 76 Fleet-street.’

Four pages of Taylor & Hessey’s announcements (‘Booksellers to H.R.H.
the Prince Leopold’) are bound up with the volume.

The present text is that of the 1824 volume.

The _Sketches_ formed part of the two volumes of ‘Criticisms on Art,’
collected and edited by his son in 1843–4, and of the one volume of
‘Essays on the Fine Arts,’ edited by Mr. W. C. Hazlitt in 1873.



                             ADVERTISEMENT


It is the object of the following little work to give an account of the
principal Picture-Galleries in this country, and to describe the
feelings which they naturally excite in the mind of a lover of art.
Almost all those of any importance have been regularly gone through. One
or two, that still remain unnoticed, may be added to our _catalogue
raisonnée_ at a future opportunity. It may not be improper to mention
here that Mr. Angerstein’s pictures have been lately purchased for the
commencement of a National Gallery, but are still to be seen in their
old places on the walls of his house.



                                CONTENTS


                                                   PAGE

                 Mr. Angerstein’s Collection          7

                 Dulwich Gallery                     17

                 The Marquis of Stafford’s Gallery   27

                 Pictures at Windsor Castle          36

                 Pictures at Hampton Court           42

                 Lord Grosvenor’s Collection         49

                 Pictures at Wilton and Stourhead    55

                 Pictures at Burleigh House          62

                 Pictures at Oxford and Blenheim     69


                                APPENDIX

                 Criticism on Marriage a-la-Mode     75



                      PICTURE-GALLERIES IN ENGLAND


MR. ANGERSTEIN’S COLLECTION

Oh! Art, lovely Art! ‘Balm of hurt minds, chief nourisher in life’s
feast, great Nature’s second course!’ Time’s treasurer, the unsullied
mirror of the mind of man! Thee we invoke, and not in vain, for we find
thee here retired in thy plentitude and thy power! The walls are dark
with beauty; they frown severest grace. The eye is not caught by glitter
and varnish; we see the pictures by their own internal light. This is
not a bazaar, a raree-show of art, a Noah’s ark of all the Schools,
marching out in endless procession; but a sanctuary, a holy of holies,
collected by taste, sacred to fame, enriched by the rarest products of
genius. For the number of pictures, Mr. Angerstein’s is the finest
gallery, perhaps, in the world. We feel no sense of littleness: the
attention is never distracted for a moment, but concentrated on a few
pictures of first-rate excellence. Many of these _chef-d’œuvres_ might
occupy the spectator for a whole morning; yet they do not interfere with
the pleasure derived from each other—so much consistency of style is
there in the midst of variety!

We know of no greater treat than to be admitted freely to a Collection
of this sort, where the mind reposes with full confidence in its
feelings of admiration, and finds that idea and love of conceivable
beauty, which it has cherished perhaps for a whole life, reflected from
every object around it. It is a cure (for the time at least) for
low-thoughted cares and uneasy passions. We are abstracted to another
sphere: we breathe empyrean air; we enter into the minds of Raphael, of
Titian, of Poussin, of the Caracci, and look at nature with their eyes;
we live in time past, and seem identified with the permanent forms of
things. The business of the world at large, and even its pleasures,
appear like a vanity and an impertinence. What signify the hubbub, the
shifting scenery, the fantoccini figures, the folly, the idle fashions
without, when compared with the solitude, the silence, the speaking
looks, the unfading forms within?—Here is the mind’s true home. The
contemplation of truth and beauty is the proper object for which we were
created, which calls forth the most intense desires of the soul, and of
which it never tires. A capital print-shop (Molteno’s or Colnaghi’s) is
a point to aim at in a morning’s walk—a relief and satisfaction in the
motley confusion, the littleness, the vulgarity of common life: but a
print-shop has but a mean, cold, meagre, petty appearance after coming
out of a fine Collection of Pictures. We want the size of life, the
marble flesh, the rich tones of nature, the diviner expanded expression.
Good prints are no doubt, better than bad pictures; or prints, generally
speaking, are better than pictures; for we have more prints of good
pictures than of bad ones: yet they are for the most part but hints,
loose memorandums, outlines in little of what the painter has done. How
often, in turning over a number of choice engravings, do we tantalise
ourselves by thinking ‘what a head _that_ must be,’—in wondering what
colour a piece of drapery is of, green or black,—in wishing, in vain, to
know the exact tone of the sky in a particular corner of the picture!
Throw open the folding-doors of a fine Collection, and you see all you
have desired realised at a blow—the bright originals starting up in
their own proper shape, clad with flesh and blood, and teeming with the
first conceptions of the painter’s mind! The disadvantage of pictures
is, that they cannot be multiplied to any extent, like books or prints;
but this, in another point of view, operates probably as an advantage,
by making the sight of a fine original picture an event so much the more
memorable, and the impression so much the deeper. A visit to a genuine
Collection is like going a pilgrimage—it is an act of devotion performed
at the shrine of Art! It is as if there were but one copy of a book in
the world, locked up in some curious casket, which, by special favour,
we had been permitted to open, and peruse (as we must) with unaccustomed
relish. The words would in that case leave stings in the mind of the
reader, and every letter appear of gold. The ancients, before the
invention of printing, were nearly in the same situation with respect to
books, that we are with regard to pictures; and at the revival of
letters, we find the same unmingled satisfaction, or fervid enthusiasm,
manifested in the pursuit or the discovery of an old manuscript, that
connoisseurs still feel in the purchase and possession of an antique
cameo, or a fine specimen of the Italian school of painting. Literature
was not then cheap and vulgar, nor was there what is called a _reading
public_; and the pride of intellect, like the pride of art, or the pride
of birth, was confined to the privileged few!

We sometimes, in viewing a celebrated Collection, meet with an old
favourite, a _first love_ in such matters, that we have not seen for
many years, which greatly enhances the delight. We have, perhaps,
pampered our imaginations with it all that time; its charms have sunk
deep into our minds; we wish to see it once more, that we may confirm
our judgment, and renew our vows. The _Susannah and the Elders_ at Mr.
Angerstein’s was one of those that came upon us under these
circumstances. We had seen it formerly, among other visions of our
youth, in the Orleans Collection,—where we used to go and look at it by
the hour together, till our hearts thrilled with its beauty, and our
eyes were filled with tears. How often had we thought of it since, how
often spoken of it!—There it was still, the same lovely phantom as
ever—not as when Rousseau met Madame de Warens, after a lapse of twenty
years, who was grown old and wrinkled—but as if the young Jewish Beauty
had been just surprised in that unguarded spot—crouching down in one
corner of the picture, the face turned back with a mingled expression of
terror, shame, and unconquerable sweetness, and the whole figure (with
the arms crossed) shrinking into itself with bewitching grace and
modesty! It is by Ludovico Caracci, and is worthy of his name, from its
truth and purity of design, its expression and its mellow depth of tone.
Of the _Elders_, one is represented in the attitude of advancing towards
her, while the other beckons her to rise. We know of no painter who
could have improved upon the Susannah, except Correggio, who, with all
his capricious blandishments, and wreathed angelic smiles, would hardly
have given the same natural unaffected grace, the same perfect
womanhood.

There is but one other picture in the Collection, that strikes us, as a
matter of taste or fancy, like this; and that is the _Silenus teaching a
Young Apollo to play on the pipe_—a small oblong picture, executed in
distemper, by Annibal Caracci. The old preceptor is very fine, with a
jolly, leering, pampered look of approbation, half inclining to the
brute, half-conscious of the God; but it is the Apollo that constitutes
the charm of the picture, and is indeed divine. The whole figure is full
of simple careless grace, laughing in youth and beauty; he holds the
Pan’s-pipe in both hands, looking up with timid wonder; and the
expression of delight and surprise at the sounds he produces is not to
be surpassed. The only image we would venture to compare with it for
innocent artless voluptuousness, is that of the shepherd-boy in Sir
Philip Sidney’s Arcadia, ‘piping as though he should never be old!’ A
comparison of this sort, we believe, may be made, in spite of the
proverb, without injustice to the painter or the poet. Both gain by it.
The idea conveyed by the one, perhaps, receives an additional grace and
lustre, while a more beautiful moral sentiment hovers round the other,
from thinking of them in this casual connection. If again it be asked,
_Which is the most admirable?_—we should answer—Both are equally
exquisite in their way, and yield the imagination all the pleasure it is
capable of—and should decline giving an invidious preference to either.
_The cup can only be full._ The young shepherd in the Arcadia wants no
outward grace to recommend him; the stripling God no hidden charm of
expression. The language of painting and poetry is intelligible enough
to mortals; the spirit of both is divine, and far too good for him, who,
instead of enjoying to the utmost height, would find an unwelcome flaw
in either. The _Silenus and Apollo_ has something of a Raffaellesque
air, with a mixture of Correggio’s arch sensibility—there is nothing of
Titian in the colouring—yet Annibal Caracci was in theory a deserter
from the first to the two last of these masters; and swore with an oath,
in a letter to his uncle Ludovico, that ‘they were the only true
painters!’

We should nearly have exhausted our stock of enthusiasm in descanting on
these two compositions, in almost any other case; but there is no danger
of this in the present instance. If we were at any loss in this respect,
we should only have to turn to the large picture of the _Raising of
Lazarus_, by Sebastian del Piombo;

              ——‘and still walking under,
              Find some new matter to look up and wonder.’

We might dwell on the masterly strength of the drawing, the gracefulness
of the principal female figures, the high-wrought execution, the deep,
rich, _mosaic_ colouring, the massiness and bustle of the back-ground.
We think this one of the best pictures on so large a scale that we are
anywhere acquainted with. The whole management of the design has a very
noble and imposing effect, and each part severally will bear the closest
scrutiny. It is a magnificent structure built of solid and valuable
materials. The artist has not relied merely on the extent of his canvas,
or the importance of his subject, for producing a striking result—the
effect is made out by an aggregate of excellent parts. The hands, the
feet, the drapery, the heads, the features, are all fine. There is some
satisfaction in looking at a large historical picture, such as this: for
you really gain in quantity, without losing in quality; and have a
studious imitation of individual nature, combined with masculine
invention, and the comprehensive arrangement of an interesting story.
The Lazarus is very fine and bold. The flesh is well-baked, dingy, and
ready to crumble from the touch, when it is liberated from its dread
confinement to have life and motion impressed on it again. He seems
impatient of restraint, gazes eagerly about him, and looks out from his
shrouded prison on this new world with hurried amazement, as if Death
had scarcely yet resigned his power over the senses. We would wish our
artists to look at the legs and feet of this figure, and see how
correctness of finishing and a greatness of _gusto_ in design are
compatible with, and set off each other. The attendant female figures
have a peculiar grace and becoming dignity, both of expression and
attitude. They are in a style something between Michael Angelo and
Parmegiano. They take a deep interest in the scene, but it is with the
air of composure proper to the sex, who are accustomed by nature and
duty to works of charity and compassion. The head of the old man,
kneeling behind Christ, is an admirable study of drawing, execution, and
character. The Christ himself is grave and earnest, with a noble and
impressive countenance; but the figure wants that commanding air which
ought to belong to one possessed of preternatural power, and in the act
of displaying it. Too much praise cannot be given to the back-ground—the
green and white draperies of some old people at a distance, which are as
airy as they are distinct—the buildings like tombs—and the different
groups, and processions of figures, which seem to make life almost as
grave and solemn a business as death itself. This picture is said by
some to have been designed by Michael Angelo, and painted by Sebastian
del Piombo, in rivalship of some of Raphael’s works. It was in the
Orleans Gallery.

Near this large historical composition stands (or is suspended in a
case) a single head, by Raphael, of Pope Julius II. It is in itself a
Collection—a world of thought and character. There is a prodigious
weight and gravity of look, combined with calm self-possession, and
easiness of temper. It has the cast of an English countenance, which
Raphael’s portraits often have, Titian’s never. In Raphael’s the mind,
or the body, frequently prevails; in Titian’s you always see the
soul—faces ‘which pale passion loves.’ Look at the Music-piece by
Titian, close by in this Collection—it is ‘all ear,’—the expression is
evanescent as the sounds—the features are seen in a sort of dim _chiaro
scuro_, as if the confused impressions of another sense intervened—and
you might easily suppose some of the performers to have been engaged the
night before in

                   ‘Mask or midnight serenade,
             Which the starved lover to his mistress sings,
             Best quitted with disdain.’[1]

The ruddy, _bronzed_ colouring of Raphael generally takes off from any
appearance of nocturnal watching and languid hectic passion! The
portrait of Julius II. is finished to a great nicety. The hairs of the
beard, the fringe on the cap, are done by minute and careful touches of
the pencil. In seeing the labour, the conscientious and modest pains,
which this great painter bestowed upon his smallest works, we cannot
help being struck with the number and magnitude of those he left behind
him. When we have a single portrait placed before us, that might seem to
have taken half a year to complete it, we wonder how the same painter
could find time to execute his Cartoons, the compartments of the
Vatican, and a thousand other matchless works. The same account serves
for both. The more we do, the more we can do. Our leisure (though it may
seem a paradox) is in proportion to our industry. The same habit of
intense application, which led our artist to bestow as much pains and
attention on the study of a single head, as if his whole reputation had
depended on it, enabled him to set about the greatest works with
alacrity, and to finish them with ease. If he had done any thing he
undertook to do, in a slovenly disreputable manner, he would (upon the
same principle) have lain idle half his time. Zeal and diligence, in
this view, make life, short as it is, long.—Neither did Raphael, it
should seem, found his historical pretensions on his incapacity to paint
a good portrait. On the contrary, the latter here looks very much like
the corner-stone of the historical edifice. Nature did not _put him
out_. He was not too great a genius to copy what he saw. He probably
thought that a deference to nature is the beginning of art, and that the
highest eminence is scaled by single steps!

On the same stand as the portrait of Julius II. is the much vaunted
Correggio—the _Christ in the Garden_. We would not give a farthing for
it. The drapery of the Christ is highly finished in a silver and azure
tone—but high finishing is not all we ask from Correggio. It is more
worthy of Carlo Dolce.—Lest we should forget it, we may mention here,
that the admired portrait of Govarcius was gone to be copied at
Somerset-house. The Academy have then, at length, fallen into the method
pursued at the British Gallery, of recommending the students to copy
from the OLD MASTERS. Well—_better late than never!_ This same portrait
is not, we think, the truest specimen of Vandyke. It has not his mild,
pensive, somewhat effeminate cast of colour and expression. His best
portraits have an air of faded gentility about them. The Govarcius has
too many streaks of blood-colour, too many marks of the pencil, to
convey an exact idea of Vandyke’s characteristic excellence; though it
is a fine imitation of Rubens’s florid manner. Vandyke’s most striking
portraits are those which look just like a gentleman or lady seen in a
looking-glass, and neither more nor less.

Of the Claudes, we prefer the St. Ursula—the _Embarking of the Five
thousand Virgins_—to the others. The water is exquisite; and the sails
of the vessels glittering in the morning sun, and the blue flags placed
against the trees, which seem like an opening into the sky behind—so
sparkling is the effect of this ambiguity in colouring—are in Claude’s
most perfect manner. The Altieri Claude is one of his noblest and most
classical compositions, with towers, and trees, and streams, and flocks,
and herds, and distant sunny vales,

                    ——‘Where universal Pan,
              Knit with the Graces and the Hours in dance,
              Leads on the eternal spring:—’

but the effect of the execution has been deadened and rendered flat by
time or ill-usage. There is a dull, formal appearance, as if the
different masses of sky, of water, &c., were laid on with plates of tin
or lead. This is not a general defect in Claude: his landscapes have the
greatest quantity of inflection, the most delicate brilliancy, of all
others. A lady had been making a good copy of the _Seaport_, which is a
companion to the one we have described. We do not think these Claudes,
famous as they are, equal to Lord Egremont’s _Jacob and Laban_; to the
_Enchanted Castle_; to a green vernal Landscape, which was in Walsh
Porter’s Collection, and which was the very finest we ever saw; nor to
some others that have appeared from time to time in the British
Institution. We are sorry to make this, which may be thought an
ill-natured, remark: but, though we have a great respect for Mr.
Angerstein’s taste, we have a greater for Claude Lorraine’s reputation.
Let any persons admire these specimens of his art as much as they will
(and the more they admire them, the more we shall be gratified), and
then we will tell them, he could do far finer things than these!

There is one Rembrandt, and one N. Poussin. The Rembrandt (the _Woman
taken in Adultery_) is prodigious in colouring, in light and shade, in
pencilling, in solemn effect; but that is nearly all—

                         ‘Of outward show
                   Elaborate, of inward less exact.’

Nevertheless, it is worth any money. The Christ has considerable
seriousness and dignity of aspect. The marble pavement, of which the
light is even dazzling; the figures of the two Rabbis to the right,
radiant with crimson, green, and azure; the back-ground, which seems
like some rich oil-colour smeared over a ground of gold, and where the
eye staggers on from one abyss of obscurity to another,—place this
picture in the first rank of Rembrandt’s wonderful performances. If this
extraordinary genius was the most literal and vulgar of draughtsmen, he
was the most _ideal_ of colourists. When Annibal Caracci vowed to God,
that Titian and Correggio were the only true painters, he had not seen
Rembrandt;—if he had, he would have added him to the list. The Poussin
is a _Dance of Bacchanals_: theirs are not ‘pious orgies.’ It is,
however, one of this master’s finest pictures, both in the spirit of the
execution, and the ingenuity and _equivoque_ of the invention. If the
purity of the drawing will make amends for the impurity of the design,
it may pass: assuredly the same subject, badly executed, would not be
endured; but the life of mind, the dexterity of combination displayed in
it, supply the want of decorum. The old adage, that ‘Vice, by losing all
its grossness, loses half its evil,’ seems chiefly applicable to
pictures. Thus a naked figure, that has nothing but its nakedness to
recommend it, is not fit to be hung up in decent apartments. If it is a
Nymph by Titian, Correggio’s Iö, we no longer think of its being naked;
but merely of its sweetness, its beauty, its naturalness. So far art, as
it is intellectual, has a refinement and extreme unction of its own.
Indifferent pictures, like dull people, must absolutely be moral! We
suggest this as a hint to those persons of more gallantry than
discretion, who think that to have an indecent daub hanging up in one
corner of the room, is proof of a liberality of _gusto_, and a
considerable progress in _virtù_. _Tout au contraire._

We have a clear, brown, woody _Landscape_ by Gaspar Poussin, in his fine
determined style of pencilling, which gives to earth its solidity, and
to the air its proper attributes. There are perhaps, no landscapes that
excel his in this fresh, healthy look of nature. One might say, that
wherever his pencil loves to haunt, ‘the air is delicate.’ We forgot to
notice a _St. John in the Wilderness_, by A. Caracci, which has much of
the autumnal tone, the ‘sear and yellow leaf,’ of Titian’s
landscape-compositions. A _Rape of the Sabines_, in the inner room, by
Rubens, is, we think, the most tasteless picture in the Collection: to
see plump, florid viragos struggling with bearded ruffians, and tricked
out in the flounces, furbelows, and finery of the court of Louis XIV. is
preposterous. But there is another Rubens in the outer room, which,
though fantastical and quaint, has qualities to redeem all faults. It is
an allegory of himself and his three wives, as a St. George and Holy
Family, with his children as Christ and St. John, playing with a lamb;
in which he has contrived to bring together all that is rich in antique
dresses, (black as jet, and shining like diamonds,) transparent in
flesh-colour, agreeable in landscape, unfettered in composition. The
light streams from rosy clouds; the breeze curls the branches of the
trees in the back-ground, and plays on the clear complexions of the
various scattered group. It is one of this painter’s most splendid, and,
at the same time, most solid and sharply finished productions.

Mr. Wilkie’s _Alehouse Door_ is here, and deserves to be here. Still it
is not his best; though there are some very pleasing rustic figures, and
some touching passages in it. As in his _Blind-Man’s-buff_, the groups
are too straggling, and spread over too large a surface of bare
foreground, which Mr. Wilkie does not paint well. It looks more like
putty than earth or clay. The artist has a better eye for the individual
details, than for the general tone of objects. Mr. Liston’s face in this
‘flock of drunkards’ is a smiling failure.

A portrait of Hogarth, by himself, and Sir Joshua’s half-length of Lord
Heathfield, hang in the same room. The last of these is certainly a fine
picture, well composed, richly coloured, with considerable character,
and a look of nature. Nevertheless, our artist’s pictures, seen among
standard works, have (to speak it plainly) something old-womanish about
them. By their obsolete and affected air, they remind one of antiquated
ladies of quality, and are a kind of Duchess-Dowagers in the
art—somewhere between the living and the dead.

Hogarth’s series of the _Marriage a-la-Mode_[2] (the most delicately
painted of all his pictures, and admirably they certainly are painted)
concludes the _Catalogue Raisonnée_ of this Collection.—A study of
Heads, by Correggio, and some of Mr. Fuseli’s stupendous figures from
his Milton Gallery, are on the staircase.


         A CATALOGUE OF THE PICTURES IN THE ANGERSTEIN GALLERY

 1. The Marriage à la Mode, No. 1.                            _Hogarth._

 2. The Marriage à la Mode, No. 2.                              _Ditto._

 3. The Marriage à la Mode, No. 3.                              _Ditto._

 4. The Marriage à la Mode, No. 4.                              _Ditto._

 5. The Marriage à la Mode, No. 5.                              _Ditto._

 6. The Marriage à la Mode, No. 6.                              _Ditto._

 7. Portrait of Lord Heathfield, the Defender of             _Sir Joshua
   Gibraltar.                                                 Reynolds._

 8. His own Portrait, with his Dog.                           _Hogarth._

 9. The Village Festival.                                      _Wilkie._

 10. The Portrait of Rubens. (Formerly in the Collection      _Vandyck._
   of Sir Joshua Reynolds.)

 11. The Woman taken in Adultery. Painted for the           _Rembrandt._
   Burgomaster Six.

 12. A Landscape; Evening; with Horses, Cattle, and              _Cuyp._
   Figures. (From the Collection of Sir Laurence Dundas.)

 13. Christ praying in the Garden.                          _Correggio._

 14. The Adoration of the Shepherds.                        _Rembrandt._

 15. A Land Storm. (From the Lansdown Collection.)               _Gaspar
                                                               Poussin._

 16. Portrait of Pope Julius the Second. (From the            _Raphael._
   Lancillotti Palace.)

 17. The Emperor Theodosius refused admittance into the       _Vandyck._
   Church by St. Ambrose.

 18. A Landscape, with Figures; representing Abraham             _Gaspar
   preparing to sacrifice his son Isaac. (From the             Poussin._
   Colonna Palace.)

 19. Portrait of Govartius.                                   _Vandyck._

 20. Pan teaching Apollo the use of the Pipe.                   _Annibal
                                                               Caracci._

 21. A Sea-Port at Sunset, in which is represented the         _Claude._
   Legend of the Embarkation of St. Ursula. (Formerly in
   the Barberini Palace.)

 22. Erminia discovering the Shepherds: From Tasso’s      _Domenichino._
   ‘Jerusalem Delivered.’

 23. Philip the Fourth and his Queen.                       _Velasquez._

 24. Venus and Adonis. (From the Colonna Palace.)              _Titian._

 25. St. John in the Wilderness. (From the Orleans              _Annibal
   Collection.)                                                Caracci._

 26. A Landscape, with Figures.                                _Claude._

 27. Christ raising Lazarus. (From the Orleans            _Sebastian del
   Collection.)                                                 Piombo._

 28. A Concert.                                                _Titian._

 29. An Italian Sea-Port at Sunset, with Figures.              _Claude._

 30. The Rape of Ganymede. (From the Colonna Palace.)          _Titian._

 31. A Sea-Port, in which is represented the Embarkation       _Claude._
   of the Queen of Sheba on her visit to Solomon. (From
   the Collection of the Duke de Bouillon.)

 32. A Study of Heads. (From the Orleans Collection.)       _Correggio._

 33. A Study of Heads. (From the same Collection.)          _Correggio._

 34. The Rape of the Sabine Women.                             _Rubens._

 35. The Holy Family, with St. George, a Female Saint,         _Rubens._
   and Angels.

 36. A Landscape, with Figures; representing the Marriage      _Claude._
   of Rebecca. (From the Collection of the Duke de
   Bouillon.)

 37. Susanna and the Elders. (From the Orleans                   _Ludov.
   Collection.)                                                Caracci._

 38. A Bacchanalian Scene.                                        _Nich.
                                                               Poussin._



                          THE DULWICH GALLERY


It was on the 5th of November that we went to see this Gallery. The
morning was mild, calm, pleasant: it was a day to ruminate on the object
we had in view. It was the time of year

              ‘When yellow leaves, or few or none, do hang
              Upon the branches;’

their scattered gold was strongly contrasted with the dark green spiral
shoots of the cedar trees that skirt the road; the sun shone faint and
watery, as if smiling his last; Winter gently let go the hand of Summer,
and the green fields, wet with the mist, anticipated the return of
Spring. At the end of a beautiful little village, Dulwich College
appeared in view, with modest state, yet mindful of the olden time; and
the name of Allen and his compeers rushed full upon the memory! How many
races of school-boys have played within its walls, or stammered out a
lesson, or sauntered away their vacant hours in its shade: yet, not one
Shakspeare is there to be found among them all! The boy is clothed and
fed and gets through his accidence: but no trace of his youthful
learning, any more than of his saffron livery, is to be met with in the
man. Genius is not to be ‘constrained by mastery.’—Nothing comes of
these endowments and foundations for learning,—you might as well make
dirt-pies, or build houses with cards. Yet something _does_ come of them
too—a retreat for age, a dream in youth—a feeling in the air around
them, the memory of the past, the hope of what will never be. Sweet are
the studies of the school-boy, delicious his idle hours! Fresh and
gladsome is his waking, balmy are his slumbers, book-pillowed! He wears
a green and yellow livery perhaps; but ‘green and yellow melancholy’
comes not near him, or if it does, is tempered with youth and innocence!
To thumb his Eutropius, or to knuckle down at taw, are to him equally
delightful; for whatever stirs the blood, or inspires thought in him,
quickens the pulse of life and joy. He has only to feel, in order to be
happy; pain turns smiling from him, and sorrow is only a softer kind of
pleasure. Each sensation is but an unfolding of his new being; care,
age, sickness, are idle words; the musty records of antiquity look
glossy in his sparkling eye, and he clasps immortality as his future
bride! The coming years hurt him not—he hears their sound afar off, and
is glad. See him there, the urchin, seated in the sun, with a book in
his hand, and the wall at his back. He has a thicker wall before him—the
wall that parts him from the future. He sees not the archers taking aim
at his peace; he knows not the hands that are to mangle his bosom. He
stirs not, he still pores upon his book, and, as he reads, a slight
hectic flush passes over his cheek, for he sees the letters that compose
the word FAME glitter on the page, and his eyes swim, and he thinks that
he will one day write a book, and have his name repeated by thousands of
readers, and assume a certain signature, and write Essays and Criticisms
in a LONDON MAGAZINE, as a consummation of felicity scarcely to be
believed. Come hither, thou poor little fellow, and let us change places
with thee if thou wilt; here, take the pen and finish this article, and
sign what name you please to it; so that we may but change our dress for
yours, and sit shivering in the sun, and con over our little task, and
feed poor, and lie hard, and be contented and happy, and think what a
fine thing it is to be an author, and dream of immortality, and sleep
o’nights!

There is something affecting and monastic in the sight of this little
nursery of learning, simple and retired as it stands, just on the verge
of the metropolis, and in the midst of modern improvements. There is a
chapel, containing a copy of _Raphael’s Transfiguration_, by Julio
Romano: but the great attraction to curiosity at present is the
Collection of pictures left to the College by the late Sir Francis
Bourgeois, who is buried in a mausoleum close by. He once (it is said)
spent an agreeable day here in company with the Masters of the College
and some other friends; and he determined, in consequence, upon this
singular mode of testifying his gratitude and his respect. Perhaps,
also, some such idle thoughts as we have here recorded might have
mingled with this resolution. The contemplation and the approach of
death might have been softened to his mind by being associated with the
hopes of childhood; and he might wish that his remains should repose, in
monumental state, amidst ‘the innocence and simplicity of poor _Charity
Boys_!’ Might it not have been so?

The pictures are 356 in number, and are hung on the walls of a large
gallery, built for the purpose, and divided into five compartments. They
certainly looked better in their old places, at the house of Mr.
Desenfans (the original collector), where they were distributed into a
number of small rooms, and seen separately and close to the eye. They
are mostly cabinet-pictures; and not only does the height, at which many
of them are necessarily hung to cover a large space, lessen the effect,
but the number distracts and deadens the attention. Besides, the
skylights are so contrived as to ‘shed a dim,’ though not a ‘religious
light’ upon them. At our entrance, we were first struck by our old
friends the Cuyps; and just beyond, caught a glimpse of that fine female
head by Carlo Maratti, giving us a welcome with cordial glances. May we
not exclaim—

            ‘What a delicious breath _painting_ sends forth!
            The violet-bed’s not sweeter.’

A fine gallery of pictures is a sort of illustration of Berkeley’s
Theory of Matter and Spirit. It is like a palace of thought—another
universe, built of air, of shadows, of colours. Every thing seems
‘palpable to feeling as to sight.’ Substances turn to shadows by the
painter’s arch-chemic touch; shadows harden into substances. ‘The eye is
made the fool of the other senses, or else worth all the rest.’ The
material is in some sense embodied in the immaterial, or, at least, we
see all things in a sort of intellectual mirror. The world of art is an
enchanting deception. We discover distance in a glazed surface; a
province is contained in a foot of canvass; a thin evanescent tint gives
the form and pressure of rocks and trees; an inert shape has life and
motion in it. Time stands still, and the dead re-appear, by means of
this ‘so potent art!’ Look at the Cuyp next the door (No. 3). It is
woven of etherial hues. A soft mist is on it, a veil of subtle air. The
tender green of the vallies beyond the gleaming lake, the purple light
of the hills, have an effect like the down on an unripe nectarine. You
may lay your finger on the canvass; but miles of dewy vapour and
sunshine are between you and the objects you survey. It is almost
needless to point out that the cattle and figures in the fore-ground,
like dark, transparent spots, give an immense relief to the perspective.
This is, we think, the finest Cuyp, perhaps, in the world. The landscape
opposite to it (in the same room) by Albert Cuyp, has a richer colouring
and a stronger contrast of light and shade, but it has not that tender
bloom of a spring morning (so delicate, yet so powerful in its effect)
which the other possesses. _Two Horses_, by Cuyp (No. 74), is another
admirable specimen of this excellent painter. It is hard to say, which
is most true to nature—the sleek, well-fed look of the bay horse, or the
bone and spirit of the dappled iron-grey one, or the face of the man who
is busy fastening a girth. Nature is scarcely more faithful to itself,
than this delightfully _unmannered_, unaffected picture is to it. In the
same room there are several good Tenierses, and a small _Head of an old
Man_, by Rembrandt, which is as smoothly finished as a miniature. No.
10, _Interior of an Ale-house_, by Adrian Brouwer, almost gives one a
sick head-ache; particularly, the face and figure of the man leaning
against the door, overcome with ‘potations pottle deep.’ Brouwer united
the depth and richness of Ostade to the spirit and felicity of Teniers.
No. 12, _Sleeping Nymph and Satyr_, and 59, _Nymph and Satyr_, by
Polemberg, are not pictures to our taste. Why should any one make it a
rule never to paint any thing but this one subject? Was it to please
himself or others? The one shows bad taste, the other wrong judgment.
The grossness of the selection is hardly more offensive than the
finicalness of the execution. No. 49, a _Mater Dolorosa_, by Carlo
Dolce, is a very good specimen of this master; but the expression has
too great a mixture of piety and pauperism in it. It is not altogether
spiritual. No. 51, _A School with Girls at work_, by Crespi, is a most
rubbishly performance, and has the look of a modern picture. It was, no
doubt, painted in the fashion of the time, and is now old-fashioned.
Every thing has this modern, or rather uncouth and obsolete look, which,
besides the temporary and local circumstances, has not the free look of
nature. Dress a figure in what costume you please (however fantastic,
however barbarous), but add the expression which is common to all faces,
the properties that are common to all drapery in its elementary
principles, and the picture will belong to all times and places. It is
not the addition of individual circumstances, but the omission of
general truth, that makes the little, the deformed, and the short-lived
in art. No. 183, _Religion in the Desart_, a sketch by Sir Francis
Bourgeois, is a proof of this remark. There are no details, nor is there
any appearance of permanence or sta[bility about it. It] seems to have
been painted yesterday, and to labour under premature decay. It has a
look of being half done, and you have no wish to see it finished. No.
53, _Interior of a Cathedral_, by Sanadram, is curious and fine. From
one end of the perspective to the other—and back again—would make a
morning’s walk.

In the SECOND ROOM, No. 90, a _Sea Storm_, by Backhuysen, and No. 93, _A
Calm_, by W. Vandervelde, are equally excellent, the one for its gloomy
turbulence, and the other for its glassy smoothness. 92, _Landscape with
Cattle and Figures_, is by Both, who is, we confess, no great favourite
of ours. We do not like his straggling branches of trees without masses
of foliage, continually running up into the sky, merely to let in the
landscape beyond. No. 96, _Blowing Hot and Cold_, by Jordaens, is as
fine a picture as need be painted. It is full of character, of life, and
pleasing colour. It is rich and not gross. 98, _Portrait of a Lady_,
said in the printed Catalogue to be by Andrea Sacchi, is surely by Carlo
Maratti, to whom it used to be given. It has great beauty, great
elegance, great expression, and great brilliancy of execution; but every
thing in it belongs to a more polished style of art than Andrea Sacchi.
Be this as it may, it is one of the most perfect pictures in the
collection. Of the portraits of known individuals in this room, we wish
to say but little, for we can say nothing good. That of _Mr. Kemble_, by
Beechey, is perhaps the most direct and manly. In this room is Rubens’s
_Sampson and Delilah_, a coarse daub—at least, it looks so between two
pictures by Vandyke, _Charity_, and a _Madonna and Infant Christ_. That
painter probably never produced any thing more complete than these two
compositions. They have the softness of air, the solidity of marble: the
pencil appears to float and glide over the features of the face, the
folds of the drapery, with easy volubility, but to mark every thing with
a precision, a force, a grace indescribable. Truth seems to hold the
pencil, and elegance to guide it. The attitudes are exquisite, and the
expression all but divine. It is not like Raphael’s, it is true—but
whose else was? Vandyke was born in Holland, and lived most of his time
in England!—There are several capital pictures of horses, &c. by
Wouvermans, in the same room, particularly the one with a hay-cart
loading on the top of a rising ground. The composition is as striking
and pleasing as the execution is delicate. There is immense knowledge
and character in Wouvermans’ horses—an ear, an eye turned round, a
cropped tail, give you their history and thoughts—but from the want of a
little arrangement, his figures look too often like spots on a dark
ground. When they are properly relieved and disentangled from the rest
of the composition, there is an appearance of great life and bustle in
his pictures. His horses, however, have too much of the _manège_ in
them—he seldom gets beyond the camp or the riding school.—This room is
rich in master-pieces. Here is the _Jacob’s Dream_, by Rembrandt, with
that sleeping figure, thrown like a bundle of clothes in one corner of
the picture, by the side of some stunted bushes, and with those winged
shapes, not human, nor angelical, but bird-like, dream-like, treading on
clouds, ascending, descending through the realms of endless light, that
loses itself in infinite space! No one else could ever grapple with this
subject, or stamp it on the willing canvass in its gorgeous obscurity
but Rembrandt! Here also is the _St. Barbara_, of Rubens, fleeing from
her persecutors; a noble design, as if she were scaling the steps of
some high overhanging turret, moving majestically on, with Fear before
her, Death behind her, and Martyrdom crowning her:—and here is an
eloquent landscape by the same master-hand, the subject of which is, a
shepherd piping his flock homewards through a narrow defile, with a
graceful group of autumnal trees waving on the edge of the declivity
above, and the rosy evening light streaming through the clouds on the
green moist landscape in the still lengthening distance. Here (to pass
from one kind of excellence to another with kindly interchange) is a
clear sparkling _Waterfall_, by Ruysdael, and Hobbima’s _Water-Mill_,
with the wheels in motion, and the ducks paddling in the restless
stream. Is not this a sad anti-climax from Jacob’s Dream to a picture of
a Water-Mill? We do not know; and we should care as little, could we but
paint either of the pictures.

                ‘Entire affection scorneth nicer hands.’

If a picture is admirable in its kind, we do not give ourselves much
trouble about the subject. Could we paint as well as Hobbima, we should
not envy Rembrandt: nay, even as it is, while we can relish both, we
envy neither!

The CENTRE ROOM commences with a _Girl at a Window_, by Rembrandt. The
picture is known by the print of it, and is one of the most remarkable
and pleasing in the Collection. For clearness, for breadth, for a
lively, ruddy look of healthy nature, it cannot be surpassed. The
execution of the drapery is masterly. There is a story told of its being
his servant-maid looking out of a window, but it is evidently the
portrait of a mere child.—_A Farrier shoeing an Ass_, by Berchem, is in
his usual manner. There is truth of character and delicate finishing;
but the fault of all Berchem’s pictures is, that he continues to finish
after he has done looking at nature, and his last touches are different
from hers. Hence comes that resemblance to _tea-board_ painting, which
even his best works are chargeable with. We find here one or two small
Claudes of no great value; and two very clever specimens of the
court-painter, Watteau, the Gainsborough of France. They are marked as
Nos. 184 and 194, _Fête Champêtre_, and _Le Bal Champêtre_. There is
something exceedingly light, agreeable, and characteristic in this
artist’s productions. He might almost be said to breathe his figures and
his flowers on the canvas—so fragile is their texture, so evanescent is
his touch. He unites the court and the country at a sort of salient
point—you may fancy yourself with Count Grammont and the beauties of
Charles II. in their gay retreat at Tunbridge Wells. His trees have a
drawing-room air with them, an appearance of gentility and etiquette,
and nod gracefully over-head; while the figures below, thin as air, and
_vegetably_ clad, in the midst of all their affectation and grimace,
seem to have just sprung out of the ground, or to be the fairy
inhabitants of the scene in masquerade. They are the Oreads and Dryads
of the Luxembourg! Quaint association, happily effected by the pencil of
Watteau! In the _Bal Champêtre_ we see Louis XIV. himself dancing,
looking so like an old beau, his face flushed and puckered up with gay
anxiety; but then the satin of his slashed doublet is made of the
softest leaves of the water-lily; Zephyr plays wanton with the curls of
his wig! We have nobody who could produce a companion to this picture
now: nor do we very devoutly wish it. The Louis the Fourteenths are
extinct, and we suspect their revival would hardly be compensated even
by the re-appearance of a Watteau.—No. 187, _the Death of Cardinal
Beaufort_, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, is a very indifferent and rather
unpleasant sketch of a very fine picture. One of the most delightful
things in this delightful collection is _the Portrait (195) of the
Prince of the Austurias_, by Velasquez. The easy lightness of the
childish Prince contrasts delightfully with the unwieldy figure of the
horse, which has evidently been brought all the way from the Low
Countries for the amusement of his rider. Velasquez was (with only two
exceptions, Titian and Vandyke) as fine a portrait-painter as ever
lived! In the centre room also is the _Meeting of Jacob and Rachel_, by
Murillo—a sweet picture with a fresh green landscape, and the heart of
Love in the midst of it.—There are several heads by Holbein scattered up
and down the different compartments. We need hardly observe that they
all have character in the extreme, so that we may be said to be
acquainted with the people they represent; but then they give nothing
but character, and only one part of that, _viz._ the dry, the literal,
the concrete, and fixed. They want the addition of passion and beauty;
but they are the finest _caput mortuums_ of expression that ever were
made. Hans Holbein had none of the volatile essence of genius in his
composition. If portrait-painting is the prose of the art, his pictures
are the prose of portrait-painting. Yet he is ‘a reverend name’ in art,
and one of the benefactors of the human mind. He has left faces behind
him that we would give the world to have seen, and there they
are—stamped on his canvass for ever! Who, in reading over the names of
certain individuals, does not feel a yearning in his breast to know
their features and their lineaments? We look through a small frame, and
lo! at the distance of three centuries, we have before us the figures of
Anne Boleyn, of the virtuous Cranmer, the bigoted Queen Mary, the noble
Surrey—as if we had seen them in their life-time, not perhaps in their
best moods or happiest attitudes, but as they sometimes appeared, no
doubt. We know at least what sort of looking people they were: our minds
are made easy on that score; the ‘body and limbs’ are there, and we may
‘add what flourishes’ of grace or ornament we please. Holbein’s heads
are to the finest portraits what state-papers are to history.

The first picture in the FOURTH ROOM is the _Prophet Samuel_, by Sir
Joshua. It is not the Prophet Samuel, but a very charming picture of a
little child saying its prayers. The second is, _The Education of
Bacchus_, by Nicholas Poussin. This picture makes one thirsty to look at
it—the colouring even is dry and adust. It is true _history_ in the
technical phrase, that is to say, true _poetry_ in the vulgate. The
figure of the infant Bacchus seems as if he would drink up a vintage—he
drinks with his mouth, his hands, his belly, and his whole body.
Gargantua was nothing to him. In the _Education of Jupiter_, in like
manner, we are thrown back into the infancy of mythologic lore. The
little Jupiter, suckled by a she-goat, is beautifully conceived and
expressed; and the dignity and ascendancy given to these animals in the
picture is wonderfully happy. They have a very imposing air of gravity
indeed, and seem to be by prescription ‘grand caterers and wet-nurses of
the state’ of Heaven! _Apollo giving a Poet a Cup of Water to drink_ is
elegant and classical; and _The Flight into Egypt_ instantly takes the
tone of Scripture-history. This is strange, but so it is. All things are
possible to a high imagination. All things, about which we have a
feeling, may be expressed by true genius. A dark landscape (by the same
hand) in a corner of the room is a proof of this. There are trees in the
fore-ground, with a paved road and buildings in the distance. The Genius
of antiquity might wander here, and feel itself at home.—The large
leaves are wet and heavy with dew, and the eye dwells ‘under the shade
of melancholy boughs.’ In the old collection (in Mr. Desenfans’ time)
the Poussins occupied a separated room by themselves, and it was (we
confess) a very favourite room with us.—No. 226, is a _Landscape_, by
Salvator Rosa. It is one of his very best—rough, grotesque, wild—Pan has
struck it with his hoof—the trees, the rocks, the fore-ground, are of a
piece, and the figures are subordinate to the landscape. The same dull
sky lowers upon the scene, and the bleak air chills the crisp surface of
the water. It is a consolation to us to meet with a fine Salvator. His
is one of the great names in art, and it is among our sources of regret
that we cannot always admire his works as we would do, from our respect
to his reputation and our love of the man. Poor Salvator! he was unhappy
in his life-time; and it vexes us to think that we cannot make him
amends by fancying him so great a painter as some others, whose fame was
not their only inheritance!—227, _Venus and Cupid_, is a delightful copy
after Correggio. We have no such regrets or qualms of conscience with
respect to him. ‘He has had his reward.’ The weight of his renown
balances the weight of barbarous coin that sunk him to the earth. Could
he live now, and know what others think of him, his misfortunes would
seem as dross compared with his lasting glory, and his heart would melt
within him at the thought, with a sweetness that only his own pencil
could express. 233, _The Virgin, Infant Christ, and St. John_, by Andrea
del Sarto, is exceedingly good.—290, Another _Holy Family_, by the same,
is an admirable picture, and only inferior to Raphael. It has delicacy,
force, thought, and feeling. ‘What lacks it then,’ to be equal to
Raphael? We hardly know, unless it be a certain firmness and freedom,
and glowing animation. The execution is more timid and laboured. It
looks like a picture (an exquisite one, indeed), but Raphael’s look like
the divine reality itself!—No. 234, _Cocles defending the Bridge_, is by
Le Brun. We do not like this picture, nor 271, _The Massacre of the
Innocents_, by the same artist. One reason is that they are French, and
another that they are not good. They have great merit, it is true, but
their merits are only splendid sins. They are mechanical, mannered,
colourless, and unfeeling.—No. 237, is Murillo’s _Spanish Girl with
Flowers_. The sun tinted the young gipsey’s complexion, and not the
painter.—No. 240, is _The Casatella and Villa of Mæcenas, near Tivoli_,
by Wilson, with his own portrait in the fore-ground. It is an imperfect
sketch; but there is a curious anecdote relating to it, that he was so
delighted with the waterfall itself, that he cried out, while painting
it: ‘Well done, water, by G—d!’—No. 243, _Saint Cecilia_, by Guercino,
is a very pleasing picture, in his least gaudy manner.—No. 251, _Venus
and Adonis_, by Titian. We see so many of these Venuses and Adonises,
that we should like to know which is the true one. This is one of the
best we have seen. We have two Francesco Molas in this room, the _Rape
of Proserpine_, and a _Landscape with a Holy Family_. This artist dipped
his pencil so thoroughly in Titian’s palette, that his works cannot fail
to have that rich, mellow look, which is always delightful.—No. 303,
_Portrait of Philip the Fourth of Spain_, by Velasquez, is purity and
truth itself. We used to like the _Sleeping Nymph_, by Titian, when we
saw it formerly in the little entrance-room at Desenfans’, but we cannot
say much in its praise here.

The FIFTH ROOM is the smallest, but the most precious in its
contents.—No. 322, _Spanish Beggar Boys_, by Murillo, is the triumph of
this Collection, and almost of painting. In the imitation of common
life, nothing ever went beyond it, or as far as we can judge, came up to
it. A Dutch picture is mechanical, and mere _still-life_ to it. But this
is life itself. The boy at play on the ground is miraculous. It is done
with a few dragging strokes of the pencil, and with a little tinge of
colour; but the mouth, the nose, the eyes, the chin, are as brimful as
they can hold of expression, of arch roguery, of animal spirits, of
vigorous, elastic health. The vivid, glowing, cheerful look is such as
could only be found beneath a southern sun. The fens and dykes of
Holland (with all our respect for them) could never produce such an
epitome of the vital principle. The other boy, standing up with the
pitcher in his hand, and a crust of bread in his mouth, is scarcely less
excellent. His sulky, phlegmatic indifference speaks for itself. The
companion to this picture, 324, is also very fine. Compared with these
imitations of nature, as faultless as they are spirited, Murillo’s
Virgins and Angels however good in themselves, look vapid, and even
vulgar. A _Child Sleeping_, by the same painter, is a beautiful and
masterly study.—No. 329, a _Musical Party_, by Giorgione, is well worthy
of the notice of the connoisseur. No. 331, _St. John Preaching in the
Wilderness_, by Guido, is an extraordinary picture, and very unlike this
painter’s usual manner. The colour is as if the flesh had been stained
all over with brick-dust. There is, however, a wildness about it which
accords well with the subject, and the figure of St. John is full of
grace and gusto.—No. 344, _The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian_, by the same,
is much finer, both as to execution and expression. The face is imbued
with deep passion.—No. 345, _Portrait of a Man_, by L. da Vinci, is
truly simple and grand, and at once carries you back to that age.—_Boors
Merry Making_, by Ostade, is fine; but has no business where it is. Yet
it takes up very little room.—No. 347, _Portrait of Mrs. Siddons, in the
character of the Tragic Muse_, by Sir Joshua, appears to us to resemble
neither Mrs. Siddons, nor the Tragic Muse. It is in a bastard style of
art. Sir Joshua had an importunate theory of improving upon nature. He
might improve upon indifferent nature, but when he had got the finest,
he thought to improve upon that too, and only spoiled it.—No. 349, _The
Virgin and Child_, by Correggio, can only be a copy.—No. 332, _The
Judgment of Paris_, by Vanderwerf, is a picture, and by a master, that
we hate. He always chooses for his subjects naked figures of women, and
tantalises us by making them of coloured ivory. They are like hard-ware
toys.—No. 354, _a Cardinal Blessing a Priest_, by P. Veronese, is
dignified and picturesque in the highest degree.—No. 355, _The Adoration
of the Shepherds_, by Annibal Caracci, is an elaborate, but not very
successful performance.—No. 356, _Christ bearing his Cross_, by Morales,
concludes the list, and is worthy to conclude it.



                   THE MARQUIS OF STAFFORD’S GALLERY


Our intercourse with the dead is better than our intercourse with the
living. There are only three pleasures in life, pure and lasting, and
all derived from inanimate things—books, pictures, and the face of
nature. What is the world but a heap of ruined friendships, but the
grave of love? All other pleasures are as false and hollow, vanishing
from our embrace like smoke, or like a feverish dream. Scarcely can we
recollect that they were, or recall without an effort the anxious and
momentary interest we took in them.—But thou, oh! divine _Bath of
Diana_, with deep azure eyes, with roseate hues, spread by the hand of
Titian, art still there upon the wall, another, yet the same that thou
wert five-and-twenty years ago, nor wantest

               ——‘Forked mountain or blue promontory
               With Trees upon’t that nod unto the world,
               And mock our eyes with air!’

And lo! over the clear lone brow of Tuderley and Norman Court, knit into
the web and fibres of our heart, the sighing grove waves in the autumnal
air, deserted by Love, by Hope, but forever haunted by Memory! And there
that fine passage stands in Antony and Cleopatra as we read it long ago
with exalting eyes in Paris, after puzzling over a tragedy of Racine’s,
and cried aloud: ‘Our Shakspeare was also a poet!’ These feelings are
dear to us at the time; and they come back unimpaired, heightened,
mellowed, whenever we choose to go back to them. We turn over the leaf
and ‘volume of the brain,’ and there see them face to face.—Marina in
Pericles complains that

          ‘Life is as a storm hurrying her from her friends!’

Not so from the friends above-mentioned. If we bring but an eye, an
understanding, and a heart to them, we find them always with us, always
the same. The change, if there is one, is in us, not in them. Oh! thou
then, whoever thou art, that dost seek happiness in thyself, independent
on others, not subject to caprice, not mocked by insult, not snatched
away by ruthless hands, over which Time has no power, and that Death
alone cancels, seek it (if thou art wise) in books, in pictures, and the
face of nature, for these alone we may count upon as friends for life!
While we are true to ourselves, they will not be faithless to us. While
we remember any thing, we cannot forget them. As long as we have a wish
for pleasure, we may find it here; for it depends only on our love for
them, and not on theirs for us. The enjoyment is purely _ideal_, and is
refined, unembittered, unfading, for that reason.

A complaint has been made of the short-lived duration of works of art,
and particularly of pictures; and poets more especially are apt to
lament and to indulge in an elegiac strain over the fragile beauties of
the sister-art. The complaint is inconsiderate, if not invidious. _They
will last our time._ Nay, they have lasted centuries before us, and will
last centuries after us; and even when they are no more, will leave a
shadow and a cloud of glory behind them, through all time. Lord Bacon
exclaims triumphantly, ‘Have not the poems of Homer lasted
five-and-twenty hundred years, and not a syllable of them is lost?’ But
it might be asked in return, ‘Have not many of the Greek statues now
lasted almost as long, without losing a particle of their splendour or
their meaning, while the Iliad (except to a very few) has become almost
a dead letter?’ Has not the Venus of Medicis had almost as many
partisans and admirers as the Helen of the old blind bard? Besides, what
has Phidias gained in reputation even by the discovery of the Elgin
Marbles? Or is not Michael Angelo’s the greatest name in modern art,
whose works we only know from description and by report? Surely, there
is something in a name, in wide-spread reputation, in endless renown, to
satisfy the ambition of the mind of man. Who in his works would vie
immortality with nature? An epitaph, an everlasting monument in the dim
remembrance of ages, is enough below the skies. Moreover, the sense of
final inevitable decay _humanises_, and gives an affecting character to
the triumphs of exalted art. Imperishable works executed by perishable
hands are a sort of insult to our nature, and almost a contradiction in
terms. They are ungrateful children, and mock the makers. Neither is the
noble idea of antiquity legibly made out without the marks of the
progress and lapse of time. That which is as good now as ever it was,
seems a thing of yesterday. Nothing is old to the imagination that does
not appear to grow old. Ruins are grander and more venerable than any
modern structure can be, or than the oldest could be if kept in the most
entire preservation. They convey the perspective of time. So the Elgin
Marbles are more impressive from their mouldering, imperfect state. They
transport us to the Parthenon, and old Greece. The Theseus is of the age
of Theseus: while the Apollo Belvidere is a modern fine gentleman; and
we think of this last figure only as an ornament to the room where it
happens to be placed.—We conceive that those are persons of narrow minds
who cannot relish an author’s style that smacks of time, that has a
crust of antiquity over it, like that which gathers upon old wine. These
sprinklings of _archaisms_ and obsolete turns of expression (so
abhorrent to the fashionable reader) are intellectual links that connect
the generations together, and enlarge our knowledge of language and of
nature. Of the two, we prefer _black-letter_ to hot-pressed paper. Does
not every language change and wear out? Do not the most popular writers
become quaint and old-fashioned every fifty or every hundred years? Is
there not a constant conflict of taste and opinion between those who
adhere to the established and triter modes of expression, and those who
affect glossy innovations, in advance of the age? It is pride enough for
the best authors _to have been read_. This applies to their own country;
and to all others, they are ‘a book sealed.’ But Rubens is as good in
Holland as he is in Flanders, where he was born, in Italy or in Spain,
in England, or in Scotland—no, there alone he is _not_ understood. The
Scotch understand nothing but what is Scotch. What has the dry, husky,
economic eye of Scotland to do with the florid hues and luxuriant
extravagance of Rubens? Nothing. They like Wilkie’s _pauper_ style
better. It may be said that translations remedy the want of universality
of language: but prints give (at least) as good an idea of pictures as
translations do of poems, or of any productions of the press that employ
the colouring of style and imagination. Gil Blas is translateable;
Racine and Rousseau are not. The mere English student knows more of the
character and spirit of Raphael’s pictures in the Vatican, than he does
of Ariosto or Tasso from Hoole’s Version. There is, however, one
exception to the catholic language of painting, which is in French
pictures. They are national fixtures, and ought never to be removed from
the soil in which they grow. They will not answer any where else, nor
are they worth Custom-House Duties. Flemish, Dutch, Spanish, Italian,
are all good and intelligible in their several ways—we know what they
mean—they require no interpreter: but the French painters see nature
with organs and with minds peculiarly their own. One must be born in
France to understand their painting, or their poetry. Their productions
in art are either literal, or extravagant—dry, frigid _fac-similes_, in
which they seem to take up nature by pin-points, or else vapid distorted
caricatures, out of all rule and compass. They are, in fact, at home
only in the light and elegant; and whenever they attempt to add force or
solidity (as they must do in the severer productions of the pencil) they
are compelled to substitute an excess of minute industry for a
comprehension of the whole, or make a desperate mechanical effort at
extreme expression, instead of giving the true, natural, and powerful
workings of passion. Their representations of nature are meagre
skeletons, that bear the same relation to the originals that botanical
specimens, enclosed in a portfolio, flat, dry, hard, and pithless, do to
flourishing plants and shrubs. Their historical figures are painful
outlines, or graduated elevations of the common statues, spiritless,
colourless, motionless, which have the form, but none of the power of
the _antique_. What an abortive attempt is the _Coronation of Napoleon_,
by the celebrated David, lately exhibited in this country! It looks like
a finished sign-post painting—a sea of frozen outlines.—Could the artist
make nothing of ‘the foremost man in all this world,’ but a stiff,
upright figure? The figure and attitude of the Empress are, however,
pretty and graceful; and we recollect one face in profile, of an
ecclesiastic, to the right, with a sanguine look of health in the
complexion, and a large benevolence of soul. It is not Monsieur
Talleyrand, whom the late Lord Castlereagh characterised as a worthy man
and his friend. His Lordship was not a physiognomist! The whole of the
shadowed part of the picture seems to be enveloped in a shower of blue
powder.—But to make amends for all that there is or that there is not in
the work, David has introduced his wife and his two daughters; and in
the Catalogue has given us the places of abode, and the names of the
husbands of the latter. This is a little out of place: yet these are the
people who laugh at our blunders. We do not mean to extend the above
sweeping censure to Claude, or Poussin: of course they are excepted: but
even in them the national character lurked amidst unrivalled excellence.
If Claude has a fault, it is that he is finical; and Poussin’s figures
might be said by a satirist to be antique puppets. To proceed to our
task.—

The first picture that struck us on entering the Marquis of Stafford’s
Gallery (a little bewildered as we were with old recollections, and
present objects) was the _Meeting of Christ and St. John_, one of
Raphael’s master-pieces. The eager ‘child-worship’ of the young St.
John, the modest retirement and dignified sweetness of the Christ, and
the graceful, matron-like air of the Virgin bending over them, full and
noble, yet feminine and elegant, cannot be surpassed. No words can
describe them to those who have not seen the picture:—the attempt is
still vainer to those who have. There is, however, a very fine engraving
of this picture, which may be had for a trifling sum.—No glory is around
the head of the Mother, nor is it needed: but the soul of the painter
sheds its influence over it like a dove, and the spirit of love,
sanctity, beauty, breathes from the divine group. There are four
Raphaels (Holy Families) in this collection, two others by the side of
this in his early more precise and affected manner, somewhat faded, and
a small one of the _Virgin, Sleeping Jesus, and St. John_, in his finest
manner. There is, or there was, a duplicate of this picture (of which
the engraving is also common) in the Louvre, which was certainly
superior to the one at the Marquis of Stafford’s. The colouring of the
drapery in that too was cold, and the face of the Virgin thin and poor;
but never was infancy laid asleep more calmly, more sweetly, more
soundly, than in the figure of Our Saviour—the little pouting mouth
seemed to drink balmy, innocent sleep—and the rude expression of wonder
and delight in the more robust, sun-burnt, fur-clad figure of St. John
was as spirited in itself as it was striking, when contrasted with the
meeker beauties of the figure opposed to it.—From these we turn to the
Four Ages, by Titian, or Giorgione, as some say. Strange that there
should have lived two men in the same age, on the same spot of earth,
with respect to whom it should bear a question—which of them painted
such a picture! Barry, we remember, and Collins, the miniature-painter,
thought it a Giorgione, and they were considered two of the best judges
_going_, at the time this picture was exhibited, among others, in the
Orleans Gallery. We cannot pretend to decide on such nice matters _ex
cathedra_; but no painter need be ashamed to own it. The gradations of
human life are marked with characteristic felicity, and the landscape,
which is thrown in, adds a pastoral charm and _naïveté_ to the whole. To
live or to die in such a chosen, still retreat must be happy!—Certainly,
this composition suggests a beautiful moral lesson; and as to the
painting of the group of children in the corner, we suppose, for
careless freedom of pencil, and a certain milky softness of the flesh,
it can scarcely be paralleled. Over the three Raphaels is a _Danae_, by
Annibal Caracci, which we used to adore where it was hung on high in the
Orleans Gallery. The face is fine, upturned, expectant; and the figure
no less fine, desirable, ample, worthy of a God.—The golden shower is
just seen descending; the landscape at a distance has (so fancy might
interpret) a cold, shuddering aspect. There is another very fine picture
of the same hand close by, _St. Gregory with Angels_. It is difficult to
know which to admire most, the resigned and yet earnest expression of
the Saint, or the elegant forms, the graceful attitudes, and bland,
cordial, benignant faces of the attendant angels. The artist in these
last has evidently had an eye to Correggio, both in the waving outline,
and in the charm of the expression; and he has succeeded admirably, but
not entirely. Something of the extreme unction of Correggio is wanting.
The drawing of Annibal’s Angels is, perhaps, too firm, too sinewy, too
masculine. In Correggio, the Angel’s spirit seemed to be united to a
human body, to imbue, mould, penetrate every part with its sweetness and
softness: in Caracci, you would say that a heavenly spirit inhabited,
looked out of, moved a goodly human frame,

               ‘And o’er-informed the tenement of clay.’

The composition of this picture is rather forced (it was one of those
_made to order_ for the monks) and the colour is somewhat metallic; but
it has, notwithstanding, on the whole, a striking and tolerably
harmonious effect.—There is still another picture by Caracci (also an
old favourite with us, for it was in the Orleans set) _Diana and Nymphs
bathing_, with the story of Calisto. It is one of his very best, with
something of the drawing of the antique, and the landscape-colouring of
Titian. The figures are all heroic, handsome, such as might belong to
huntresses, or Goddesses: and the coolness and seclusion of the scene,
under grey over-hanging cliffs, and brown overshadowing trees, with all
the richness and truth of nature, have the effect of an enchanting
reality.—The story and figures are more classical and better managed
than those of the _Diana and Calisto_ by Titian; but there is a charm in
that picture and the fellow to it, the _Diana and Actæon_, (there is no
other fellow to it in the world!) which no words can convey. It is the
charm thrown over each by the greatest genius for colouring that the
world ever saw. It is difficult, nay, impossible to say which is the
finest in this respect: but either one or the other (whichever we turn
to, and we can never be satisfied with looking at either—so rich a scene
do they unfold, so serene a harmony do they infuse into the soul) is
like a divine piece of music, or rises ‘like an exhalation of rich
distilled perfumes.’ In the figures, in the landscape, in the water, in
the sky, there are tones, colours, scattered with a profuse and unerring
hand, gorgeous, but most true, dazzling with their force, but blended,
softened, woven together into a woof like that of Iris—tints of flesh
colour, as if you saw the blood circling beneath the pearly skin; clouds
empurpled with setting suns; hills steeped in azure skies; trees turning
to a mellow brown; the cold grey rocks, and the water so translucent,
that you see the shadows and the snowy feet of the naked nymphs in it.
With all this prodigality of genius, there is the greatest severity and
discipline of art. The figures seem grouped for the effect of colour—the
most striking contrasts are struck out, and then a third object, a piece
of drapery, an uplifted arm, a bow and arrows, a straggling weed, is
introduced to make an intermediate tint, or carry on the harmony. Every
colour is melted, _impasted_ into every other, with fine keeping and
bold diversity. Look at that indignant, queen-like figure of Diana (more
perhaps like an offended mortal princess, than an immortal Goddess,
though the immortals could frown and give themselves strange airs), and
see the snowy, ermine-like skin; the pale clear shadows of the
delicately formed back; then the brown colour of the slender trees
behind to set off the shaded flesh; and last, the dark figure of the
Ethiopian girl behind, completing the gradation. Then the bright scarf
suspended in the air connects itself with the glowing clouds, and
deepens the solemn azure of the sky: Actæon’s bow and arrows fallen on
the ground are also red; and there is a little flower on the brink of
the Bath which catches and pleases the eye, saturated with this colour.
The yellowish grey of the earth purifies the low tone of the figures
where they are in half-shadow; and this again is enlivened by the
leaden-coloured fountain of the Bath, which is set off (or kept down in
its proper place) by the blue vestments strown near it. The figure of
Actæon is spirited and natural; it is that of a bold rough hunter in the
early ages, struck with surprise, abashed with beauty. The forms of some
of the female figures are elegant enough, particularly that of Diana in
the story of Calisto; and there is a very pretty-faced girl
mischievously dragging the culprit forward; but it is the texture of the
flesh that is throughout delicious, unrivalled, surpassingly fair. The
landscape canopies the living scene with a sort of proud, disdainful
consciousness. The trees nod to it, and the hills roll at a distance in
a sea of colour. Every where tone, not form, predominates—there is not a
distinct line in the picture—but a gusto, a rich taste of colour is left
upon the eye as if it were the palate, and the diapason of picturesque
harmony is full to overflowing. ‘Oh Titian and Nature! which of you
copied the other?’

We are ashamed of this description, now that we have made it, and
heartily wish somebody would make a better. There is another Titian here
(which was also in the Orleans Gallery),[3] _Venus rising from the sea_.
The figure and face are gracefully designed and sweetly
expressed:—whether it is the picture of the Goddess of Love, may admit
of a question; that it is the picture of a lovely woman in a lovely
attitude, admits of none. The half-shadow in which most of it is
painted, is a kind of veil through which the delicate skin shows more
transparent and aerial. There is nothing in the picture but this single
exquisitely turned figure, and if it were continued downward to a
whole-length, it would seem like a copy of a statue of the Goddess
carved in ivory or marble; but being only a half-length, it has not this
effect at all, but looks like an enchanting study, or a part of a larger
composition, selected _a l’envie_. The hair, and the arm holding it up,
are nearly the same as in the well-known picture of _Titian’s Mistress_,
and as delicious. The back-ground is beautifully painted. We said
before, that there was no object in the picture detached from the
principal figure. Nay, there is the sea, and a sea-shell, but these
might be given in sculpture.—Under the _Venus_, is a portrait by
Vandyke, of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, a most gentleman-like
performance, mild, clear, intelligent, unassuming; and on the right of
the spectator, a _Madonna_, by Guido, with the icy glow of sanctity upon
it; and to the left, the _Fable of Salmacis_, by Albano (saving the
ambiguity of the subject), exquisitely painted. Four finer specimens of
the art can scarcely be found again in so small a compass. There is in
another room a portrait, said to be by Moroni, and called TITIAN’S
SCHOOL-MASTER, from a vague tradition, that he was in the habit of
frequently visiting, in order to study and learn from it. If so, he must
have profited by his assiduity; for it looks as if he had painted it.
Not knowing any thing of Moroni, if we had been asked who had done it,
we should have replied, ‘_Either Titian or the Devil_.’[4] It is
considerably more laboured and minute than Titian; but the only
objection at all staggering is, that it has less fiery animation than is
ordinarily to be found in his pictures. Look at the portrait above it,
for instance—Clement VII. by the great Venetian; and you find the eye
looking at you again, as if it had been observing you all the time: but
the eye in _Titian’s School-master_ is _an eye to look at, not to look
with_,[5] or if it looks _at_ you, it does not look _through_ you, which
may be almost made a test of Titian’s heads. There is not the spirit,
the intelligence within, moulding the expression, and giving it
intensity of purpose and decision of character. In every other respect
but this (and perhaps a certain want of breadth) it is as good as
Titian. There is (we understand) a half-length of Clement VII. by Julio
Romano, in the Papal Palace at Rome, in which he is represented as
seated above the spectator, with the head elevated and the eye looking
down like a camel’s, with an amazing dignity of aspect. The picture (Mr.
Northcote says) is hard and ill-coloured, but, in strength of character
and conception, superior to the Titian at the Marquis of Stafford’s.
Titian, undoubtedly, put a good deal of his own character into his
portraits. He was not himself filled with the ‘milk of human kindness.’
He got his brother, who promised to rival him in his own art, and of
whom he was jealous, sent on a foreign embassy; and he so frightened
Pordenone while he was painting an altar-piece for a church, that he
worked with his palette and brushes in his hand, and a sword by his
side.

We meet with one or two admirable portraits, particularly No. 112, by
Tintoretto, which is of a fine fleshy tone, and _A Doge of Venice_, by
Palma Vecchio, stamped with an expressive look of official and assumed
dignity. There is a Bassan, No. 95, _The Circumcision_, the colours of
which are somewhat dingy with age, and sunk into the canvas; but as the
sun shone upon it while we were looking at it, it glittered all green
and gold. Bassan’s execution is as fine as possible, and his colouring
has a most striking harmonious effect.—We must not forget the
_Muleteers_, supposed to be by Correggio, in which the figure of the
Mule seems actually passing across the picture (you hear his bells); nor
the little copy of his _Marriage of St. Catherine_, by L. Caracci, which
is all over grace, delicacy, and sweetness. Any one may judge of his
progress in a taste for the refinements of art, by his liking for this
picture. Indeed, Correggio is the very essence of refinement. Among
other pictures in the Italian division of the gallery, we would point
out the Claudes (particularly Nos. 43 and 50,) which, though inferior to
Mr. Angerstein’s as compositions, preserve more of the delicacy of
execution, (or what Barry used to call ‘_the fine oleaginous touches of
Claude_‘)—two small Gaspar Poussins, in which the landscape seems to
have been just washed by a shower, and the storm blown over—the _Death
of Adonis_, by Luca Cambiasi, an Orleans picture, lovely in sorrow, and
in speechless agony, and faded like the life that is just expiring in
it—a _Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife_, by Alessandro Veronese, a very
clever, and sensible, but rigidly painted picture[6]—an Albert Durer,
the _Death of the Virgin_—a _Female head_, by Leonardo da Vinci—and _the
Woman taken in Adultery_, by Pordenone, which last the reader may admire
or not, as he pleases. We cannot close this list without referring to
the _Christ bearing his cross_, by Domenichino, a picture full of
interest and skill; and the little touching allegory of the _Infant
Christ sleeping on a cross_, by Guido.

The Dutch School contains a number of excellent specimens of the best
masters. There are two Tenierses, a _Fair_, and _Boors merry-making_,
unrivalled for a look of the open air, for lively awkward gesture, and
variety and grotesqueness of grouping and rustic character. There is a
little picture, by Le Nain, called the _Village Minstrel_, with a set of
youthful auditors, the most incorrigible little mischievous urchins we
ever saw, but with admirable execution and expression. The Metzus are
curious and fine—the Ostades admirable. Gerard Douw’s own portrait is
certainly a gem. We noticed a Ruysdael in one corner of the room (No.
221), a dark, flat, wooded country, but delectable in tone and
pencilling. Vandevelde’s Sea-pieces are capital—the water is smooth as
glass, and the boats and vessels have the buoyancy of butterflies on it.
The _Seaport_, by A. Cuyp, is miraculous for truth, brilliancy, and
clearness, almost beyond actual water. These cannot be passed over; but
there is a little picture which we beg to commend to the gentle reader,
the Vangoyen, at the end of the room, No. 156, which has that
yellow-tawny colour in the meads, and that grey chill look in the old
convent, that give one the precise feeling of a mild day towards the end
of winter, in a humid, marshy country. We many years ago copied a
Vangoyen, a view of a Canal ‘with yellow tufted banks and gliding sail,’
modestly pencilled, truly felt—and have had an affection for him ever
since. There is a small inner room with some most respectable modern
pictures. Wilkie’s _Breakfast-table_ is among them.

_The Sacraments_, by N. Poussin, occupy a separate room by themselves,
and have a grand and solemn effect; but we could hardly see them where
they are; and in general, we prefer his treatment of light and classical
subjects to those of sacred history. He wanted _weight_ for the last;
or, if that word is objected to, we will change it, and say _force_.

On the whole, the Stafford Gallery is probably the most magnificent
Collection this country can boast. The specimens of the different
schools are as numerous as they are select; and they are equally
calculated to delight the student by the degree, or to inform the
uninitiated by the variety of excellence. Yet even this Collection is
not complete. It is deficient in Rembrandts, Vandykes, and Rubenses;
except one splendid allegory and fruit-piece by the last.



                     THE PICTURES AT WINDSOR CASTLE


The palaces of Windsor and Hampton-court contain pictures worthy of the
feelings we attach to the names of those places. The first boasts a
number of individual pictures of great excellence and interest, and the
last the Cartoons.

Windsor Castle is remarkable in many respects. Its tall, grey, square
towers, seated on a striking eminence, overlook for many miles the
subjacent country, and, eyed in the distance, lead the mind of the
solitary traveller to romantic musing; or, approached nearer, give the
heart a quicker and stronger pulsation. Windsor, besides its
picturesque, commanding situation, and its being the only palace in the
kingdom fit for the receptacle of ‘a line of kings,’ is the scene of
many classical associations. Who can pass through Datchet, and the
neighbouring greensward paths, and not think of Falstaff, of Ann Page,
and the oak of Herne the hunter? Or if he does not, still he is affected
by them as if he did. The tall slim deer glance startled by, in some
neglected track of memory, and fairies trip it in the unconscious haunts
of the imagination! Pope’s lines on Windsor Forest also suggest
themselves to the mind in the same way, and make the air about it
delicate. Gray has consecrated the same spot by his _Ode on a Distant
Prospect of Eton College_; and the finest passage in Burke’s writings is
his comparison of the British Monarchy to ‘the proud Keep of Windsor.’
The walls and massy towers of Windsor Castle are indeed built of solid
stone, weather-beaten, time-proof; but the image answering to them in
the mind’s eye is woven of pure thought and the airy films of the
imagination—Arachne’s web not finer!

The rooms are chill and comfortless at this time of the year,[7] and
gilded ceilings look down on smoky fire-places. The view from the
windows, too, which is so rich and glowing in the summer-time, is
desolate and deformed with the rains overflowing the marshy grounds. As
to physical comfort, one seems to have no more of it in these tapestried
halls and on marble floors, than the poor bird driven before the pelting
storm, or the ploughboy seeking shelter from the drizzling sky, in his
sheep-skin jacket and clouted shoes, beneath the dripping, leafless
spray. The palace does not (more than the hovel) always defend us
against the winter’s cold. The apartments are also filled with too many
rubbishly pictures of kings and queens—there are too many of Verrio’s
paintings, and a whole roomful of West’s; but there are ten or twenty
pictures which the eye, having once seen, never loses sight of, and that
make Windsor one of the retreats and treasuries of art in this country.
These, however, are chiefly pictures which have a personal and
individual interest attached to them, as we have already hinted: there
are very few historical compositions of any value, and the subjects of
the others are so desultory that the young person who shows them, and
goes through the names of the painters and portraits very correctly,
said she very nearly went out of her mind in the three weeks she was
‘studying her part.’ It is a matter of nomenclature: we hope we shall
make as few blunders in our report as she did.

In the first room the stranger is shown into, there are two large
landscapes by Zuccarelli. They are clever, well-painted pictures; but
they are worth nothing. The fault of this artist is, that there is
nothing absolutely good or bad in his pictures. They are mere
handicraft. The whole is done with a certain mechanical ease and
indifference; but it is evident no part of the picture gave him any
pleasure, and it is impossible it should give the spectator any. His
only ambition was to execute his task so as to save his credit; and your
first impulse is, to turn away from the picture, and save your time.

In the next room, there are four Vandykes—two of them excellent. One is
the Duchess of Richmond, a whole-length, in a white satin drapery, with
a pet lamb. The expression of her face is a little sullen and
capricious. The other, the Countess of Carlisle, has a shrewd, clever,
sensible countenance; and, in a certain archness of look, and the
contour of the lower part of the face, resembles the late Mrs.
Jordan.—Between these two portraits is a copy after Rembrandt, by
Gainsborough, a fine _sombre_, mellow head, with the hat flapped over
the face.

Among the most delightful and interesting of the pictures in this
Collection, is the portrait by Vandyke, of Lady Venetia Digby. It is an
allegorical composition: but what truth, what purity, what delicacy in
the execution! You are introduced into the presence of a beautiful woman
of quality of a former age, and it would be next to impossible to
perform an unbecoming action with that portrait hanging in the room. It
has an air of nobility about it, a spirit of humanity within it. There
is a dove-like innocence and softness about the eyes; in the clear,
delicate complexion, health and sorrow contend for the mastery; the
mouth is sweetness itself, the nose highly intelligent, and the forehead
is one of ‘clear-spirited thought.’ But misfortune has touched all this
grace and beauty, and left its canker there. This is shown no less by
the air that pervades it, than by the accompanying emblems. The children
in particular are exquisitely painted, and have an evident reference to
those we lately noticed in the _Four Ages_, by Titian. This portrait,
both from the style and subject, reminds one forcibly of Mrs.
Hutchinson’s admirable Memoirs of her own Life. Both are equally
history, and the history of the female heart (depicted, in the one case,
by the pencil, in the other, by the pen) in the finest age of female
accomplishment and pious devotion. Look at this portrait, breathing the
beauty of virtue, and compare it with the ‘Beauties’ of Charles II.’s
court, by Lely. They look just like what they were—a set of
kept-mistresses, painted, tawdry, showing off their theatrical or
meretricious airs and graces, without one trace of real elegance or
refinement, or one spark of sentiment to touch the heart. Lady Grammont
is the handsomest of them; and, though the most voluptuous in her attire
and attitude, the most decent. The Duchess of Portsmouth, in her helmet
and plumes, looks quite like a heroine of romance or modern Amazon; but
for an air of easy assurance, inviting admiration, and alarmed at
nothing but being thought coy, commend us to my lady——above, in the
sky-blue drapery, thrown carelessly across her shoulders! As paintings,
these celebrated portraits cannot rank very high. They have an affected
ease, but a real hardness of manner and execution; and they have that
contortion of attitude and setness of features which we afterwards find
carried to so disgusting and insipid an excess in Kneller’s portraits.
Sir Peter Lely was, however, a better painter than Sir Godfrey
Kneller—that is the highest praise that can be accorded to him. He had
more spirit, more originality, and was the livelier coxcomb of the two!
Both these painters possessed considerable mechanical dexterity, but it
is not of a refined kind. Neither of them could be ranked among great
painters, yet they were thought by their contemporaries and themselves
superior to every one. At the distance of a hundred years we see the
thing plainly enough.

In the same room with the portrait of Lady Digby, there is one of
Killigrew and Carew, by the same masterly hand. There is spirit and
character in the profile of Carew, while the head of Killigrew is
surprising from its composure and sedateness of aspect. He was one of
the grave wits of the day, who made nonsense a profound study, and
turned trifles into philosophy, and philosophy into a jest. The pale,
sallow complexion of this head is throughout in wonderful keeping. The
beard and face seem nearly of the same colour. We often see this clear
uniform colour of the skin in Titian’s portraits. But then the dark
eyes, beard, and eye-brows, give relief and distinctness. The fair hair
and complexions, that Vandyke usually painted, with the almost total
absence of shade from his pictures, made the task more difficult; and,
indeed, the prominence and effect he produces in this respect, without
any of the usual means, are almost miraculous.

There are several of his portraits, equestrian and others, of Charles I.
in this Collection, some of them good, none of them first-rate. Those of
Henrietta (his Queen) are always delightful. The painter has made her
the most lady-like of Queens, and of women.

The family picture of the Children of Charles I. is certainly admirably
painted and managed. The large mastiff-dog is inimitably fine and true
to nature, and seems as if he was made to be pulled about by a parcel of
royal infants from generation to generation. In general, it may be
objected to Vandyke’s _dressed_ children, that they look like little old
men and women. His grown-up people had too much stiffness and formality;
and the same thing must quite overlay the playfulness of infancy. Yet
what a difference between these young princes of the House of Stuart,
and two of the princes of the reigning family with their mother, by
Ramsay, which are evident likenesses to this hour!

We have lost our reckoning as to the order of the pictures and rooms in
which they are placed, and must proceed promiscuously through the
remainder of our Catalogue.

One of the most noted pictures at Windsor is that of the _Misers_, by
Quintin Matsys. Its name is greater than its merits, like many other
pictures which have a lucky or intelligible subject, boldly executed.
The conception is good, the colouring bad; the drawing firm, and the
expression coarse and obvious. We are sorry to speak at all
disparagingly of Quintin Matsys; for the story goes that he was
originally bred a blacksmith, and turned painter to gain his master’s
daughter, who would give her hand to no one but on that condition. Happy
he who thus gained the object of his love, though posterity may differ
about his merits as an artist! Yet it is certain, that any romantic
incident of this kind, connected with a well-known work, inclines us to
regard it with a favourable instead of a critical eye, by enhancing our
pleasure in it; as the eccentric character, the wild subjects, and the
sounding name of Salvator Rosa have tended to lift him into the highest
rank of fame among painters.

In the same room with the _Misers_, by the Blacksmith of Antwerp, is a
very different picture by Titian, consisting of two figures also, _viz._
Himself and a Venetian Senator. It is one of the finest specimens of
this master. His own portrait is not much: it has spirit, but is hard,
with somewhat of a vulgar, knowing look. But the head of the Senator is
as fine as anything that ever proceeded from the hand of man. The
expression is a lambent flame, a soul of fire dimmed, not quenched by
age. The flesh _is_ flesh. If Rubens’s pencil fed upon roses, Titian’s
was _carnivorous_. The tone is betwixt a gold and silver hue. The
texture and pencilling are marrowy. The dress is a rich crimson, which
seems to have been growing deeper ever since it was painted. It is a
front view. As far as attitude or action is concerned, it is mere
_still-life_; but the look is of that kind that goes through you at a
single glance. Let any one look well at this portrait, and if he then
sees nothing in it, or in the portraits of this painter in general, let
him give up _virtù_ and criticism in despair.

This room is rich in valuable gems, which might serve as a test of a
real taste for the art, depending for their value on intrinsic
qualities, and not on imposing subjects, or mechanical arrangement or
quantity. As where ‘the still, small voice of reason’ is wanting, we
judge of actions by noisy success and popularity; so where there is no
true moral sense in art, nothing goes down but pomp, and bustle, and
pretension. The eye of taste looks to see if a work has nature’s finest
image and superscription upon it, and for no other title and passport to
fame. There is a _Young Man’s Head_, (we believe in one corner of this
room) by Holbein, in which we can read high and heroic thoughts and
resolutions, better than in any _Continence of Scipio_ we ever saw, or
than in all the _Battles of Alexander_ thrown into a lump. There is a
_Portrait of Erasmus_, by the same, and in the same or an adjoining
room, in which we see into the mind of a scholar and of an amiable man,
as through a window. There is a _Head_ by Parmegiano, lofty, triumphant,
showing the spirit of another age and clime—one by Raphael, studious and
self-involved—another, said to be by Leonardo da Vinci (but more like
Holbein) grown crabbed with age and thought—and a girl reading, by
Correggio, intent on her subject, and not forgetting herself. These are
the materials of history; and if it is not made of them, it is a
nickname or a mockery. All that does not lay open the fine net-work of
the heart and brain of man, that does not make us see deeper into the
soul, is but the apparatus and machinery of history-painting, and no
more to it than the frame is to the picture.

We noticed a little _Mater Dolorosa_ in one of the rooms, by Carlo
Dolci, which is a pale, pleasing, expressive head. There are two large
figures of his, a _Magdalen_ and another, which are in the very falsest
style of colouring and expression; and _Youth and Age_, by Denner, which
are in as perfectly bad a taste and style of execution as anything we
ever saw of this artist, who was an adept in that way.

We are afraid we have forgotten one or two meritorious pictures which we
meant to notice. There is one we just recollect, a _Portrait of a Youth_
in black, by Parmegiano. It is in a singular style, but very bold,
expressive, and natural. There is (in the same apartment of the palace)
a fine picture of the _Battle of Norlingen_, by Rubens. The size and
spirit of the horses in the fore-ground, and the obvious animation of
the riders, are finely contrasted with the airy perspective and
mechanical grouping of the armies at a distance; and so as to prevent
that confusion and want of positive relief, which usually pervade
Battle-pieces. In the same room (opposite) is Kneller’s _Chinese
converted to Christianity_—a portrait of which he was justly proud. It
is a fine oil-picture, clear, tawny, without trick or affectation, and
full of character. One of Kneller’s fine ladies or gentlemen, with their
wigs and _toupées_, would have been mortally offended to have been so
painted. The Chinese retains the same oily sly look, after his
conversion as before, and seems just as incapable of a change of
religion as a piece of _terra cotta_. On each side of this performance
are two Guidos, the _Perseus and Andromeda_, and _Venus attired by the
Graces_. We give the preference to the former. The Andromeda is a fine,
noble figure, in a striking and even daring position, with an
impassioned and highly-wrought expression of features; and the whole
scene is in harmony with the subject. The _Venus attired by the Graces_
(though full of beauties, particularly the colouring of the flesh in the
frail Goddess) is formal and disjointed in the composition; and some of
the actions are void of grace and even of decorum. We allude
particularly to the _Maid-in-waiting_, who is combing her hair, and to
the one tying on her sandals, with her arm crossing Venus’s leg at right
angles. The Cupid in the window is as light and wanton as a butterfly
flying out of it. He may be said to flutter and hover in his own
delights. There are two capital engravings of these pictures by Strange.



                     THE PICTURES AT HAMPTON COURT


This palace is a very magnificent one, and we think, has been
undeservedly neglected. It is Dutch-built, of handsome red brick, and
belongs to a class of houses, the taste for which appears to have been
naturalised in this country along with the happy introduction of the
Houses of Orange and Hanover. The approach to it through Bushy-Park is
delightful, inspiriting at this time of year; and the gardens about it,
with their close-clipped holly hedges and arbours of evergreen, look an
artificial summer all the year round. The statues that are interspersed
do not freeze in winter, and are cool and classical in the warmer
seasons. The _Toy-Inn_ stands opportunely at the entrance, to invite the
feet of those who are tired of a straggling walk from Brentford or Kew,
or oppressed with thought and wonder after seeing the Cartoons.

Besides these last, however, there are several fine pictures here. We
shall pass over the Knellers, the Verrios, and the different portraits
of the Royal Family, and come at once to the _Nine Muses_, by Tintoret.
Or rather, his Nine Muses are summed up in one, the back-figure in the
right-hand corner as you look at the picture, which is all grandeur,
elegance, and grace.—We should think that in the _gusto_ of form and a
noble freedom of outline, Michael Angelo could hardly have surpassed
this figure. The face too, which is half turned round, is charmingly
handsome. The back, the shoulders, the legs, are the perfection of bold
delicacy, expanded into full-blown luxuriance, and then retiring as it
were from their own proud beauty and conscious charms into soft and airy
loveliness—

                ‘Fine by degrees, and beautifully less.’

Is it a Muse? Or is it not a figure formed for action more than
contemplation? Perhaps this hypercritical objection may be true; and it
might without any change of character or impropriety be supposed, from
its buoyancy, its ease, and sinewy elasticity, to represent the quivered
Goddess shaping her bow for the chase. But, at any rate, it is the
figure of a Goddess, or of a woman in shape equal to a Goddess. The
colour is nearly gone, so that it has almost the tone of a black and
white chalk-drawing; and the effect of form remains pure and unrivalled.
There are several other very pleasing and ably-drawn figures in the
group, but they are eclipsed in the superior splendour of this one. So
far the composition is faulty, for its balance is destroyed; and there
are certain critics who could probably maintain that the picture would
be better, if this capital excellence in it had been deliberately left
out: the picture would, indeed, have been more according to rule, and to
the taste of those who judge, feel, and see by rule only! Among the
portraits which are curious, is one of _Baccio Bandinelli_, with his
emblems and implements of sculpture about him, said to be by Correggio.
We cannot pretend to give an opinion on this point; but it is a
studious, powerful, and elaborately painted head. We find the name of
Titian attached to two or three portraits in the Collection. There is
one very fine one of a young man in black, with a black head of hair,
the face seen in a three-quarter view, and the dark piercing eye, full
of subtle meaning, looking round at you; which is probably by Titian,
but certainly not (as it is pretended) of himself. It has not the
aquiline cast of features by which his own portraits are obviously
distinguished. We have seen a print of this picture, in which it is said
to be done for Ignatius Loyola. The portrait of a lady with green and
white purfled sleeves (like the leaves and flower of the water-lily, and
as clear!) is admirable. It was in the Pall-Mall exhibition of the Old
Masters a short time ago; and is by Sebastian del Piombo.—The care of
the painting, the natural ease of the attitude, and the steady,
sensible, _conversable_ look of the countenance, place this in a class
of pictures, which one feels a wish to have always by one’s side,
whenever there is a want of thought, or a flaw in the temper, that
requires filling up or setting to rights by some agreeable and at the
same time not over-exciting object. There are several _soi-disant_
Parmegianos; one or two good Bassans; a _Battle-Piece_ set down to Julio
Romano; a coloured drawing (in one corner of a room) of a _Nymph_ and
_Satyr_ is very fine; and some of Polemberg’s little disagreeable
pictures of the same subject, in which the Satyrs look like paltry bits
of painted wood, and the Nymphs like glazed China-ware. We have a
prejudice against Polemberg, which is a rare thing with us!

The _Cartoons_ occupy a room by themselves—there are not many such rooms
in the world. All other pictures look like oil and varnish to these—we
are stopped and attracted by the colouring, the pencilling, the
finishing, or the want of it, that is, by the instrumentalities of the
art—but here the painter seems to have flung his _mind_ upon the canvas;
his thoughts, his great ideas alone prevail; there is nothing between us
and the subject; we look through a frame, and see scripture-histories,
and are made actual spectators of miraculous events. Not to speak it
profanely, they are a sort of _revelation_ of the subjects, of which
they treat; there is an ease and freedom of manner about them, which
brings preternatural characters and situations home to us, with the
familiarity of common every-day occurrences; and while the figures fill,
raise, and satisfy the mind, they seem to have cost the painter nothing.
The Cartoons are _unique_ productions in the art. They are mere
intellectual, or rather _visible abstractions_ of truth and nature.
Every where else we see the means; here we arrive at the end apparently
without any means. There is a Spirit at work in the divine creation
before us. We are unconscious of any details, of any steps taken, of any
progress made; we are aware only of comprehensive results, of whole
masses and figures. The sense of power supersedes the appearance of
effort. It is like a waking dream, vivid, but undistinguishable in
member, joint, or limb; or it is as if we had ourselves seen the persons
and things at some former period of our being, and that the drawing
certain dotted lines upon coarse paper, by some unknown spell, brought
back the entire and living images, and made them pass before us,
palpable to thought, to feeling, and to sight. Perhaps not all is owing
to genius: something of this effect may be ascribed to the simplicity of
the vehicle employed in embodying the story, and something to the
decayed and dilapidated state of the pictures themselves. They are the
more majestic for being in ruin: we are struck chiefly with the truth of
proportion, and the range of conception: all the petty, meretricious
part of the art is dead in them; the carnal is made spiritual, the
corruptible has put on incorruption, and, amidst the wreck of colour,
and the mouldering of material beauty, nothing is left but a universe of
thought, or the broad, imminent shadows of ‘calm contemplation and
majestic pains!’

The first in order is the _Death of Ananias_; and it is one of the
noblest of these noble designs. The effect is striking; and the contrast
between the steadfast, commanding attitude of the Apostles, and the
convulsed and prostrate figure of Ananias on the floor, is finely
imagined. It is much as if a group of persons on shore stood to witness
the wreck of life and hope on the rocks and quicksands beneath them. The
abruptness and severity of the transition are, however, broken and
relieved by the other human interests in the picture. The Ananias is a
masterly, a stupendous figure. The attitude, the drawing, the
expression, the ease, the force, are alike wonderful. He falls so
naturally, that it seems as if a person could fall in no other way; and
yet of all the ways in which a human figure could fall, it is probably
the most expressive of a person overwhelmed by and in the grasp of
Divine vengeance. This is in some measure, we apprehend, the secret of
Raphael’s success. Most painters, in studying an attitude, puzzle
themselves to find out what will be picturesque, and what will be fine,
and never discover it: Raphael only thought how a person would stand or
fall naturally in such or such circumstances, and the _picturesque_ and
the _fine_ followed as matters of course. Hence the unaffected force and
dignity of his style, which are only another name for truth and nature
under impressive and momentous circumstances. The distraction of the
face, the inclination of the head on one side, are as fine as possible,
and the agony is just verging to that point, in which it is relieved by
death. The expression of ghastly wonder in the features of the man on
the floor next him is also remarkable; and the mingled beauty, grief,
and horror in the female head behind can never be enough admired or
extolled. The pain, the sudden and violent contraction of the muscles,
is as intense as if a sharp instrument had been driven into the
forehead, and yet the same sweetness triumphs there as ever, the most
perfect self-command and dignity of demeanour. We could hazard a
conjecture that this is what forms the great distinction between the
natural style of Raphael and the natural style of Hogarth. Both are
equally _intense_; but the one is intense littleness, meanness,
vulgarity; the other is intense grandeur, refinement, and sublimity. In
the one we see common, or sometimes uncommon and painful, circumstances
acting with all their force on narrow minds and deformed bodies, and
bringing out distorted and violent efforts at expression; in the other
we see noble forms and lofty characters contending with adverse, or
co-operating with powerful impressions from without, and imparting their
own unaltered grace, and habitual composure to them. In Hogarth,
generally, the face is excited and torn in pieces by some paltry
interest of its own; in Raphael, on the contrary, it is expanded and
ennobled by the contemplation of some event or object highly interesting
in itself: that is to say, the passion in the one is intellectual and
abstracted; the passion in the other is petty, selfish, and confined. We
have not thought it beneath the dignity of the subject to make this
comparison between two of the most extraordinary and highly gifted
persons that the world ever saw. If Raphael had seen Hogarth’s pictures,
_he_ would not have despised them. Those only can do it (and they are
welcome!) who, wanting all that he had, can do nothing that he could
not, or that they themselves pretend to accomplish by affectation and
bombast.

_Elymas the Sorcerer_ stands next in order, and is equal in merit. There
is a Roman sternness and severity in the general look of the scene. The
figure of the Apostle, who is inflicting the punishment of blindness on
the impostor, is grand, commanding, full of ease and dignity: and the
figure of Elymas is blind all over, and is muffled up in its clothes
from head to foot. A story is told of Mr. Garrick’s objecting to the
natural effect of the action, in the hearing of the late Mr. West, who,
in vindication of the painter, requested the celebrated comedian to
close his eyes and walk across the room, when he instantly stretched out
his hands, and began to grope his way with the exact attitude and
expression of this noble study. It may be worth remarking here, that
this great painter and fine observer of human nature has represented the
magician with a hard iron visage, and strong uncouth figure, made up of
bones and muscles, as one not troubled with weak nerves, nor to be
diverted from his purpose by idle scruples, as one who repelled all
sympathy with others, who was not to be moved a jot by their censures or
prejudices against him, and who could break with ease through the cobweb
snares which he laid for the credulity of mankind, without being once
entangled in his own delusions. His outward form betrays the hard,
unimaginative, self-willed understanding of the Sorcerer.—There is a
head (a profile) coming in on one side of the picture, which we would
point out to our readers as one of the most finely relieved, and best
preserved, in this series. The face of Elymas, and some others in the
picture, have been a good deal hurt by time and ill-treatment. There is
a _snuffy_ look under the nose, as if the water colour had been washed
away in some damp lumber-room, or unsheltered out-house. The Cartoons
have felt ‘the seasons’ difference,’ being exposed to wind and rain,
tossed about from place to place, and cut down by profane hands to fit
them to one of their abodes; so that it is altogether wonderful, that
‘through their looped and tattered wretchedness,’ any traces are seen of
their original splendour and beauty. That they are greatly changed from
what they were even a hundred years ago, is evident from the heads in
the Radcliffe library at Oxford, which were cut out from one of them
that was nearly destroyed by some accident, and from the large French
engravings of single heads, done about the same time, which are as
finished and correct as possible. Even Sir James Thornhill’s copies bear
testimony to the same effect. Though without the spirit of the
originals, they have fewer blots and blotches in them, from having been
better taken care of. A skeleton is barely left of the Cartoons: but
their mighty relics, like the bones of the Mammoth, tell us what the
entire and living fabric must have been!

In the _Gate Beautiful_ there is a profusion of what is fine, and of
imposing contrasts. The twisted pillars have been found fault with; but
there they stand, and will for ever stand to answer all cavillers with
their wreathed beauty. The St. John in this Cartoon is an instance of
what we have above hinted as to the ravages of time on these pictures.
In the old French engraving (half the size of life) the features are
exceedingly well marked and beautiful, whereas they are here in a great
measure defaced; and the hair, which is at present a mere clotted mass,
is woven into graceful and waving curls,

                      ‘Like to those hanging locks
                      Of young Apollo.’

Great inroads have been made on the delicate outline of the other parts,
and the surface has been generally injured. The Beggars are as fine as
ever: they do not lose by the squalid condition of their garb or
features, but remain patriarchs of poverty, and mighty in disease and
infirmity, as if they crawled and grovelled on the pavement of Heaven.
They are lifted above this world! The child carrying the doves at his
back is an exquisite example of grace, and innocence, and buoyant
motion; and the face and figure of the young woman seen directly over
him give a glad welcome to the eye in their fresh, unalloyed, and
radiant sweetness and joy. This head seems to have been spared from the
unhallowed touch of injury, like a little isle or circlet of beauty. It
was guarded, we may suppose, by its own heavenly, feminine look of
smiling loveliness. There is another very fine female head on the
opposite side of the picture, of a graver cast, looking down, and nearly
in profile. The only part of this Cartoon that we object to, or should
be for _turning out_, is the lubberly naked figure of a boy close to one
of the pillars, who seems to have no sort of business there, and is an
obvious eye-sore.

The _Miraculous Draught of Fishes_ is admirable for the clearness and
prominence of the figures, for the vigorous marking of the muscles, for
the fine expression of devout emotion in the St. Peter, and for the calm
dignity in the attitude, and divine benignity in the countenance of the
Christ. Perhaps this head expresses, more than any other that ever was
attempted, the blended meekness, benevolence, and sublimity in the
character of our Saviour. The whole figure is so still, so easy, it
almost floats in air, and seems to sustain the boat by the secret sense
of power. We shall not attempt to make a formal reply to the old
objection to the diminutive size of the boat, but we confess it appears
to us to enhance the value of the miracle. Its load swells
proportionably in comparison, and the waves conspire to bear it up. The
Storks on the shore are not the least animated or elevated part of the
picture; they exult in the display of divine power, and share in the
prodigality of the occasion.

The _Sacrifice at Lystra_ has the marks of Raphael’s hand on every part
of it. You see and almost hear what is passing. What a pleasing relief
to the confused, busy scene, are the two children piping at the altar!
How finely, how unexpectedly, but naturally, that innocent rustic head
of a girl comes in over the grave countenances and weighty, thoughtful
heads of the group of attendant priests! The animals brought to be
sacrificed are equally fine in the expression of terror, and the action
of resistance to the rude force by which they are dragged along.

A great deal has been said and written on the _St. Paul preaching at
Athens_. The features of excellence in this composition are indeed so
bold and striking as hardly to be mistaken. The abrupt figure of St.
Paul, his hands raised in that fervent appeal to Him who ‘dwelleth not
in temples made with hands,’ such as are seen in gorgeous splendour all
around, the circle of his auditors, the noble and pointed diversity of
heads, the one wrapped in thought and in its cowl, another resting on a
crutch and earnestly scanning the face of the Apostle rather than his
doctrine, the careless attention of the Epicurean philosopher, the fine
young heads of the disciples of the Porch or the Academy, the clenched
fist and eager curiosity of the man in front as if he was drinking
sounds, give this picture a superiority over all the others for popular
and intelligible effect. We do not think that it is therefore the best;
but it is the easiest to describe and to remember.

The _Giving of the Keys_ is the last of them: it is at present at
Somerset-House. There is no set purpose here, no studied contrast: it is
an aggregation of grandeur and high feeling. The disciples gather round
Christ, like a flock of sheep listening to some divine shepherd. The
figure of their master is sublime: his countenance and attitude ‘in act
to speak.’ The landscape is also extremely fine and of a soothing
character.—Every thing falls into its place in these pictures. The
figures seem to stop just where their business and feelings bring them:
not a fold in the draperies can be disposed of for the better or
otherwise than it is.

It would be in vain to enumerate the particular figures, or to explain
the story of works so well known: what we have aimed at has been to shew
the spirit that breathes through them, and we shall count ourselves
fortunate, if we have not sullied them with our praise. We do not care
about some works: but these were sacred to our imaginations, and we
should be sorry indeed to have profaned them by description or
criticism. We have hurried through our unavoidable task with fear, and
look back to it with doubt.



                LORD GROSVENOR’S COLLECTION OF PICTURES


We seldom quit a mansion like that of which we have here to give some
account, and return homewards, but we think of Warton’s _Sonnet, written
after seeing Wilton-house_.

           ‘From Pembroke’s princely dome, where mimic art
           Decks with a magic hand the dazzling bowers,
           Its living hues where the warm pencil pours,
           And breathing forms from the rude marble start,
           How to life’s humbler scenes can I depart?
           My breast all glowing from those gorgeous tow’rs,
           In my low cell how cheat the sullen hours?
           Vain the complaint! For Fancy can impart
           (To Fate superior, and to Fortune’s doom)
           Whate’er adorns the stately-storied hall:
           She, mid the dungeon’s solitary gloom,
           Can dress the Graces in their Attic pall:
           Bid the green landscape’s vernal beauty bloom;
           And in bright trophies clothe the twilight wall.’

Having repeated these lines to ourselves, we sit quietly down in our
chairs to con over our task, abstract the idea of exclusive property,
and think only of those images of beauty and of grandeur, which we can
carry away with us in our minds, and have every where before us. Let us
take some of these, and describe them how we can.

There is one—we see it now—the _Man with a Hawk_, by Rembrandt. ‘In our
mind’s eye, Horatio!’ What is the difference between this idea which we
have brought away with us, and the picture on the wall? Has it lost any
of its tone, its ease, its depth? The head turns round in the same
graceful moving attitude, the eye carelessly meets ours, the tufted
beard grows to the chin, the hawk flutters and balances himself on his
favourite perch, his master’s hand; and a shadow seems passing over the
picture, just leaving a light in one corner of it behind, to give a
livelier effect to the whole. There is no mark of the pencil, no jagged
points or solid masses; it is all air, and twilight might be supposed to
have drawn his veil across it. It is as much an idea on the canvas, as
it is in the mind. There are no means employed, as far as you can
discover—you see nothing but a simple, grand, and natural effect. It is
impalpable as a thought, intangible as a sound—nay, the shadows have a
breathing harmony, and fling round an undulating echo of themselves,

                ‘At every fall smoothing the raven down
                Of darkness till it smiles!’

In the opposite corner of the room is a _Portrait of a Female_ (by the
same), in which every thing is as clear, and pointed, and brought out
into the open day, as in the former it is withdrawn from close and
minute inspection. The face glitters with smiles as the ear-rings
sparkle with light. The whole is stiff, starched, and formal, has a
pearly or metallic look, and you throughout mark the most elaborate and
careful finishing. The two pictures make an antithesis, where they are
placed; but this was not probably at all intended: it proceeds simply
from the difference in the nature of the subject, and the truth and
appropriate power of the treatment of it.—In the middle between these
two pictures is a small history, by Rembrandt, of the _Salutation of
Elizabeth_, in which the figures come out straggling, disjointed,
quaint, ugly as in a dream, but partake of the mysterious significance
of preternatural communication, and are seen through the visible gloom,
or through the dimmer night of antiquity. Light and shade, not form or
feeling, were the elements of which Rembrandt composed the finest
poetry, and his imagination brooded only over the medium through which
we discern objects, leaving the objects themselves uninspired,
unhallowed, and untouched!

We must go through our account of these pictures as they start up in our
memory, not according to the order of their arrangement, for want of a
proper set of memorandums. Our friend, Mr. Gummow, of Cleveland-house,
had a nice little neatly-bound duodecimo Catalogue, of great use as a
_Vade Mecum_ to occasional visitants or absent critics—but here we have
no such advantage; and to take notes before company is a thing that we
abhor. It has a look of pilfering something from the pictures. While we
merely enjoy the sight of the objects of art before us, or sympathise
with the approving gaze of the greater beauty around us, it is well;
there is a feeling of luxury and refinement in the employment; but take
out a pocket-book, and begin to scribble notes in it, the date of the
picture, the name, the room, some paltry defect, some pitiful discovery
(not worth remembering), the non-essentials, the mechanic
_common-places_ of the art, and the sentiment is gone—you shew that you
have a further object in view, a job to execute, a feeling foreign to
the place, and different from every one else—you become a butt and a
mark for ridicule to the rest of the company—and you retire with your
pockets full of wisdom from a saloon of art, with as little right as you
have to carry off the dessert, (or what you have not been able to
consume,) from an inn, or a banquet. Such, at least, is our feeling; and
we had rather make a mistake now and then, as to a _numero_, or the name
of a room in which a picture is placed, than spoil our whole pleasure in
looking at a fine Collection, and consequently the pleasure of the
reader in learning what we thought of it.

Among the pictures that haunt our eye in this way is the _Adoration of
the Angels_, by N. Poussin. It is one of his finest works—elegant,
graceful, full of feeling, happy, enlivening. It is treated rather as a
classical than as a sacred subject. The Angels are more like Cupids than
Angels. They are, however, beautifully grouped, with various and
expressive attitudes, and remind one, by their half antic, half serious
homage, of the line—

              ‘Nod to him, elves, and do him courtesies.’

They are laden with baskets of flowers—the tone of the picture is rosy,
florid; it seems to have been painted at

              ‘The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,’

and the angels over-head sport and gambol in the air with
butterfly-wings, like butterflies. It is one of those rare productions
that satisfy the mind, and from which we turn away, not from weariness,
but from a fulness of delight.—The _Israelites returning Thanks in the
Wilderness_ is a fine picture, but inferior to this. Near it is a group
of Angels, said to be by Correggio. The expressions are grotesque and
fine, but the colouring does not seem to us to be his. The texture of
the flesh, as well as the hue, too much resembles the skin of ripe
fruit. We meet with several fine landscapes of the two Poussins,
(particularly one of a rocky eminence by Gaspar,) in the room before you
come to the Rembrandts, in which the mixture of grey rock and green
trees and shrubs is beautifully managed, with striking truth and
clearness.

Among detached and smaller pictures, we would wish to point out to the
attention of our readers, an exquisite head of a _Child_, by Andrea del
Sarto, and a fine Salvator in the inner room of all: in the room leading
to it, a pleasing, glassy Cuyp, an airy, earthy-looking Teniers, and _a
Mother and a Sleeping Child_, by Guido: in the Saloon, a _St.
Catherine_, one of Parmegiano’s most graceful pictures; a _St. Agnes_,
by Domenichino, full of sweetness, thought, and feeling; and two
pictures by Raphael, that have a look as if painted on paper: a _Repose
in Egypt_, and _St. Luke painting the Virgin_, both admirable for
drawing and expression, and a rich, purple, _crayon_ tone of colouring.
Wherever Raphael is, there is grace and dignity, and an informing soul.
In the last-mentioned room, near the entrance, is also a _Conversion of
Saint Paul_, by Rubens, of infinite spirit, brilliancy, and delicacy of
execution.

But it is in the large room to the right, that the splendour and power
of Rubens reign triumphant and unrivalled, and yet he has here to
contend with highest works and names. The four large pictures of
ecclesiastical subjects, the _Meeting of Abram and Melchisedec_, the
_Gathering of Manna_, the _Evangelists_, and the _Fathers of the
Church_, have no match in this country for scenic pomp, and dazzling
airy effect. The figures are colossal; and it might be said, without
much extravagance, that the drawing and colouring are so too.[8] He
seems to have painted with a huge sweeping gigantic pencil, and with
broad masses of unalloyed colour. The spectator is (as it were) thrown
back by the pictures, and surveys them, as if placed at a stupendous
height, as well as distance from him. This, indeed, is their history:
they were painted to be placed in some Jesuit’s church abroad, at an
elevation of forty or fifty feet, and Rubens would have started to see
them in a drawing-room or on the ground. Had he foreseen such a result,
he would perhaps have added something to the correctness of the
features, and taken something from the gorgeous crudeness of the colour.
But there is grandeur of composition, involution of form, motion,
character in its vast, rude outline, the imposing contrast of sky and
flesh, fine grotesque heads of old age, florid youth, and fawn-like
beauty! You see nothing but patriarchs, primeval men and women, walking
among temples, or treading the sky—or the earth, with an ‘air and
gesture proudly eminent,’ as if they trod the sky—when man first rose
from nothing to his native sublimity. We cannot describe these pictures
in their details; they are one staggering blow after another of the
mighty hand that traced them. All is cast in the same mould, all is
filled with the same spirit, all is clad in the same gaudy robe of
light. Rubens was at home here; his _forte_ was the processional, the
showy, and the imposing; he grew almost drunk and wanton with the sense
of his power over such subjects; and he, in fact, left these pictures
unfinished in some particulars, that, for the place and object for which
they were intended, they might be perfect. They were done (it is said)
for tapestries from small designs, and carried nearly to their present
state of finishing by his scholars. There is a smaller picture in the
same room, _Ixion embracing the false Juno_, which points out and
defines their style of art and adaptation for remote effect. There is a
delicacy in this last picture (which is, however of the size of life)
that makes it look like a miniature in comparison. The flesh of the
women is like lilies, or like milk strewed upon ivory. It is soft and
pearly; but, in the larger pictures, it is heightened beyond nature, the
veil of air between the spectator and the figures, when placed in the
proper position, being supposed to give the last finishing. Near the
_Ixion_ is an historical female figure, by Guido, which will not bear
any comparison for transparency and delicacy of tint with the two
Junos.—Rubens was undoubtedly the greatest _scene-painter_ in the world,
if we except Paul Veronese, and the Fleming was to him flat and insipid.
‘It is place which lessens and sets off.’ We once saw two pictures of
Rubens’ hung by the side of the _Marriage of Cana_ in the Louvre; and
they looked nothing. The Paul Veronese nearly occupied the side of a
large room (the modern French exhibition-room) and it was like looking
through the side of a wall, or at a splendid banquet and gallery, full
of people, and full of interest. The texture of the two Rubenses was
_woolly_, or flowery, or _satiny_: it was all alike; but in the
Venetian’s great work the pillars were of stone, the floor was marble,
the tables were wood, the dresses were various stuffs, the sky was air,
the flesh was flesh; the groups were living men and women. Turks,
emperours, ladies, painters, musicians—all was real, dazzling, profuse,
astonishing. It seemed as if the very dogs under the table might get up
and bark, or that at the sound of a trumpet the whole assembly might
rise and disperse in different directions, in an instant. This picture,
however, was considered as the triumph of Paul Veronese, and the two by
the Flemish artist that hung beside it were very inferior to some of
his, and assuredly to those now exhibited in the Gallery at Lord
Grosvenor’s. Neither do we wish by this allusion to disparage Rubens;
for we think him on the whole a greater genius, and a greater painter,
than the rival we have here opposed to him, as we may attempt to shew
when we come to speak of the Collection at Blenheim.

There are some divine Claudes in the same room; and they too are like
looking through a window at a select and conscious landscape. There are
five or six, all capital for the composition, and highly preserved.
There is a strange and somewhat _anomalous_ one of _Christ in the
Mount_, as if the artist had tried to contradict himself, and yet it is
Claude all over. Nobody but he could paint one single atom of it. The
_Mount_ is stuck up in the very centre of the picture, against all rule,
like a huge dirt-pye: but then what an air breathes round it, what a sea
encircles it, what verdure clothes it, what flocks and herds feed round
it, immortal and unchanged! Close by it is the _Arch of Constantine_;
but this is to us a bitter disappointment. A print of it hung in a
little room in the country, where we used to contemplate it by the hour
together, and day after day, and ‘_sigh our souls_’ into the picture. It
was the most graceful, the most perfect of all Claude’s compositions.
The Temple seemed to come forward into the middle of the picture, as in
a dance, to show its unrivalled beauty, the Vashti of the scene! Young
trees bent their branches over it with playful tenderness; and, on the
opposite side of a stream, at which cattle stooped to drink, there grew
a stately grove, erect, with answering looks of beauty: the distance
between retired into air and gleaming shores. Never was there scene so
fair, ‘so absolute, that in itself summ’d all delight.’ How did we wish
to compare it with the picture! The trees, we thought, must be of vernal
green—the sky recalled the mild dawn, or softened evening. No, the
branches of the trees are red, the sky burned up, the whole hard and
uncomfortable. This is not the picture, the print of which we used to
gaze at enamoured—there is another somewhere that we still shall see!
There are finer specimens of the _Morning_ and _Evening of the Roman
Empire_, at Lord Radnor’s, in Wiltshire. Those here have a more
polished, _cleaned_ look, but we cannot prefer them on that account. In
one corner of the room is a _St. Bruno_, by Andrea Sacchi—a fine study,
with pale face and garments, a saint dying (as it should seem)—but as he
dies, conscious of an undying spirit. The old Catholic painters put the
soul of religion into their pictures—for they felt it within themselves.

There are two Titians—_the Woman taken in Adultery_, and a large
mountainous landscape with the story of _Jupiter and Antiope_. The last
is rich and striking, but not equal to his best; and the former, we
think, one of his most exceptionable pictures, both in character, and
(we add) colouring. In the last particular, it is tricky, and discovers,
instead of concealing its art. The flesh is not transparent, but a
_transparency_! Let us not forget a fine Synders, a _Boar-hunt_, which
is highly spirited and natural, as far as the animals are concerned; but
is _patchy_, and wants the tone and general effect that Rubens would
have thrown over it. In the middle of the right-hand side of the room,
is the _Meeting of Jacob and Laban_, by Murillo. It is a lively,
out-of-door scene, full of bustle and expression; but it rather brings
us to the tents and faces of two bands of gypsies meeting on a common
heath, than carries us back to the remote times, places, and events,
treated of. Murillo was the painter of nature, not of the imagination.
There is a _Sleeping Child_ by him, over the door of the saloon (an
admirable cabinet-picture), and another of a boy, a little spirited
rustic, brown, glowing, ‘of the earth, earthy,’ the flesh thoroughly
baked, as if he had come out of an oven; and who regards you with a look
as if he was afraid you might bind him apprentice to some trade or
handicraft, or send him to a Sunday-school; and so put an end to his
short, happy, careless life—to his lessons from that great teacher, the
Sun—to his physic, the air—to his bed, the earth—and to the soul of his
very being, Liberty!

The first room you enter is filled with some very good and some very bad
English pictures. There is Hogarth’s _Distressed Poet_—the _Death of
Wolfe_, by West, which is not so good as the print would lead us to
expect—an excellent whole-length portrait of a youth, by Gainsborough—_A
Man with a Hawk_, by Northcote, and _Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse_,
by Sir Joshua. This portrait Lord Grosvenor bought the other day for
£1760. It has risen in price every time it has been sold. Sir Joshua
sold it for two or three hundred pounds to a Mr. Calonne. It was then
purchased by Mr. Desenfans who parted with it to Mr. William Smith for a
larger sum (we believe £500); and at the sale of that gentleman’s
pictures, it was bought by Mr. Watson Taylor, the last proprietor, for a
thousand guineas. While it was in the possession of Mr. Desenfans, a
copy of it was taken by a pupil of Sir Joshua’s, of the name of Score,
which is now in the Dulwich Gallery, and which we always took for an
original. The size of the original is larger than the copy. There was a
dead child painted at the bottom of it, which Sir Joshua Reynolds
afterwards disliked, and he had the canvas doubled upon the frame to
hide it. It has been let out again, but we did not observe whether the
child was there. We think it had better not be seen.

We do not wish to draw invidious comparisons; yet we may say, in
reference to the pictures in Lord Grosvenor’s Collection, and those at
Cleveland-house, that the former are distinguished most by elegance,
brilliancy, and high preservation; while those belonging to the Marquis
of Stafford look more like old pictures, and have a corresponding tone
of richness and magnificence. We have endeavoured to do justice to both,
but we confess we have fallen very short even of our own hopes and
expectations.



                   PICTURES AT WILTON, STOURHEAD, &c.


Salisbury Plain, barren as it is, is rich in collections and monuments
of art. There are, within the distance of a few miles, Wilton,
Longford-Castle, Fonthill-Abbey, Stourhead, and last though not least
worthy to be mentioned, Stonehenge, that ‘huge, dumb heap,’ that stands
on the blasted heath, and looks like a group of giants, bewildered, not
knowing what to do, encumbering the earth, and turned to stone, while in
the act of warring on Heaven. An attempt has lately been made to give to
it an antediluvian origin. Its mystic round is in all probability fated
to remain inscrutable, a mighty maze without a plan: but still the
imagination, when once curiosity and wonder have taken possession of it,
heaves with its restless load, launches conjecture farther and farther
back beyond the landmarks of time, and strives to bear down all
impediments in its course, as the ocean strives to overleap some vast
promontory!

Fonthill-Abbey, which was formerly hermetically sealed against all
intrusion,[9] is at present open to the whole world; and Wilton-House,
and Longford-Castle, which were formerly open to every one, are at
present shut, except to _petitioners_, and a favoured few. Why is this
greater degree of strictness in the latter instances resorted to? In
proportion as the taste for works of art becomes more general, do these
Noble Persons wish to set bounds to and disappoint public curiosity? Do
they think that the admiration bestowed on fine pictures or rare
sculpture lessens their value, or divides the property, as well as the
pleasure with the possessor? Or do they think that setting aside the
formality of these new regulations, three persons in the course of a
whole year would intrude out of an impertinent curiosity to see _their_
houses and furniture, without having a just value for them as objects of
art? Or is the expence of keeping servants to shew the apartments made
the plea of this churlish, narrow system? The public are ready enough to
pay servants for their attendance, and those persons are quite as
forward to do this who make a pilgrimage to such places on foot as those
who approach them in a post-chaise or on horseback with a livery
servant, which, it seems, is the prescribed and fashionable etiquette!
Whatever is the cause, we are sorry for it; more particularly as it
compels us to speak of these two admired Collections from memory only.
It is several years since we saw them; but there are some impressions of
this sort that are proof against time.

Lord Radnor has the two famous Claudes, the _Morning_ and _Evening of
the Roman Empire_. Though as landscapes they are neither so brilliant,
nor finished, nor varied, as some of this Artist’s, there is a weight
and concentration of historic feeling about them which many of his
allegorical productions want. In the first, half-finished buildings and
massy columns rise amidst the dawning effulgence that is streaked with
rims of inextinguishable light; and a noble tree in the foreground,
ample, luxuriant, hangs and broods over the growing design. There is a
dim mistiness spread over the scene, as in the beginning of things. The
_Evening_, the companion to it, is even finer. It has all the gorgeous
pomp that attends the meeting of Night and Day, and a flood of glory
still prevails over the coming shadows. In the cool of the evening, some
cattle are feeding on the brink of a glassy stream, that reflects a
mouldering ruin on one side of the picture; and so precise is the touch,
so true, so firm is the pencilling, so classical the outline, that they
give one the idea of sculptured cattle, biting the short, green turf,
and seem an enchanted herd! They appear stamped on the canvas to remain
there for ever, or as if nothing could root them from the spot. Truth
with beauty suggests the feeling of immortality. No Dutch picture ever
suggested this feeling. The objects are real, it is true; but not being
beautiful or impressive, the mind feels no wish to mould them into a
permanent reality, to bind them fondly on the heart, or lock them in the
imagination as in a sacred recess, safe from the envious canker of time.
No one ever felt a longing, a sickness of the heart, to see a Dutch
landscape twice; but those of Claude, after an absence of years, have
this effect, and produce a kind of calenture. The reason of the
difference is, that in mere literal copies from nature, where the
objects are not interesting in themselves, the only attraction is to see
the felicity of the execution; and having once witnessed this, we are
satisfied. But there is nothing to stir the fancy, to keep alive the
yearnings of passion. We remember one other picture (and but one) in
Lord Radnor’s Collection, that was of this _ideal_ character. It was a
_Magdalen_ by Guido, with streaming hair, and streaming eyes looking
upwards-full of sentiment and beauty.

There is but one fine picture at Wilton-house, the _Family Vandyke_;
with a noble Gallery of antique marbles, which we may pronounce to be
invaluable to the lover of art or to the student of history or human
nature. Roman Emperors or Proconsuls, the poets, orators, and almost all
the great men of antiquity, are here ‘ranged in a row,’ and palpably
embodied either in genuine or traditional busts. Some of these indicate
an almost preternatural capacity and inspired awfulness of look,
particularly some of the earlier sages and fabulists of Greece, which we
apprehend to be _ideal_ representations; while other more modern and
better authenticated ones of celebrated Romans are distinguished by the
strength and simplicity of common English heads of the best class.—The
large picture of the _Pembroke Family_, by Vandyke, is unrivalled in its
kind. It is a history of the time. It throws us nearly two centuries
back to men and manners that no longer exist. The members of a Noble
House (‘tis a hundred and sixty years since) are brought together _in
propriâ persona_, and appear in all the varieties of age, character, and
costume. There are the old Lord and Lady Pembroke, who ‘keep their
state’ raised somewhat above the other groups;—the one a lively old
gentleman, who seems as if he could once have whispered a flattering
tale in a fair lady’s ear; his help-mate looking a little fat and sulky
by his side, probably calculating the expence of the picture, and not
well understanding the event of it—there are the daughters, pretty,
well-dressed, elegant girls, but somewhat insipid, sentimental, and
vacant—then there are the two eldest sons, that might be said to have
walked out of Mr. Burke’s description of the age of chivalry; the one a
perfect courtier, a carpet-knight, smooth-faced, handsome, almost
effeminate, that seems to have moved all his life to ‘the mood of lutes
and soft recorders,’ decked in silks and embroidery like the tender
flower issuing from its glossy folds; the other the gallant soldier,
shrewd, bold, hardy, with spurred heel and tawny buskins, ready to
‘mount on barbed steeds, and witch the world with noble
horsemanship’—down to the untutored, carroty-headed boy, the
_Goose-Gibbie_ of the piece, who appears to have been just dragged from
the farm-yard to sit for his picture, and stares about him in as great a
heat and fright as if he had dropped from the clouds:—all in this
admirable, living composition is in its place, in keeping, and bears the
stamp of the age and of the master’s hand. Even the oak-pannels have an
elaborate, antiquated look, and the furniture has an aspect of cumbrous,
conscious dignity. It should not be omitted that it was here (in the
house or the adjoining magnificent grounds) that Sir Philip Sidney wrote
his ARCADIA; and the story of Musidorus and Philoclea, of Mopsa and
Dorcas, is quaintly traced on oval pannels in the principal
drawing-room.

It is on this account that we are compelled to find fault with the
Collection at Fonthill Abbey, because it exhibits no picture of
remarkable eminence that can be ranked as an heir-loom of the
imagination—which cannot be spoken of but our thoughts take wing and
stretch themselves towards it—the very name of which is music to the
instructed ear. We would not give a rush to see any Collection that does
not contain some single picture at least, that haunts us with an uneasy
sense of joy for twenty miles of road, that may cheer us at intervals
for twenty years of life to come. Without some such thoughts as these
riveted in the brain, the lover and disciple of art would truly be ‘of
all men the most miserable:’ but with them hovering round him, and ever
and anon shining with their glad lustre into his sleepless soul, he has
nothing to fear from fate, or fortune. We look, and lo! here is one at
our side, facing us, though far-distant. It is the Young Man’s Head, in
the Louvre, by Titian, that is not unlike Jeronymo della Porretta in Sir
Charles Grandison. What a look is there of calm, unalterable
self-possession—

             ‘Above all pain, all passion, and all pride;’

that draws the evil out of human life, that while we look at it
transfers the same sentiment to our own breasts, and makes us feel as if
nothing mean or little could ever disturb us again! This is high art;
the rest is mechanical. But there is nothing like this at Fonthill (oh!
no), but every thing which is the very reverse. As this, however, is an
extreme opinion of ours, and may be a prejudice, we shall endeavour to
support it by facts. There is not then a single Titian in all this
boasted and expensive Collection—there is not a Raphael—there is not a
Rubens (except one small sketch)—there is not a Guido, nor a
Vandyke—there is not a Rembrandt, there is not a Nicolo Poussin, nor a
fine Claude. The two Altieri Claudes, which might have redeemed
Fonthill, Mr. Beckford sold. What shall we say to a Collection, which
uniformly and deliberately rejects every great work, and every great
name in art, to make room for idle rarities and curiosities of
mechanical skill? It was hardly necessary to build a cathedral to set up
a toy-shop! Who would paint a miniature-picture to hang it at the top of
the Monument? This huge pile (capable of better things) is cut up into a
parcel of little rooms, and those little rooms are stuck full of little
pictures, and _bijouterie_. Mr. Beckford may talk of his _Diamond
Berchem_, and so on: this is but the language of a _petit-maitre_ in
art; but the author of VATHEK (with his leave) is not a _petit-maitre_.
His genius, as a writer, ‘hath a devil:’ his taste in pictures is the
quintessence and rectified spirit of _still-life_. He seems not to be
susceptible of the poetry of painting, or else to set his face against
it. It is obviously a first principle with him to exclude whatever has
feeling or imagination—to polish the surface, and suppress the soul of
art—to proscribe, by a sweeping clause or at one fell swoop, every thing
approaching to grace, or beauty, or grandeur—to crush the sense of
pleasure or of power in embryo—and to reduce all nature and art, as far
as possible, to the texture and level of a China dish—smooth,
glittering, cold, and unfeeling! We do not object so much to the
predilection for Teniers, Wouvermans, or Ostade—we like to see natural
objects naturally painted—but we unequivocally hate the affectedly mean,
the elaborately little, the ostentatiously perverse and distorted,
Polemberg’s walls of amber, Mieris’s groups of steel, Vanderwerf’s ivory
flesh;—yet these are the chief delights of the late proprietor of
Fonthill-abbey! Is it that his mind is ‘a volcano burnt out,’ and that
he likes his senses to repose and be gratified with Persian carpets and
enamelled pictures? Or are there not traces of the same infirmity of
feeling even in the high-souled Vathek, who compliments the complexion
of the two pages of Fakreddin as being equal to ‘the porcelain of
Franguestan?’ Alas! Who would have thought that the Caliph Vathek would
have dwindled down into an Emperor of China and King of Japan? But so it
is.—

Stourhead, the seat of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, did not answer our
expectations. But Stourton, the village where it stands, made up for our
disappointment. After passing the park-gate, which is a beautiful and
venerable relic, you descend into Stourton by a sharp-winding declivity,
almost like going underground, between high hedges of laurel trees, and
with an expanse of woods and water spread beneath. It is a sort of rural
Herculaneum, a subterranean retreat. The inn is like a modernized
guard-house; the village-church stands on a lawn without any inclosure;
a row of cottages facing it, with their white-washed walls and flaunting
honey-suckles, are neatness itself. Every thing has an air of elegance,
and yet tells a tale of other times. It is a place that might be held
sacred to stillness and solitary musing!—The adjoining mansion of
Stourhead commands an extensive view of Salisbury Plain, whose
undulating swells shew the earth in its primeval simplicity, bare, with
naked breasts, and varied in its appearance only by the shadows of the
clouds that pass across it. The view without is pleasing and singular:
there is little within-doors to beguile attention. There is one
master-piece of colouring by Paul Veronese, a naked child with a dog.
The tone of the flesh is perfection itself. On praising this picture
(which we always do when we like a thing) we were told it had been
criticized by a great judge, Mr. Beckford of Fonthill, who had found
fault with the execution as too coarse and muscular. We do not wonder—it
is not like his own turnery-ware! We should also mention an exquisite
Holbein, the _Head of a Child_, and a very pleasing little landscape by
Wilson. Besides these, there are some capital pen-and-ink drawings
(views in Venice), by Canaletti, and three large copies after Guido of
_the Venus attired by the Graces_, _the Andromeda_, and _Herodias’s
Daughter_. They breathe the soul of softness and grace, and remind one
of those fair, sylph-like forms that sometimes descend upon the earth
with fatal, fascinating looks, and that ‘tempt but to betray.’ After the
cabinet-pictures at Fonthill, even a good copy of a Guido is a luxury
and a relief to the mind: it is something to inhale the divine airs that
play around his figures, and we are satisfied if we can but ‘trace his
footsteps, and his skirts far-off behold.’ The rest of this Collection
is, for the most part, _trash_: either Italian pictures painted in the
beginning of the last century, or English ones in the beginning of this.
It gave us pain to see some of the latter; and we willingly draw a veil
over the humiliation of the art, in the age and country that we live in.
We ought, however, to mention a portrait of a youth (the present
proprietor of Stourhead) by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which is elegant,
brilliant, ‘though in ruins;’ and a spirited portrait by Northcote, of a
lady talking on her fingers, may, perhaps, challenge an exception for
itself to the above general censure.

We wish our readers to go to Petworth, the seat of Lord Egremont, where
they will find the coolest grottos and the finest Vandykes in the world.
There are eight or ten of the latter that are not to be surpassed by the
art of man, and that we have no power either to admire or praise as they
deserve. For simplicity, for richness, for truth of nature, for airiness
of execution, nothing ever was or can be finer. We will only mention
those of the Earl and Countess of Northumberland, Lord Newport, and Lord
Goring, Lord Strafford, and Lady Carr, and the Duchess of Devonshire. He
who possesses these portraits is rich indeed, if he has an eye to see,
and a heart to feel them. The one of _Lord Northumberland in the Tower_
is not so good, though it is thought better by the multitude. That is,
there is a subject—something to talk about; but in fact, the expression
is not that of grief, or thought, or of dignified resignation, but of a
man in ill health. Vandyke was a mere portrait-painter, but he was a
perfect one. His _forte_ was not the romantic or pathetic; he was ‘of
the court, courtly.’ He had a patent from the hand of nature to paint
lords and ladies in prosperity and quite at their ease. There are some
portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds in this Collection; and there are
people who persist in naming him and Vandyke in the same day. The rest
of the Collection consists (for the most part) of _staircase_ and family
pictures. But there are some admirable statues to be seen here, that it
would ask a morning’s leisure to study properly.



                     PICTURES AT BURLEIGH HOUSE[10]


Burleigh! thy groves are leafless, thy walls are naked—

               ‘And dull, cold winter does inhabit here.’

The yellow evening rays gleam through thy fretted Gothic windows; but I
only feel the rustling of withered branches strike chill to my breast;
it was not so twenty years ago. Thy groves were leafless then as now: it
was the middle of winter twice that I visited thee before; but the lark
mounted in the sky, and the sun smote my youthful blood with its slant
ray, and the ploughman whistled as he drove his team afield; Hope spread
out its glad vistas through thy fair domains, oh, Burleigh! Fancy decked
thy walls with works of sovereign art, and it was spring, not winter, in
my breast. All is still the same, like a petrification of the mind—the
same things in the same places; but their effect is not the same upon
me. I am twenty years the worse for _wear and tear_. What is become of
the never-ending studious thoughts that brought their own reward or
promised good to mankind? of the tears that started welcome and
unbidden? of the sighs that whispered future peace? of the smiles that
shone, not in my face indeed, but that cheered my heart, and made a
sunshine there when all was gloom around? That fairy vision—that
invisible glory, by which I was once attended—ushered into life, has
left my side, and ‘faded to the light of common day,’ and I now see what
is, or has been—not what may lie hid in Time’s bright circle and golden
chaplet! Perhaps this is the characteristic difference between youth and
a later period of life—that we, by degrees, learn to take things more as
we find them, call them more by their right names; that we feel the
warmth of summer, but the winter’s cold as well; that we see beauties,
but can spy defects in the fairest face; and no longer look at every
thing through the genial atmosphere of our own existence. We grow more
literal and less credulous every day, lose much enjoyment, and gain some
useful, and more useless knowledge. The second time I passed along the
road that skirts Burleigh Park, the morning was dank and ‘ways were
mire.’ I saw and felt it not: my mind was otherwise engaged. Ah! thought
I, there is that fine old head by Rembrandt; there within those cold
grey walls, the painter of old age is enshrined, immortalized in some of
his inimitable works! The name of Rembrandt lives in the fame of him who
stamped it with renown, while the name of Burleigh is kept up by the
present owner. An artist survives in the issue of his brain to all
posterity—a lord is nothing without the issue of his body lawfully
begotten, and is lost in a long line of illustrious ancestors. So much
higher is genius than rank—such is the difference between fame and
title! A great name in art lasts for centuries—it requires twenty
generations of a noble house to keep alive the memory of the first
founder for the same length of time. So I reasoned, and was not a little
proud of my discovery.

In this dreaming mood, dreaming of deathless works and deathless names,
I went on to Peterborough, passing, as it were, under an arch-way of
Fame,

               ——‘and still walking under,
             Found some new matter to look up and wonder.’

I had business there: I will not say what. I could at this time do
nothing. I could not write a line—I could not draw a stroke. ‘I was
brutish;’ though not ‘like warlike as the wolf, nor subtle as the fox
for prey.’ In words, in looks, in deeds, I was no better than a
changeling. Why then do I set so much value on my existence formerly? Oh
God! that I could but be for one day, one hour, nay but for an instant,
(to feel it in all the plentitude of unconscious bliss, and take one
long, last, lingering draught of that full brimming cup of thoughtless
freedom,) what then I was—that I might, as in a trance, a waking dream,
hear the hoarse murmur of the bargemen, as the Minster tower appeared in
the dim twilight, come up from the willowy stream, sounding low and
underground like the voice of the bittern—that I might paint that field
opposite the window where I lived, and feel that there was a green, dewy
moisture in the tone, beyond my pencil’s reach, but thus gaining almost
a new sense, and watching the birth of new objects without me—that I
might stroll down Peterborough bank, (a winter’s day,) and see the fresh
marshes stretching out in endless level perspective, (as if Paul Potter
had painted them,) with the cattle, the windmills, and the red-tiled
cottages, gleaming in the sun to the very verge of the horizon, and
watch the fieldfares in innumerable flocks, gamboling in the air, and
sporting in the sun, and racing before the clouds, making summersaults,
and dazzling the eye by throwing themselves into a thousand figures and
movements—that I might go, as then, a pilgrimage to the town where my
mother was born, and visit the poor farm-house where she was brought up,
and lean upon the gate where she told me she used to stand when a child
of ten years old and look at the setting sun!—I could do all this still;
but with different feelings. As our hopes leave us, we lose even our
interest and regrets for the past. I had at this time, simple as I
seemed, many resources. I could in some sort ‘play at bowls with the sun
and moon;’ or, at any rate, there was no question in metaphysics that I
could not bandy to and fro, as one might play at cup-and-ball, for
twenty, thirty, forty miles of the great North Road, and at it again,
the next day, as fresh as ever. I soon get tired of this now, and wonder
how I managed formerly. I knew Tom Jones by heart, and was deep in
Peregrine Pickle. I was intimately acquainted with all the heroes and
heroines of Richardson’s romances, and could turn from one to the other
as I pleased. I could con over that single passage in Pamela about ‘her
lumpish heart,’ and never have done admiring the skill of the author and
the truth of nature. I had my sports and recreations too, some such as
these following:—

          ‘To see the sun to bed, and to arise,
          Like some hot amourist, with glowing eyes
          Bursting the lazy bands of sleep that bound him,
          With all his fires and travelling glories round him.
          Sometimes the moon on soft night clouds to rest,
          Like beauty nestling in a young man’s breast,
          And all the winking stars, her handmaids, keep
          Admiring silence while those lovers sleep.
          Sometimes outstretcht, in very idleness,
          Nought doing, saying little, thinking less,
          To view the leaves, thin dancers upon air,
          Go eddying round and small birds how they fare,
          When Mother Autumn fills their beaks with corn,
          Filch’d from the careless Amalthea’s horn:
          And how the woods berries and worms provide
          Without their pains, when earth has nought beside
          To answer their small wants.
          To view the graceful deer come tripping by,
          Then stop and gaze, then turn, they know not why,
          Like bashful younkers in society.
          To mark the structure of a plant or tree,
          And all fair things of earth, how fair they be.’

I have wandered far enough from Burleigh House; but I had some
associations about it which I could not well get rid of, without
troubling the reader with them.

The _Rembrandts_ disappointed me quite. I could hardly find a trace of
the impression which had been inlaid in my imagination. I might as well

                ‘Hunt half a day for a forgotten dream.’

Instead of broken wrinkles and indented flesh, I saw hard lines and
stained canvas. I had seen better Rembrandts since, and had learned to
see nature better. Was it a disadvantage, then, that for twenty years I
had carried this fine idea in my brain, enriching it from time to time
from my observations of nature or art, and raising it as they were
raised; or did it much signify that it was disturbed at last? Neither.
The picture was nothing to me: it was the idea it had suggested. The one
hung on the wall at Burleigh; the other was an heir-loom in my mind. Was
it destroyed, because the picture, after long absence, did not answer to
it? No. There were other pictures in the world that did, and objects in
nature still more perfect. This is the melancholy privilege of art; it
exists chiefly in idea, and is not liable to serious reverses. If we are
disappointed in the character of one we love, it breaks the illusion
altogether; for we drew certain consequences from a face. If an old
friendship is broken up, we cannot tell how to replace it, without the
aid of habit and a length of time. But a picture is nothing but a face;
it interests us only in idea. Hence we need never be afraid of raising
our standard of taste too high; for the mind rises with it, exalted and
refined, and can never be much injured by finding out its casual
mistakes. Like the possessor of a splendid collection, who is
indifferent to or turns away from common pictures, we have a selector
gallery in our own minds. In this sense, the knowledge of art is _its
own exceeding great reward_. But is there not danger that we may become
too fastidious, and have nothing left to admire? None: for the
conceptions of the human soul cannot rise superior to the power of art;
or if they do, then we have surely every reason to be satisfied with
them. The mind, in what depends upon itself alone, ‘soon rises from
defeat unhurt,’ though its pride may be for a moment ‘humbled by such
rebuke,’

               ‘And in its liquid texture mortal wound
               Receives no more than can the fluid air.’

As an illustration of the same thing, there are two Claudes at Burleigh,
which certainly do not come up to the celebrity of the artist’s name.
They did not please me formerly: the sky, the water, the trees seemed
all too blue, too much of the colour of indigo. But I believed, and
wondered. I could no longer admire these specimens of the artist at
present, but assuredly my admiration of the artist himself was not less
than before; for since then, I had seen other works by the same hand,

                   ——‘inimitable on earth
                 By model or by shading pencil drawn,’—

surpassing every idea that the mind could form of art, except by having
seen them. I remember one in particular that Walsh Porter had (a
bow-shot beyond all others)—a vernal landscape, an ‘Hesperian fable
true,’ with a blue unclouded sky, and green trees and grey turrets and
an unruffled sea beyond. But never was there sky so soft or trees so
clad with spring, such air-drawn towers or such halcyon seas: Zephyr
seemed to fan the air, and Nature looked on and smiled. The name of
Claude has alone something in it that softens and harmonises the mind.
It touches a magic chord. Oh! matchless scenes, oh! orient skies, bright
with purple and gold; ye opening glades and distant sunny vales,
glittering with fleecy flocks, pour all your enchantment into my soul,
let it reflect your chastened image, and forget all meaner things!
Perhaps the most affecting tribute to the memory of this great artist is
the character drawn of him by an eminent master, in his _Dream of a
Painter_.

  ‘On a sudden I was surrounded by a thick cloud or mist, and my guide
  wafted me through the air, till we alighted on a most delicious
  rural spot. I perceived it was the early hour of the morn, when the
  sun had not risen above the horizon. We were alone, except that at a
  little distance a young shepherd played on his flageolet as he
  walked before his herd, conducting them from the fold to the
  pasture. The elevated pastoral air he played charmed me by its
  simplicity, and seemed to animate his obedient flock. The atmosphere
  was clear and perfectly calm: and now the rising sun gradually
  illumined the fine landscape, and began to discover to our view the
  distant country of immense extent. I stood awhile in expectation of
  what might next present itself of dazzling splendour, when the only
  object which appeared to fill this natural, grand, and simple scene,
  was a rustic who entered, not far from the place where we stood, who
  by his habiliments seemed nothing better than a peasant; he led a
  poor little ass, which was loaded with all the implements required
  by a painter in his work. After advancing a few paces he stood
  still, and with an air of rapture seemed to contemplate the rising
  sun: he next fell on his knees, directed his eyes towards heaven,
  crossed himself, and then went on with eager looks, as if to make
  choice of the most advantageous spot from which to make his studies
  as a painter. “This,” said my conductor, “is that Claude Gelée of
  Lorraine, who, nobly disdaining the low employment to which he was
  originally bred, left it with all its advantages of competence and
  ease to embrace his present state of poverty, in order to adorn the
  world with works of most accomplished excellence.”’

There is a little Paul Brill at Burleigh, in the same room with the
Rembrandts, that dazzled me many years ago, and delighted me the other
day. It looked as sparkling as if the sky came through the frame. I
found, or fancied I found, those pictures the best that I remembered
before, though they might in the interval have faded a little to my
eyes, or lost some of their original brightness. I did not see the small
head of Queen Mary by Holbein, which formerly struck me so forcibly; but
I have little doubt respecting it, for Holbein was a sure hand; he only
wanted effect, and this picture looked through you. One of my old
favourites was the _Head of an Angel_, by Guido, nearly a profile,
looking up, and with wings behind the back. It was hung lower than it
used to be, and had, I thought, a look less aërial, less heavenly; but
there was still a pulpy softness in it, a tender grace, an expression
unutterable—which only the pencil, _his_ pencil, could convey! And are
we not then beholden to the art for these glimpses of Paradise? Surely,
there is a sweetness in Guido’s heads, as there is also a music in his
name. If Raphael did more, it was not with the same ease. His heads have
more meaning; but Guido’s have a look of youthful innocence, which his
are without. As to the boasted picture of Christ by Carlo Dolce, if a
well-painted table-cloth and silver-cup are worth three thousand
guineas, the picture is so, but not else. Yet one touch of Paul Veronese
is worth all this enamelling twice over. The head has a wretched mawkish
expression, utterly unbecoming the character it professes to represent.
But I will say no more about it. The _Bath of Seneca_ is one of Luca
Jordano’s best performances, and has considerable interest and effect.
Among other historical designs, there is one of _Jacob’s Dream_, with
the angels ascending and descending on a kind of stairs. The conception
is very answerable to the subject; but the execution is not in any high
degree spirited or graceful. The mind goes away no gainer from the
picture. Rembrandt alone perhaps could add any thing to this subject. Of
him it might be said, that ‘his light shone in darkness!’—The wreaths of
flowers and foliage carved in wood on the wainscots and ceiling of many
of the rooms, by the celebrated Grinling Gibbons in Charles the Second’s
time, shew a wonderful lightness and facility of hand, and give pleasure
to the eye. The other ornaments and curiosities I need not mention, as
they are carefully pointed out by the housekeeper to the admiring
visitor. There are two heads, however, (one of them happens to have a
screen placed before it) which I would by no means wish any one to pass
over, who is an artist, or feels the slightest interest in the art. They
are, I should suppose unquestionably, the original studies by Raphael of
the heads of the _Virgin_ and _Joseph_ in his famous picture of the
_Madonna of the Crown_. The Virgin is particularly beautiful, and in the
finest preservation, as indeed are all his genuine pictures. The canvas
is not quite covered in some places; the colours are as fresh as if
newly laid on, and the execution is as firm and vigorous as if his hand
had just left it. It shews us how this artist wrought. The head is, no
doubt, a highly-finished study from nature, done for a particular
purpose, and worked up according to the painter’s conception, but still
retaining all the force and truth of individuality. He got all he could
from Nature, and gave all he could to her in return. If Raphael had
merely sketched this divine face on the canvas from the idea in his own
mind, why not stamp it on the larger composition at once? He could work
it up and refine upon it there just as well, and it would almost
necessarily undergo some alteration in being transferred thither
afterwards. But if it was done as a careful copy from Nature in the
first instance, the present was the only way in which he could proceed,
or indeed by which he could arrive at such consummate excellence. The
head of the Joseph (leaning on the hand and looking down) is fine, but
neither so fine as the companion to it, nor is it by any means so
elaborately worked up in the sketch before us.

I am no teller of stories; but there is one belonging to Burleigh-House,
of which I happen to know some of the particulars. The late Earl of
Exeter had been divorced from his first wife, a woman of fashion, and of
somewhat more gaiety of manners than ‘lords who love their ladies like.’
He determined to seek out a second wife in an humbler sphere of life,
and that it should be one who, having no knowledge of his rank, should
love him for himself alone. For this purpose, he went and settled
_incognito_ (under the name of Mr. Jones) at Hodnet, an obscure village
in Shropshire. He made overtures to one or two damsels in the
neighbourhood, but they were too knowing to be taken in by him. His
manners were not boorish, his mode of life was retired, it was odd how
he got his livelihood, and at last, he began to be taken for a
highwayman. In this dilemma he turned to Miss Hoggins, the eldest
daughter of a small farmer, at whose house he lodged. Miss Hoggins, it
might seem, had not been used to romp with the clowns: there was
something in the manners of their quiet, but eccentric guest that she
liked. As he found that he had inspired her with that kind of regard
which he wished for, he made honourable proposals to her, and at the end
of some months, they were married, without his letting her know who he
was. They set off in a post-chaise from her father’s house, and
travelled homewards across the country. In this manner they arrived at
Stamford, and passed through the town without stopping, till they came
to the entrance of Burleigh-Park, which is on the outside of it. The
gates flew open, the chaise entered, and drove down the long avenue of
trees that leads up to the front of this fine old mansion. As they drew
nearer to it, and she seemed a little surprised where they were going,
he said, ‘Well, my dear, this is Burleigh-House; it is the home I have
promised to bring you to, and you are the Countess of Exeter!’ It is
said, the shock of this discovery was too much for this young creature,
and that she never recovered it. It was a sensation worth dying for. The
world we live in was worth making, had it been only for this. _Ye
Thousand and One Tales of the Arabian Night’s Entertainment!_ hide your
diminished heads! I never wish to have been a lord, but when I think of
this story.



                    PICTURES AT OXFORD AND BLENHEIM


Rome has been called the ‘Sacred City:’—might not _our_ Oxford be called
so too? There is an air about it, resonant of joy and hope: it speaks
with a thousand tongues to the heart: it waves its mighty shadow over
the imagination: it stands in lowly sublimity, on the ‘hill of ages;’
and points with prophetic fingers to the sky: it greets the eager gaze
from afar, ‘with glistering spires and pinnacles adorned,’ that shine
with an internal light as with the lustre of setting suns; and a dream
and a glory hover round its head, as the spirits of former times, a
throng of intellectual shapes, are seen retreating or advancing to the
eye of memory: its streets are paved with the names of learning that can
never wear out: its green quadrangles breathe the silence of thought,
conscious of the weight of yearnings innumerable after the past, of
loftiest aspirations for the future: Isis babbles of the Muse, its
waters are from the springs of Helicon, its Christ-Church meadows,
classic, Elysian fields!—We could pass our lives in Oxford without
having or wanting any other idea—that of the place is enough. We imbibe
the air of thought; we stand in the presence of learning. We are
admitted into the Temple of Fame, we feel that we are in the sanctuary,
on holy ground, and ‘hold high converse with the mighty dead.’ The
enlightened and the ignorant are on a level, if they have but faith in
the tutelary genius of the place. We may be wise by proxy, and studious
by prescription. Time has taken upon himself the labour of thinking; and
accumulated libraries leave us leisure to be dull. There is no occasion
to examine the buildings, the churches, the colleges, by the rules of
architecture, to reckon up the streets, to compare it with Cambridge
(Cambridge lies out of the way, on one side of the world)—but woe to him
who does not feel in passing through Oxford that he is in ‘no mean
city,’ that he is surrounded with the monuments and lordly mansions of
the mind of man, outvying in pomp and splendour the courts and palaces
of princes, rising like an exhalation in the night of ignorance, and
triumphing over barbaric foes, saying, ‘All eyes shall see me, and all
knees shall bow to me!’—as the shrine where successive ages came to pay
their pious vows, and slake the sacred thirst of knowledge, where
youthful hopes (an endless flight) soared to truth and good, and where
the retired and lonely student brooded over the historic or over fancy’s
page, imposing high tasks for himself, framing high destinies for the
race of man—the lamp, the mine, the well-head from whence the spark of
learning was kindled, its stream flowed, its treasures were spread out
through the remotest corners of the land and to distant nations. Let him
then who is fond of indulging in a dream-like existence go to Oxford and
stay there; let him study this magnificent spectacle, the same under all
aspects, with its mental twilight tempering the glare of noon, or
mellowing the silver moonlight; let him wander in her sylvan suburbs, or
linger in her cloistered halls; but let him not catch the din of
scholars or teachers, or dine or sup with them, or speak a word to any
of the privileged inhabitants; for if he does, the spell will be broken,
the poetry and the religion gone, and the palace of enchantment will
melt from his embrace into thin air!

The only Collection of Pictures at Oxford is that at the Radcliffe
Library; bequeathed by Sir William Guise. It is so far appropriate that
it is dingy, solemn, old; and we would gladly leave it to its repose;
but where criticism comes, affection ‘clappeth his wings, and
straightway he is gone.’ Most of the pictures are either copies, or
spoiled, or never were good for any thing. There is, however, a _Music
Piece_ by Titian, which bears the stamp of his hand, and is ‘majestic,
though in ruins.’ It represents three young ladies practising at a
harpsichord, with their music-master looking on. One of the girls is
tall, with prominent features seen in profile, but exquisitely fair, and
with a grave expression; the other is a lively, good-humoured girl, in a
front view; and the third leans forward from behind, looking down with a
demure, reserved, sentimental cast of countenance, but very pretty, and
much like an English face. The teacher has a manly, intelligent
countenance, with a certain blended air of courtesy and authority. It is
a fascinating picture, to our thinking; and has that marked
characteristic look, belonging to each individual and to the subject,
which is always to be found in Titian’s groups. We also noticed a dingy,
melancholy-looking Head over the window of the farthest room, said to be
a _Portrait of Vandyke_, with something striking in the tone and
expression; and a small _Adam and Eve driven out of Paradise_,
attributed to Giuseppe Ribera, which has considerable merit. The amateur
will here find continual copies (of an indifferent class) of many of his
old favourite pictures of the Italian school, Titian, Domenichino,
Correggio, and others. But the most valuable part of the Collection
consists of four undoubted Heads cut out of one of the _Cartoons_, which
was destroyed by fire about a hundred years ago: they are here preserved
in their pristine integrity. They shew us what the Cartoons were. They
have all the spirit and freedom of Raphael’s hand, but without any of
the blotches and smearing of those at Hampton Court; with which the damp
of outhouses and the dews of heaven have evidently had nearly as much to
do as the painter. Two are Heads of men, and two of women; one of the
last, _Rachel weeping for her Children_, and another still finer (both
are profiles) in which all the force and boldness of masculine
understanding is combined with feminine softness of expression. The
large, ox-like eye, a ‘lucid mirror,’ with the eye-lids drooping, and
the long eye-lashes distinctly marked, the straight scrutinizing nose,
the full, but closed lips, the matronly chin and high forehead,
altogether convey a character of matured thought and expansive feeling,
such as is seldom to be met with. _Rachel weeping for her Children_ has
a sterner and more painful, but a very powerful expression. It is
heroic, rather than pathetic. The Heads of the men are spirited and
forcible, but they are distinguished chiefly by the firmness of the
outline, and the sharpness and mastery of the execution.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Blenheim is a morning’s walk from Oxford, and is not an unworthy
appendage to it—

               ‘And fast by hanging in a golden chain
               This pendent world, in bigness as a star
               Of smallest magnitude, close by the moon!’

Blenheim is not inferior in waving woods and sloping lawns and smooth
waters to Pembroke’s princely domain, or to the grounds of any other
park we know of. The building itself is Gothic, capricious, and not
imposing—a conglomeration of pigeon-houses—

                   ‘In form resembling a goose pie.’

But as a receptacle for works of art, (with the exception of Cleveland
House,) it is unrivalled in this country. There is not a bad picture in
it: the interest is sustained by rich and noble performances from first
to last. It abounds in Rubens’ works. The old Duchess of Marlborough was
fond of the historical pieces of this great painter; she had, during her
husband’s wars and negociations in Flanders, a fine opportunity of
culling them, ‘as one picks pears, saying, this I like, that I like
still better:’ and from the selection she has made, it appears as if she
understood the master’s genius well. She has chosen those of his works
which were most mellow, and at the same time gorgeous in colouring, most
luxuriant in composition, most unctuous in expression. Rubens was the
only artist that could have embodied some of our countryman Spenser’s
splendid and voluptuous allegories. If a painter among ourselves were to
attempt a SPENSER GALLERY, (perhaps the finest subject for the pencil in
the world after Heathen mythology and Scripture History,) he ought to go
and study the principles of his design at Blenheim!—The _Silenus_ and
the _Rape of Proserpine_ contain more of the Bacchanalian and lawless
spirit of ancient fable than perhaps any two pictures extant. We shall
not dispute that Nicolas Poussin could probably give more of the
abstract, metaphysical character of his traditional personages, or that
Titian could set them off better, so as to ‘leave stings’ in the eye of
the spectator, by a prodigious _gusto_ of colouring, as in his _Bacchus
and Ariadne_: but neither of them gave the same undulating outline, the
same humid, _pulpy_ tone to the flesh, the same graceful involution to
the grouping and the forms, the same animal spirits, the same breathing
motion. Let any one look at the figure of the _Silenus_ in the
first-mentioned of these compositions, its unwieldy size, its reeling,
drunken attitude, its capacity for revelling in gross, sensual
enjoyment, and contrast it with the figure of the nymph, so light, so
wanton, so fair, that her clear crystal skin and laughing grace spread a
ruddy glow, and account for the giddy tumult all around her; and say if
any thing finer in this kind was ever executed or imagined. In that sort
of licentious fancy, in which a certain grossness of expression bordered
on caricature, and where grotesque or enticing form was to be combined
with free and rapid movements, or different tones and colours were to be
flung over the picture as in sport or in a dance, no one ever surpassed
the Flemish painter; and some of the greatest triumphs of his pencil are
to be found in the Blenheim Gallery. There are several others of his
best pictures on sacred subjects, such as the _Flight into Egypt_, and
the illustration of the text, ‘Suffer little children to come unto me.’
The head and figure and deportment of the Christ, in this last admirable
production, are nobly characteristic (beyond what the painter usually
accomplished in this department)—the face of a woman holding a young
child, pale, pensive, with scarce any shadow, and the head of the child
itself (looking as vacant and satisfied as if the nipple had just
dropped from its mouth) are actually alive. Those who can look at this
picture with indifference, or without astonishment at the truth of
nature, and the felicity of execution, may rest assured that they know
as little of Rubens as of the Art itself. Vandyke, the scholar and rival
of Rubens, holds the next place in this Collection. There is here, as in
so many other places, a picture of the famous Lord Strafford, with his
Secretary—both speaking heads, and with the characters finely
diversified. We were struck also by the delightful family picture of the
Duchess of Buckingham and her Children, but not so much (we confess it)
as we expected from our recollection of this picture a few years ago. It
had less the effect of a perfect mirror of fashion in ‘the olden time,’
than we fancied to ourselves—the little girl had less exquisite primness
and studied gentility, the little boy had not the same chubby,
good-humoured look, and the colours in his cheek had faded—nor had the
mother the same graceful, matron-like air. Is it we or the picture that
has changed? In general our expectations tally pretty well with our
after-observations, but there was a falling-off in the present instance.
There is a fine whole-length of a lady of quality of that day (we think
Lady Cleveland); but the master-piece of Vandyke’s pencil here is his
_Charles I. on Horseback_. It is the famous cream or fawn-coloured
horse, which, of all the creatures that ever were painted, is surely one
of the most beautiful.

                       ‘Sure never were seen
                       Two such beautiful ponies;
                       All others are brutes,
                       But these macaronies.’

Its steps are delicate, as if it moved to some soft measure or courtly
strain, or disdained the very ground it trod upon; its form all
lightness and elegance: the expression quick and fiery; the colour
inimitable; the texture of the skin sensitive and tremblingly alive all
over, as if it would shrink from the smallest touch. The portrait of
Charles is not equal; but there is a landscape-background, which in
breezy freshness seems almost to rival the airy spirit and delicacy of
the noble animal. There are also one or two fine Rembrandts
(particularly a _Jacob and Esau_)—an early Raphael, the _Adoration_ of
some saint, hard and stiff, but carefully designed; and a fine,
sensible, graceful head of the _Fornarina_, of which we have a common
and well-executed engraving.

‘But did you see the Titian room?’—Yes, we did, and a glorious treat it
was; nor do we know why it should not be shewn to every one. There is
nothing alarming but the title of the subjects—_The Loves of the
Gods_—just as was the case with Mr. T. Moore’s _Loves of the Angels_—but
oh! how differently treated! What a gusto in the first, compared with
the insipidity of the last! What streaks of living blood-colour, so
unlike gauze spangles or pink silk-stockings! What union, what symmetry
of form, instead of sprawling, flimsy descriptions—what an expression of
amorous enjoyment about the mouth, the eyes, and even to the
finger-ends, instead of cold conceits, and moonlight similes! This is
_en passant_; so to our task.—It is said these pictures were discovered
in an old lumber-room by Sir Joshua Reynolds, who set a high value on
them, and that they are undoubtedly by Titian, having been originally
sent over as a present by the King of Sardinia (for whose ancestor they
were painted) to the first Duke of Marlborough. We should (without,
however, pretending to set up an opinion) incline, from the internal
evidence, to think them from the pencil of the great Venetian, but for
two circumstances: the first is the texture of the skin; and secondly,
they do not compose well as pictures. They have no back-ground to set
them off, but a most ridiculous trellis-work, representing nothing, hung
round them; and the flesh looks monotonous and hard, like the rind of
fruit. On the other hand, this last objection seems to be answered
satisfactorily enough, and without impugning the skill of the artist;
for the pictures are actually painted on skins of leather. In all other
respects, they might assuredly be by Titian, and we know of no other
painter who was capable of achieving their various excellences. The
drawing of the female figures is correct and elegant in a high degree,
and might be supposed to be borrowed from classic sculpture, but that it
is more soft, more feminine, more lovely. The colouring, with the
exception already stated, is true, spirited, golden, harmonious. The
grouping and attitudes are heroic, the expression in some of the faces
divine. We do not mean, of course, that it possesses the elevation or
purity that Raphael or Correggio could give, but it is warmer, more
thrilling and ecstatic. There is the glow and ripeness of a more genial
clime, the purple light of love, crimsoned blushes, looks bathed in
rapture, kisses with immortal sweetness in their taste—Nay, then, let
the reader go and see the pictures, and no longer lay the blame of this
extravagance on us. We may at any rate repeat the subjects. They are
eight in number. 1. _Mars and Venus._ The Venus is well worthy to be
called the Queen of Love, for shape, for air, for every thing. Her
redoubted lover is a middle-aged, ill-looking gentleman, clad in a
buff-jerkin, and somewhat of a formalist in his approaches and mode of
address; but there is a Cupid playing on the floor, who might well turn
the world upside down. 2. _Cupid and Psyche._ The Cupid is perhaps
rather a gawky, awkward stripling, with eager, open-mouthed wonder: but
did ever creature of mortal mould see any thing comparable to the back
and limbs of the Psyche, or conceive or read any thing equal to it, but
that unique description in the Troilus and Cressida of Chaucer? 3.
_Apollo and Daphne._ Not equal to the rest. 4. _Hercules and Dejanira._
The female figure in this picture is full of grace and animation, and
the arms that are twined round the great son of Jove are elastic as a
bended bow. 5. _Vulcan and Ceres._ 6. _Pluto and Proserpine._ 7.
_Jupiter and Io._ Very fine. And finest of all, and last, _Neptune and
Amphitrite_. In this last work it seems ‘as if increase of appetite did
grow with what it fed on.’ What a face is that of Amphitrite for beauty
and for sweetness of expression! One thing is remarkable in these groups
(with the exception of two) which is that the lovers are all of them old
men; but then they retain their beards (according to the custom of the
good old times!) and this makes not only a picturesque contrast, but
gives a beautiful softness and youthful delicacy to the female faces
opposed to them. Upon the whole, this series of historic compositions
well deserves the attention of the artist and the connoisseur, and
perhaps some light might be thrown upon the subject of their
authenticity by turning over some old portfolios. We have heard a hint
thrown out that the designs are of a date prior to Titian. But ‘we are
ignorance itself in this!’



                                APPENDIX


CRITICISM ON HOGARTH’S MARRIAGE A-LA-MODE

  _The Criticism on Hogarth’s ‘Marriage a-la-Mode,’ referred to in the
    account of Mr. Angerstein’s pictures (page 15), is as follows_:—

The superiority of the pictures of Hogarth, which we have seen in the
late collection at the British Institution, to the common prints, is
confined chiefly to the _Marriage a-la-Mode_. We shall attempt to
illustrate a few of their most striking excellences, more particularly
with reference to the expression of character. Their merits are indeed
so prominent, and have been so often discussed, that it may be thought
difficult to point out any new beauties; but they contain so much truth
of nature, they present the objects to the eye under so many aspects and
bearings, admit of so many constructions, and are so pregnant with
meaning, that the subject is in a manner inexhaustible.

Boccaccio, the most refined and sentimental of all the novel-writers,
has been stigmatized as a mere inventor of licentious tales, because
readers in general have only seized on those things in his works which
were suited to their own taste, and have reflected their own grossness
back upon the writer. So it has happened that the majority of critics
having been most struck with the strong and decided expression in
Hogarth, the extreme delicacy and subtle gradations of character in his
pictures have almost entirely escaped them. In the first picture of the
_Marriage a-la-Mode_, the three figures of the young Nobleman, his
intended Bride, and her innamorato the Lawyer, shew how much Hogarth
excelled in the power of giving soft and effeminate expression. They
have, however, been less noticed than the other figures, which tell a
plainer story, and convey a more palpable moral. Nothing can be more
finely managed than the differences of character in these delicate
personages. The Beau sits smiling at the looking-glass, with a reflected
simper of self-admiration, and a languishing inclination of the head,
while the rest of his body is perked up on his high heels, with a
certain air of tiptoe elevation. He is the Narcissus of the reign of
George II., whose powdered peruke, ruffles, gold lace, and patches,
divide his self-love equally with his own person, the true Sir Plume of
his day,—

                ——‘Of amber snuff-box justly vain,
                And the nice conduct of a clouded cane.’

There is the same felicity in the figure and attitude of the Bride,
courted by the Lawyer. There is the utmost flexibility, and yielding
softness in her whole person, a listless languor and tremulous suspense
in the expression of her face. It is the precise look and air which Pope
has given to his favourite Belinda, just at the moment of the Rape of
the Lock. The heightened glow, the forward intelligence, and loosened
soul of love in the same face, in the Assignation-scene before the
masquerade, form a fine and instructive contrast to the delicacy,
timidity, and coy reluctance expressed in the first. The Lawyer, in both
pictures, is much the same—perhaps too much so—though even this unmoved,
unaltered appearance may be designed as characteristic. In both cases,
he has ‘a person and a smooth dispose, framed to make women false.’ He
is full of that easy good-humour, and easy good opinion of himself, with
which the sex are delighted. There is not a sharp angle in his face to
obstruct his success, or give a hint of doubt or difficulty. His whole
aspect is round and rosy, lively and unmeaning, happy without the least
expense of thought, careless, and inviting; and conveys a perfect idea
of the uninterrupted glide and pleasing murmur of the soft periods that
flow from his tongue.

The expression of the Bride in the Morning-scene is the most highly
seasoned, and at the same time the most vulgar in the series. The
figure, face, and attitude of the Husband are inimitable. Hogarth has
with great skill contrasted the pale countenance of the Husband with the
yellow whitish colour of the marble chimney-piece behind him, in such a
manner as to preserve the fleshy tone of the former. The airy splendour
of the view of the inner room in this picture, is probably not exceeded
by any of the productions of the Flemish school.

The Young Girl, in the third picture, who is represented as a victim of
fashionable profligacy, is unquestionably one of the artist’s
_chef-d’œuvres_. The exquisite delicacy of the painting is only
surpassed by the felicity and subtlety of the conception. Nothing can be
more striking than the contrast between the extreme softness of her
person and the hardened indifference of her character. The vacant
stillness, the docility to vice, the premature suppression of youthful
sensibility, the doll-like mechanism of the whole figure, which seems to
have no other feeling but a sickly sense of pain,—shew the deepest
insight into human nature, and into the effects of those refinements in
depravity, by which it has been good-naturedly asserted, that ‘vice
loses half its evil in losing all its grossness.’ The story of this
picture is in some parts very obscure and enigmatical. It is certain
that the Nobleman is not looking straight forward to the Quack, whom he
seems to have been threatening with his cane; but that his eyes are
turned up with an ironical leer of triumph to the Procuress. The
commanding attitude and size of this woman,—the swelling circumference
of her dress, spread out like a turkey-cock’s feathers,—the fierce,
ungovernable, inveterate malignity of her countenance, which hardly
needs the comment of the clasp-knife to explain her purpose, are all
admirable in themselves, and still more so, as they are opposed to the
mute insensibility, the elegant negligence of dress, and the childish
figure of the girl, who is supposed to be her _protegée_. As for the
Quack, there can be no doubt entertained about him. His face seems as if
it were composed of salve, and his features exhibit all the chaos and
confusion of the most gross, ignorant, and impudent empiricism.

The gradations of ridiculous affectation in the Music-scene, are finely
imagined and preserved. The preposterous, overstrained admiration of the
Lady of Quality; the sentimental, insipid, patient, delight of the Man
with his hair in papers, and sipping his tea; the pert, smirking,
conceited, half-distorted approbation of the figure next to him; the
transition to the total insensibility of the round face in profile, and
then to the wonder of the Negro-boy at the rapture of his mistress,—form
a perfect whole. The sanguine complexion and flame-coloured hair of the
female Virtuoso throw an additional light on the character. This is lost
in the print. The continuing the red colour of the hair into the back of
the chair, has been pointed out as one of those instances of
alliteration in colouring, of which these pictures are everywhere full.
The gross, bloated appearance of the Italian Singer is well relieved by
the hard features of the instrumental Performer behind him, which might
be carved of wood. The Negro-boy, holding the chocolate, in expression,
colour, and execution, is a master-piece. The gay, lively derision of
the other Negro-boy, playing with the Actæon, is an ingenious contrast
to the profound amazement of the first. Some account has already been
given of the two lovers in this picture. It is curious to observe the
infinite activity of mind which the artist displays on every occasion.
An instance occurs in the present picture. He has so contrived the
papers in the hair of the Bride, as to make them look almost like a
wreathe of half-blown flowers; while those which he has placed on the
head of the musical Amateur very much resemble a _cheveux-de-fris_ of
horns, which adorn and fortify the lacklustre expression and mild
resignation of the face beneath.

The Night-scene is inferior to the rest of the series. The attitude of
the Husband, who is just killed, is one in which it would be impossible
for him to stand, or even to fall. It resembles the loose pasteboard
figures they make for children. The characters in the last picture, in
which the Wife dies, are all masterly. We would particularly refer to
the captious, petulant self-sufficiency of the Apothecary, whose face
and figure are constructed on exact physiognomical principles, and to
the fine example of passive obedience and non-resistance in the Servant,
whom he is taking to task, and whose coat of green and yellow livery is
as long and melancholy as his face. The disconsolate look, the haggard
eyes, the open mouth, the comb sticking in the hair, the broken, gapped
teeth, which, as it were, hitch in an answer—every thing about him
denotes the utmost perplexity and dismay. The harmony and gradations of
colour in this picture are uniformly preserved with the greatest nicety,
and are well worthy the attention of the artist.

It has been observed, that Hogarth’s pictures are exceedingly unlike any
other representations of the same kind of subjects—that they form a
class, and have a character, peculiar to themselves. It may be worth
while to consider in what this general distinction consists.

In the first place they are, in the strictest sense, historical
pictures; and if what Fielding says be true, that his novel of Tom Jones
ought to be regarded as an epic prose-poem, because it contained a
regular developement of fable, manners, character, and passion, the
compositions of Hogarth will, in like manner be found to have a higher
claim to the title of Epic Pictures, than many which have of late
arrogated that denomination to themselves. When we say that Hogarth
treated his subjects historically, we mean that his works represent the
manners and humours of mankind in action, and their characters by
varying expression. Every thing in his pictures has life and motion in
it. Not only does the business of the scene never stand still, but every
feature and muscle is put into full play; the exact feeling of the
moment is brought out, and carried to its utmost height, and then
instantly seized and stamped on the canvas forever. The expression is
always taken _en passant_, in a state of progress or change, and, as it
were, at the salient point. Besides the excellence of each individual
face, the reflection of the expression from face to face, the contrast
and struggle of particular motives and feelings in the different actors
in the scene, as of anger, contempt, laughter, compassion, are conveyed
in the happiest and most lively manner. His figures are not like the
background on which they are painted: even the pictures on the wall have
a peculiar look of their own.—Again, with the rapidity, variety, and
scope of history, Hogarth’s heads have all the reality and correctness
of portraits. He gives the extremes of character and expression, but he
gives them with perfect truth and accuracy. This is in fact what
distinguishes his compositions from all others of the same kind, that
they are equally remote from caricature and from mere still-life. It of
course happens in subjects from common life, that the painter can
procure real models, and he can get them to sit as long as he pleases.
Hence, in general, those attitudes and expressions have been chosen
which could be assumed the longest; and in imitating which, the artist,
by taking pains and time, might produce almost as complete a fac-simile
as he could of a flower or a flower-pot, of a damask curtain, or a china
vase. The copy was as perfect and as uninteresting in the one case as in
the other. On the contrary, subjects of drollery and ridicule affording
frequent examples of strange deformity and peculiarity of features,
these have been eagerly seized by another class of artists, who, without
subjecting themselves to the laborious drudgery of the Dutch school and
their imitators, have produced our popular caricatures, by rudely
copying or exaggerating the casual irregularities of the human
countenance. Hogarth has equally avoided the faults of both these
styles—the insipid tameness of the one, and the gross vulgarity of the
other—so as to give to the productions of his pencil equal solidity and
effect: for his faces go to the very verge of caricature, and yet never
(we believe in any single instance) go beyond it; they take the very
widest latitude, and yet we always see the links which bind them to
nature: they bear all the marks, and carry all the conviction of reality
with them, as if we had seen the actual faces for the first time, from
the precision, consistency, and good sense, with which the whole and
every part is made out. They exhibit the most uncommon features with the
most uncommon expressions, but which are yet as familiar and
intelligible as possible; because, with all the boldness, they have all
the truth of nature. Hogarth has left behind him as many of these
memorable faces, in their memorable moments, as, perhaps, most of us
remember in the course of our lives; and has thus doubled the quantity
of our observation.

We have, in the present paper, attempted to point out the fund of
observation, physical and moral, contained in one set of these pictures,
the _Marriage a-la-Mode_. The rest would furnish as many topics to
descant upon, were the patience of the reader as inexhaustible as the
painter’s invention. But as this is not the case, we shall content
ourselves with barely referring to some of those figures in the other
pictures, which appear the most striking; and which we see, not only
while we are looking at them, but which we have before us at all other
times.—For instance: who, having seen, can easily forget that exquisite
frost-piece of religion and morality, the antiquated prude, in the
picture of _Morning_? or that striking commentary on the _good old
times_, the little wretched appendage of a foot-boy, who crawls, half
famished and half frozen, behind her? The French man and woman, in the
_Noon_, are the perfection of flighty affectation and studied grimace;
the amiable _fraternization_ of the two old women saluting each other,
is not enough to be admired; and in the little master, in the same
national group, we see the early promise and personification of that
eternal principle of wondrous self-complacency, proof against all
circumstances, which makes the French the only people who are vain, even
of being cuckolded and being conquered! Or shall we prefer to this, the
outrageous distress and unmitigated terrors of the boy who has dropped
his dish of meat, and who seems red all over with shame and vexation,
and bursting with the noise he makes? Or what can be better than the
good housewifery of the girl underneath, who is devouring the lucky
fragments? Or than the plump, ripe, florid, luscious look of the
servant-wench, embraced by a greasy rascal of an Othello, with her
pye-dish tottering like her virtue, and with the most precious part of
its contents running over? Just—no, not quite—as good, is the joke of
the woman over head, who, having quarrelled with her husband, is
throwing their Sunday’s dinner out of the window, to complete this
chapter of accidents of baked dishes. The husband, in the _Evening_
scene, is certainly as meek as any recorded in history; but we cannot
say that we admire this picture, or the _Night_ scene after it. But then
in the _Taste in High Life_, there is that inimitable pair, differing
only in sex, congratulating and delighting one another by ‘all the
mutually reflected charities’ of folly and affectation; with the young
lady, coloured like a rose, dandling her little, black, pug-faced,
white-teethed, chuckling favourite; and with the portrait of Mons. Des
Noyers, in the background, dancing in a grand ballet, surrounded by
butterflies. And again, in _The Election Dinner_, is the immortal
cobbler, surrounded by his peers, who ‘frequent and full,’—

            ‘In _loud_ recess and _brawling_ conclave sit:’—

the Jew, in the second picture, a very Jew in grain—innumerable fine
sketches of heads in the _Polling for Votes_, of which the nobleman,
overlooking the caricaturist, is the best;—and then the irresistible,
tumultuous display of broad humour in the _Chairing the Member_, which
is, perhaps, of all Hogarth’s pictures, the most full of laughable
incidents and situations. The yellow, rusty-faced thresher, with his
swinging flail, breaking the head of one of the chairmen; and his
redoubted antagonist, the sailor, with his oak stick, and stumping
wooden leg, a supplemental cudgel—the persevering ecstasy of the
hobbling blind fiddler, who, in the fray, appears to have been trod upon
by the artificial excrescence of the honest tar—Monsieur, the Monkey,
with piteous aspect, speculating the impending disaster of the
triumphant candidate; and his brother Bruin, appropriating the
paunch—the precipitous flight of the pigs, souse over head into the
water—the fine lady fainting, with vermilion lips—and the two chimney
sweepers, satirical young rogues! We had almost forgot the politician,
who is burning a hole through his hat with a candle, in reading a
newspaper; and the chickens, in _The March to Finchley_, wandering in
search of their lost dam, who is found in the pocket of the serjeant. Of
the pictures in _The Rake’s Progress_ we shall not here say any thing,
because we think them, on the whole, inferior to the prints; and because
they have already been criticised by a writer, to whom we could add
nothing, in a paper which ought to be read by every lover of Hogarth and
of English genius.[11]

-----

Footnote 1:

  We like this picture of a Concert the best of the three by Titian in
  the same room. The other two are a Ganymede, and a Venus and Adonis;
  the last does not appear to us from the hand of Titian.

Footnote 2:

  The Reader, if he pleases, may turn to an Essay on this subject in the
  _Round Table_.

Footnote 3:

  Two thirds of the principal pictures in the Orleans Collection are at
  present at Cleveland-House, one third purchased by the Marquis of
  Stafford, and another third left by the Duke of Bridgewater, another
  of the purchasers Mr. Brian had the remaining third.

Footnote 4:

  ‘Aut Erasmus aut Diabolus.’ Sir Thomas More’s exclamation on meeting
  with the philosopher of Rotterdam.

Footnote 5:

  The late Mr. Curran described John Kemble’s eye in these words.

Footnote 6:

  It is said in the catalogue to be painted on touch-stone.

Footnote 7:

  Written in February, 1823.

Footnote 8:

  We heard it well said the other day, that ‘Rubens’s pictures were the
  palette of Titian.’

Footnote 9:

  This is not absolutely true. Mr. Banks the younger, and another young
  gentleman, formed an exception to this rule, and contrived to get into
  the Abbey-grounds, in spite of warning, just as the recluse proprietor
  happened to be passing by the spot. Instead, however, of manifesting
  any displeasure, he gave them a most polite reception, shewed them
  whatever they expressed a wish to see, asked them to dinner, and after
  passing the day in the greatest conviviality, dismissed them by
  saying, ‘That they might get out as they got in.’ This was certainly a
  good jest. Our youthful adventurers on forbidden ground, in the midst
  of their festive security, might have expected some such shrewd turn
  from the antithetical genius of the author of Vathek, who makes his
  hero, in a paroxysm of impatience, call out for ‘the Koran and
  _sugar_!’

Footnote 10:

  From the New Monthly Magazine.

Footnote 11:

  See an Essay on the Genius of Hogarth, by C. Lamb.



              NOTES OF A JOURNEY THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY



                          BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE


_Notes of a Journey through France and Italy, By W. Hazlitt_, was
published in 1826, in an 8vo. volume (9 × 5¼ inches). Printed for Hunt
and Clarke, Tavistock-Street, Covent-Garden. The printer’s name is given
behind the title-page as ‘William Clowes, Northumberland-court,’ and the
following lines from _Cymbeline_ (Act III. 4.) appear underneath the
author’s name on the title-page:—

                         ‘I’ the world’s volume
             Our Britain seems as of it, but not in it;
             In a great pool, a swan’s nest. Prithee think
             There’s livers out of Britain.’

As stated in the ADVERTISEMENT, the _Notes_ were reprinted from the
_Morning Chronicle_, to which they had been contributed in 1824 and
1825. They are now reprinted for the first time since the publication of
the volume of 1826, and as they appeared in that volume. A few passages
which appeared in the papers as they came out in the _Morning
Chronicle_, and were omitted when Hazlitt collected the letters in
book-form, will be found among the notes at the end of the volume.



                             ADVERTISEMENT


The following _Notes of a Journey through France and Italy_ are
reprinted from the columns of the _Morning Chronicle_. The favourable
reception they met with there suggested the idea of the present work. My
object has been to describe what I saw or remarked myself; or to give
the reader some notion of what he might expect to find in travelling the
same road. There is little of history or antiquities or statistics; nor
do I regret the want of them, as it may be abundantly supplied from
other sources. The only thing I could have wished to expatiate upon more
at large is the _manners_ of the country: but to do justice to this, a
greater length of time and a more intimate acquaintance with society and
the language would be necessary. Perhaps, at some future opportunity,
this defect may be remedied.



                                CONTENTS


                                                                    PAGE

 CHAPTER I.—Rules for travelling abroad. Brighton. Crossing the       89
   Channel. Dieppe. Remarks on the French common People

 CHAPTER II.—Normandy. Appearance of the Country. Rouen. The          94
   Cathedral there. The sense of Smell

 CHAPTER III.—The Road from Rouen to Paris. A Mistake. Evreux. A     100
   young Frenchman. A _trait_ of national Politeness. Louviers. The
   Diligence, and the Company in it. Lord Byron and Mr. Moore

 CHAPTER IV.—The Louvre                                              106

 CHAPTER V.—Gravity of the French. Their Behaviour at the Theatre.   113
   Account of going to a Play. Minute attention paid to the Arts
   and Sciences in France. Sir T. Lawrence. Horace Vernet

 CHAPTER VI.—Dialogue on the Exhibition of Modern French Pictures    122

 CHAPTER VII.—The Luxembourg Gallery                                 129

 CHAPTER VIII.—National Antipathies. Cemetery of _Père la Chaise_    138

 CHAPTER IX.—Mademoiselle Mars. The _Théatre Français_. Molière’s    147
   _Misanthrope_ and _Tartuffe_. Admirable manner of casting a Play
   in Paris. French Actors, Le Peintre, Odry, and Potier. Talma and
   Mademoiselle Georges

 CHAPTER X.—Description of Paris. The Garden of the Tuileries. The   155
   _Champ de Mars_. The _Jardin des Plantes_. Reflections

 CHAPTER XI.—French Sculpture. Note on the Elgin Marbles             162

 CHAPTER XII.—The French Opera. Dido and Æneas. Madame Le Gallois    169
   in the Ballet. Italian Opera or _Salle Louvois_. Mombelli and
   Pellegrini in the _Gazza Ladra_. Allusion to Brunet

 CHAPTER XIII.—Leave Paris for Lyons. Adventures on the Road.        175
   Fontainbleau. Montargis. Girl at the Inn there. A French
   Diligence. Moulins. Palisseau. The Bourbonnois. Descent into
   Tarare. Meeting with a young Englishman there. Arrival at Lyons.
   Manners of French Servants. French Translation of Tom Jones. M.
   Martine’s _Death of Socrates_

 CHAPTER XIV.—Set out for Turin by Way of Mont Cenis. The Cheats of  183
   Scapin. The Diligence. Pont Beau Voisin, the frontier Town of
   the King of Sardinia’s Dominions. Have to pass the Custom House.
   My Box of Books _leaded_. A Note which is little to the Purpose.
   First View of the Alps. The Grand Chartreuse. Cavern of La
   Grotte. Chambery. St. Michelle. Lans-le-Bourg. Our Spanish
   fellow-traveller. Passage of Mount Cenis. Arrival at Susa

 CHAPTER XV.—Turin. Its magnificent Situation. The Effect of first   195
   feeling one’s-self in Italy. Theatre. Capital Pantomime-acting.
   Passports. Get seats in a Voiture to Florence, with two English
   Ladies. Mode of travelling. Italian Peasants. Parma. Windows
   lined with Faces. Maria-Louisa. Character of Correggio. Frescoes
   by the same in the Cupola of St. Paul’s. The Farnese Theatre.
   Bologna. Academy of Painting. Towns in Italy

 CHAPTER XVI.—Road to Florence. The Apennines. Covigliaijo. La       207
   Maschere. Approach to and Description of Florence. Carnival.
   Lent. The Popish Calendar. Fesole. Cold in Italy

 CHAPTER XVII.—The public Gallery. Antique Busts. The Venus.         219
   Raphael’s Fornarina. The Perseus of Benvenuto Cellini. John of
   Bologna’s Rape of the Sabines. The Palace Pitti

 CHAPTER XVIII.—Sienna. Radicofani. Aquapendente. Description of     227
   the Inn there. San Lorenzo. Monte-Fiascone. Lake of Bolsena.
   Desolate Appearance of the Country near Rome. First View of St.
   Peter’s from Baccano

 CHAPTER XIX.—Rome. The Vatican. The Capella Sistina. Holy Week.     232
   The Coliseum. The Temple of Vesta. Picture Galleries—the
   Ruspigliosi, Doria, Borghese, Corsini, and Little Farnese. Guido

 CHAPTER XX.—Character of the English                                241

 CHAPTER XXI.—Return to Florence. Italian Banditti. Terni. Tivoli.   253
   Spoleto. Church and Pictures at Assizi. Perugia. An Irish
   Priest. Cortona. Arrezo. Incisa

 CHAPTER XXII.—Journey to Venice. Plain of Lombardy. A country Inn.  263
   Ferrara. Rovigo. Padua. Description of Venice

 CHAPTER XXIII.—Palaces at Venice—the Grimani, Barberigo, and        268
   Manfrini Collections. Paul Veronese. Titian’s St. Peter Martyr.
   The Assumption and Martyrdom of St. Lawrence. St. Mark’s Place

 CHAPTER XXIV.—Journey to Milan. Verona. The Tomb of Juliet. The     275
   Amphitheatre. The Fortress of Peschiera. Lake of Garda. Milan.
   The Inhabitants. The Duomo. Theatre of the Gran Scala. Isola
   Bella. Lago Maggiore. Baveno

 CHAPTER XXV.—The passage over the Simplon. Inn at Brigg. Valley of  281
   the Simplon. Sion. Bex. Vevey

 CHAPTER XXVI.—Excursion to Chamouni. Mont-Blanc. Geneva. Lausanne   288

 CHAPTER XXVII.—Return down the Rhine through Holland. Concluding    295
   remarks



                           NOTES OF A JOURNEY
                        THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY



                               CHAPTER I


The rule for travelling abroad is to take our common sense with us, and
leave our prejudices behind us. The object of travelling is to see and
learn; but such is our impatience of ignorance, or the jealousy of our
self-love, that we generally set up a certain preconception beforehand
(in self-defence, or as a barrier against the lessons of experience,)
and are surprised at or quarrel with all that does not conform to it.
Let us think what we please of what we really find, but prejudge
nothing. The English, in particular, carry out their own defects as a
standard for general imitation; and think the virtues of others (that
are not _their_ vices) good for nothing. Thus they find fault with the
gaiety of the French as impertinence, with their politeness as grimace.
This repulsive system of carping and contradiction can extract neither
use nor meaning from any thing, and only tends to make those who give
way to it uncomfortable and ridiculous. On the contrary, we should be as
seldom shocked or annoyed as possible, (it is our vanity or ignorance
that is mortified much oftener than our reason!) and contrive to see the
favourable side of things. This will turn both to profit and pleasure.
The intellectual, like the physical, is best kept up by an exchange of
commodities, instead of an ill-natured and idle search after grievances.
The first thing an Englishman does on going abroad is to find fault with
what is French, because it is not English. If he is determined to
confine all excellence to his own country, he had better stay at home.

On arriving at Brighton (in the full season,) a lad offered to conduct
us to an inn. ‘Did he think there was room?’ He was sure of it. ‘Did he
belong to the inn?’ No, he was from London. In fact, he was a young
gentleman from town, who had been stopping some time at the White-Horse
Hotel, and who wished to employ his spare time (when he was not riding
out on a blood-horse) in serving the house, and relieving the
perplexities of his fellow-travellers. No one but a Londoner would
volunteer his assistance in this way. Amiable land of _Cockayne_, happy
in itself, and in making others happy! Blest exuberance of
self-satisfaction, that overflows upon others! Delightful impertinence,
that is forward to oblige them!

There is something in being near the sea, like the confines of eternity.
It is a new element, a pure abstraction. The mind loves to hover on that
which is endless, and forever the same. People wonder at a steam-boat,
the invention of man, managed by man, that makes its liquid path like an
iron railway through the sea—I wonder at the sea itself, that vast
Leviathan, rolled round the earth, smiling in its sleep, waked into
fury, fathomless, boundless, a huge world of water-drops—Whence is it,
whither goes it, is it of eternity or of nothing? Strange, ponderous
riddle, that we can neither penetrate nor grasp in our comprehension,
ebbing and flowing like human life, and swallowing it up in thy
remorseless womb,—what art thou? What is there in common between thy
life and ours, who gaze at thee? Blind, deaf and old, thou seest not,
hearest not, understandest not; neither do we understand, who behold and
listen to thee! Great as thou art, unconscious of thy greatness,
unwieldy, enormous, preposterous twin-birth of matter, rest in thy dark,
unfathomed cave of mystery, mocking human pride and weakness. Still is
it given to the mind of man to wonder at thee, to confess its ignorance,
and to stand in awe of thy stupendous might and majesty, and of its own
being, that can question thine! But a truce with reflections.

The Pavilion at Brighton is like a collection of stone pumpkins and
pepper-boxes. It seems as if the genius of architecture had at once the
dropsy and the _megrims_. Any thing more fantastical, with a greater
dearth of invention, was never seen. The King’s stud (if they were
horses of taste) would petition against so irrational a lodging.

Brighton stands facing the sea, on the bare cliffs, with glazed windows
to reflect the glaring sun, and black pitchy bricks shining like the
scales of fishes. The town is however gay with the influx of London
visitors—happy as the conscious abode of its sovereign! Every thing here
appears in motion—coming or going. People at a watering-place may be
compared to the flies of a summer; or to fashionable dresses, or suits
of clothes walking about the streets. The only idea you gain is, of
finery and motion. The road between London and Brighton presents some
very charming scenery; Reigate is a prettier English country-town than
is to be found anywhere—out of England! As we entered Brighton in the
evening, a Frenchman was playing and singing to a guitar. It was a
relief to the conversation in the coach, which had been chiefly
supported in a nasal tone by a disciple of Mrs. Fry and amanuensis of
philanthropy in general. As we heard the lively musician warble, we
forgot the land of Sunday-schools and spinning-jennies. The genius of
the South had come out to meet us.

We left Brighton in the steam-packet, and soon saw the shores of Albion
recede from us. _Out of sight, out of mind._ How poor a geographer is
the human mind! How small a space does the imagination take in at once!
In travelling, our ideas change like the scenes of a pantomime,
displacing each other as completely and rapidly. Long before we touched
on French ground, the English coast was lost in distance, and nothing
remained of it but a dim mist; it hardly seemed ‘in a great pool a
swan’s nest.’ So shall its glory vanish like a vapour, its liberty like
a dream!

We had a fine passage in the steam-boat (Sept. 1, 1824). Not a cloud,
scarce a breath of air; a moon, and then star-light, till the dawn, with
rosy fingers, ushered us into Dieppe. Our fellow-passengers were
pleasant and unobtrusive, an English party of the better sort: a Member
of Parliament, delighted to escape from ‘late hours and bad company;’ an
English General, proud of his bad French; a Captain in the Navy, glad to
enter a French harbour peaceably; a Country Squire, extending his
inquiries beyond his paternal acres; the younger sons of wealthy
citizens, refined through the strainers of a University-education and
finishing off with foreign travel; a young Lawyer, quoting Peregrine
Pickle, and divided between his last circuit and projected tour. There
was also a young Dutchman, looking mild through his mustachios, and a
new-married couple (a French Jew and Jewess) who grew uxorious from the
effects of sea-sickness, and took refuge from the qualms of the disorder
in paroxysms of tenderness. We had some difficulty in getting into the
harbour, and had to wait till morning for the tide. I grew very tired,
and laid the blame on the time lost in getting some restive horses on
board, but found that if we had set out two hours sooner, we should only
have had to wait two hours longer. The doctrine of _Optimism_ is a very
good and often a very true one in travelling. In advancing up the steps
to give the officers our passport, I was prevented by a young man and
woman, who said they were before me, and on making a second attempt, an
elderly gentleman and lady set up the same claim, because they stood
_behind_ me. It seemed that a servant was waiting with passports for
four. Persons in a certain class of life are so full of their own
business and importance, that they imagine every one else must be aware
of it—I hope this is the last specimen I shall for some time meet with
of city-manners. After a formal custom-house search, we procured
admittance at Pratt’s Hotel, where they said they had reserved a bed for
a Lady. France is a country where they give _honneur aux Dames_. The
window looked out on the bridge and on the river, which reflected the
shipping and the houses; and we should have thought ourselves luckily
off, but that the bed, which occupied a niche in the sitting-room, had
that kind of odour which could not be mistaken for otto of roses.

DIEPPE.—This town presents a very agreeable and romantic appearance to
strangers. It is cut up into a number of distinct divisions by canals,
drawbridges, and bastions, as if to intercept the progress of an enemy.
The best houses, too, are shut up in close courts and high walls on the
same principle, that is, to stand a further siege in the good old times.
There are rows of lime-trees on the quay, and some of the narrow streets
running from it look like wells. This town is a picture to look at; it
is a pity that it is not a nosegay, and that the passenger who ventures
to explore its nooks and alleys is driven back again by ‘a compound of
villainous smells,’ which seem to grow out of the ground. In walking the
streets, one must take one’s nose with one, and that sense is apt to be
offended in France as well as in Scotland. Is it hence called in French
the _organ of sense_? The houses and the dresses are equally
old-fashioned. In France one lives in the imagination of the past; in
England every thing is new and on an improved plan. Such is the progress
of mechanical invention! In Dieppe there is one huge, misshapen, but
venerable-looking Gothic Church (a theological fixture,) instead of
twenty new-fangled erections, Egyptian, Greek or Coptic. The
head-dresses of the women are much the same as those which the
_Spectator_ laughed out of countenance a hundred years ago in England,
with high plaited crowns, and lappets hanging down over the shoulders.
The shape and colours of the bodice and petticoat are what we see in
Dutch pictures; the faces of the common people we are familiarized with
in Mieris and Jan Steen. They are full and fair like the Germans, and
have not the _minced_ and peaked character we attribute to the French.
They are not handsome, but good-natured, expressive, placid. They retain
the look of peasants more than the town’s-people with us, whether from
living more in the open air, or from greater health and temperance, I
cannot say. What I like in their expression (so far) is not the
vivacity, but the goodness, the simplicity, the thoughtful resignation.
The French are full of gesticulation when they speak; they have at other
times an equal appearance of repose and content. You see the figure of a
girl sitting in the sun, so still that her dress seems like streaks of
red and black chalk against the wall; a soldier reading; a group of old
women (with skins as tough, yellow, and wrinkled as those of a tortoise)
chatting in a corner and laughing till their sides are ready to split;
or a string of children tugging a fishing-boat out of the harbour as
evening goes down, and making the air ring with their songs and shouts
of merriment (a sight to make Mr. Malthus shudder!). Life here glows, or
spins carelessly round on its soft axle. The same animal spirits that
supply a fund of cheerful thoughts, break out into all the extravagance
of mirth and social glee. The air is a cordial to them, and they drink
drams of sunshine. My particular liking to the French is, however,
confined to their natural and unsophisticated character. The good
spirits ‘with which they are clothed and fed,’ and which eke out the
deficiencies of fortune or good government, are perhaps too much for
them, when joined with external advantages, or artificial pretensions.
Their vivacity becomes insolence in office; their success, presumption;
their gentility, affectation and grimace. But the national physiognomy
(taken at large) is the reflection of good temper and humanity. One
thing is evident, and decisive in their favour—they do not insult or
point at strangers, but smile on them good-humouredly, and answer them
civilly.

         ‘Gay, sprightly land of mirth and social ease,
         Pleas’d with thyself, whom all the world can please!’

Nothing shews the contented soul within, so much as our not seeking for
amusement in the mortifications of others: we only envy their
advantages, or sneer at their defects, when we are conscious of wanting
something ourselves. The customs and employments of the people here have
a more primitive and picturesque appearance than in England. Is it that
with us every thing is made domestic and commodious, instead of being
practised in the open air, and subject to the casualties of the
elements? For instance, you see the women washing clothes in the river,
with their red petticoats and bare feet, instead of standing over a
washing-tub. Human life with us is framed and set in comforts: but it
wants the vivid colouring, the glowing expression that we meet
elsewhere. After all, is not the romantic effect produced partly owing
to the novelty of the scene; or do we not attribute to a superiority in
others what is merely a greater liveliness of impression in ourselves,
arising from curiosity and contrast? If this were all, foreigners ought
to be as much delighted with us, but they are not. A man and woman came
and sung ‘God save the King,’ before the windows of the Hotel, as if the
French had so much loyalty at present that they can spare us some of it.
What an opinion must they have formed of the absurd nationality of the
English, to suppose that we can expect them to feel this sort of
mock-sentiment towards our King! What English ballad-singer would dream
of flattering the French visitors by a song in praise of Louis _le
Desiré_ before a Brighton or a Dover Hotel?

As the door opened just now, I saw the lad or _garçon_, who waits on us,
going up stairs with a looking-glass, and admiring himself in it. If he
is pleased with himself, he is no less satisfied with us, and with every
thing else.



                               CHAPTER II


The road from Dieppe to Rouen is highly interesting. You at first ascend
a straight steep hill, which commands a view of the town and harbour
behind you, with villas on each side, something between modern cottages
and antique castles; and afterwards, from the top of the hill, the
prospect spreads out over endless plains, richly cultivated. It has been
conjectured that the English borrowed their implements and modes of
husbandry from their Norman Conquerors; the resemblance is, indeed,
complete to a deception. You might suppose one side of the channel was
transported to the other, from the general aspect of the country, from
the neatness of the orchard-plots, the gardens, and farm-yards. Every
thing has a look of the greatest industry and plenty. There is a scanty
proportion of common pasturage; but rich fields of clover, oats, barley,
and vetches, with luxuriant crops ready to cut, are presented to the eye
in uninterrupted succession; there are no wastes, no barren, thankless
enclosures; every foot of ground seems to be cultivated with the utmost
success. It is in vain after this to talk of English agriculture, as if
no such thing existed anywhere else. Agriculture can do no more than
make provision that every part of the soil is carefully tilled, and
raise the finest crops from it. The only distinctive feature is, that
there are here no hedges along the road-side, their place being supplied
by rows of apple-trees or groves of elm and poplar, which stretch out
before you in lengthened vistas, as far as the eye can reach. We like
this, whatever Mr. Mac-Adam may object; and moreover, the roads here are
as good as his. To be sure, they are much broader, and admit of this
collateral improvement. Shady plantations open their arms to meet you,
closing in a point, or terminated by a turn in the road; and then you
enter upon another long hospitable avenue,

             ‘Bidding the lovely scenes at distance hail;’

the smiling landscape waves on either side to a considerable extent; you
pass a shepherd tending his flock, or a number of peasants returning
from market in a light long waggon, like a hen-coop; the bells of the
horses jingle, the postilion cracks his whip, or speaks to them with a
friendly voice, and the _Diligence_ rolls on, at the rate of six miles
an hour towards Paris!—Travelling is much cheaper in France than in
England. The distance from Dieppe to Rouen is thirty-six miles, and we
only paid eight francs, that is, six shillings and eight pence a-piece,
with two francs more to the guide and postilion, which is not fourpence
a mile, including all expenses. On the other hand, you have not the
advantage of taking an outside place at half-price, as a very trifling
difference is made in this respect.

The Diligence itself cuts a very awkward figure, compared with our
stage-coaches. There is much the same difference as between a barge and
a pleasure-boat; but then it is roomy and airy, and remarkably easy in
its motion. In the common mechanic arts the French attend to the
essential only; we are so fond of elegance and compactness, that we
sacrifice ease to show and finish. The harness of the horses is made of
ropes or rusty leather, and it is wonderful how they get along so well
as they do, three, or sometimes four a-breast. The apples of the
orchards hang over the road-side, which speaks well for the honesty of
the inhabitants, or the plenty of the country. The women appear to work
a good deal out of doors. Some of the older ones have strangely
distorted visages, and those horrid Albert-Durer chins and noses, that
have been coming together for half a century. The younger ones are
handsome, healthy-looking, animated; a better sort of English country
girls. The character of French coquetry prevails even here, and you see
a young peasant-girl, broiling in the sun, with a blue paper cap on her
head, that glitters like the smoothest satin, and that answers the
purpose of finery just as well. I observed that one man frequently holds
the plough and guides the horses without any one else to assist him, as
they do in Scotland, and which in England they hold to be an
agricultural heresy. In Surrey, where an English gentleman had hired a
Scotch servant to try this method, the boors actually collected round
the man in the church-yard on Sunday, and pointed at him, crying,
‘That’s he who ploughs and drives the horses himself!’ Our prejudices
are no less on the alert, and quite as obstinate against what is right
as what is wrong. I cannot say I was quite pleased with my barber at
Dieppe, who inserted a drop of citron juice in the lather I was to shave
with, and converted it into a most agreeable perfume. It was an
association of ideas, a false refinement, to which I had not been
accustomed, and to which I was averse. The best excuse I could find for
my reluctance to be pleased, was that at the next place where the same
thing was attempted, the operator, by some villainous mixture, almost
stunk me to death!

The entrance into Rouen, through extensive archways of tall trees,
planted along the margin of the Seine, is certainly delectable. Here the
genius of civilized France first began to display itself. Companies of
men and women were sitting in the open air, enjoying the cool of the
evening, and the serene moonlight, under Chinese lamps, with fruit and
confectionery. We arrived rather late, but were well received and
accommodated at the Hotel Vatel. My bad French by no means, however,
conciliates the regard or increases the civility of the people on the
road. They pay particular attention, and are particularly delighted with
the English, who speak French well, or with tolerable fluency and
correctness, for they think it a compliment to themselves and to the
language; whereas, besides their dislike to all difficulty and
uncertainty of communication, they resent an obvious neglect on this
point as an affront, and an unwarrantable assumption of superiority, as
if it were enough for an Englishman to shew himself among them to be
well received, without so much as deigning to make himself intelligible.
A person, who passes through a country in sullen silence, must appear
very much in the character of a spy. Many things (a native is conscious)
will seem strange to a foreigner, who can neither ask the meaning, nor
understand the explanation of them; and on the other hand, if in these
circumstances you are loquacious and inquisitive, you become
proportionably troublesome. It would have been better (such is the
natural feeling, the dictate at once of self-love and common sense) to
have learned the language before you visited the country. An accent, an
occasional blunder, a certain degree of hesitation are amusing, and
indirectly flatter the pride of foreigners; but a total ignorance or
wilful reluctance in speaking shews both a contempt for the people, and
an inattention to good manners. To neglect to make one’s self master of
a language tacitly implies, that in travelling through a country we have
neither wants nor wishes to gratify; that we are quite independent, and
have no ambition to give pleasure, or to receive instruction.

At Rouen the walls of our apartment were bare, being mere lath and
plaster, a huge cobweb hung in the window, the curtains were shabby and
dirty, and the floor without carpeting or matting; but our table was
well-furnished, and in the English taste. French cooking comprehends
English, and easily condescends to it; so that an Englishman finds
himself better off in France than a Frenchman does in England. They
complain that our cookery is dry, and our solid, unsavoury morsels,
beef-steaks, and mutton chops, must stick in their throats as well as be
repulsive to their imaginations; nor can we supply the additional sauces
or disguises which are necessary to set them off. On the other hand, we
had a dinner at the Hotel Vatel, a roast fowl, greens, and bacon, as
plain, as sweet, and wholesome, as we could get at an English
farm-house. We had also pigeons, partridges, and other game, in
excellent preservation, and kept quite clear of French receipts and
odious ragouts. Game or poultry is the half-way house, a sort of middle
point, between French and English cookery. The bread here is excellent,
the butter admirable, the milk and coffee superior to what we meet with
at home. The wine and fruit, too, are delightful, but real French dishes
are an abomination to an English palate. Unless a man means to stay all
his life abroad, let him beware of making the experiment, or get near
enough to the door to make his _exit_ suddenly. The common charges at
the inns are much the same as in England; we paid twenty-pence for
breakfast, and half a crown, or three shillings, for dinner. The best
Burgundy is only three shillings and fourpence a bottle. A green parrot
hung in a cage, in a small court under our window, and received the
compliments and caresses of every one who passed. It is wonderful how
fond the French are of holding conversation with animals of all
descriptions, parrots, dogs, monkeys. Is it that they choose to have all
the talk to themselves, to make propositions, and fancy the answers;
that they like this discourse by signs, by _jabbering_, and
gesticulation, or that the manifestation of the principle of life
without thought delights them above all things? The sociableness of the
French seems to expand itself beyond the level of humanity, and to be
unconscious of any descent. Two boys in the kitchen appeared to have
nothing to do but to beat up the white of eggs into froth for salads.
The labour of the French costs them nothing, so that they readily throw
it away in doing nothing or the merest trifles. A nice-looking girl who
officiated as chamber-maid, brought in a ripe melon after dinner, and
offering it with much grace and good humour as ‘un petit cadeau’ (a
trifling present) was rather hurt we did not accept of it. Indeed it was
wrong. A Mr. James Williams acted as our English interpreter while we
staid, and procured us places in the Paris Diligence, though it was said
to be quite full. We here also heard that the packet we came over in,
blew up two days after, and that the passengers escaped in
fishing-boats. This has completed my distaste to steam-boats.

The city of Rouen is one of the oldest and finest in France. It contains
about a hundred thousand inhabitants, two noble churches; a handsome
quay is embosomed in a range of lofty hills, and watered by the Seine,
which, proud of its willowy banks and tufted islands, winds along by it.
The ascent up the rising grounds behind it, is magnificent beyond
description. The town is spread out at your feet (an immense, stately
mass of dark grey stone), the double towers of the old Gothic Cathedral,
and of the beautiful Church of St. Antoine, rise above it in their
majestic proportions, overlooking the rich sunny valleys which stretch
away in the distance; you gradually climb an amphitheatre of hills,
sprinkled with gardens and villas to the very top, and the walk on
Sunday afternoon is crowded with people enjoying the scene, adding to
its animation by their intelligent, varying looks, and adorning it by
their picturesque and richly-coloured dresses. There is no town in
England at the same time so fine, and so finely situated. Oxford is as
fine in its buildings and associations, but it has not the same
advantages of situation: Bristol is as fine a mass of buildings, but
without the same striking accompaniments—

             ‘The pomp of groves and garniture of fields.’

Edinburgh alone is as splendid in its situation and buildings, and would
have even a more imposing and delightful effect if Arthur’s Seat were
crowned with thick woods, if the Pentland-hills could be converted into
green pastures, if the Scotch people were French, and Leith-walk planted
with vineyards! The only blot in this fair scene was the meeting with a
number of cripples, whose hideous cries attracted and alarmed attention
before their formidable mutilations became visible, and who extorted
charity rather from terror than pity. Such objects abound in France and
on the Continent. Is it from the want of hospitals, or from the bad care
taken of the young and necessitous, to whom some dreadful accident has
happened?—The hill that commands this beautiful prospect, and seems the
resort of health, of life, of pleasure, is called (as I found on
inquiry) _Mont des Malades_! Would any people but the French think of
giving it so inauspicious a title? To the English such a name would
spoil the view, and infect the imagination with the recollections of
pain and sickness. But a Frenchman’s imagination is proof against such
weaknesses; he has no sympathy except with the pleasurable; and provided
a hill presents an agreeable prospect, never troubles his head whether
the inhabitants are sick or well. The streets of Rouen, like those of
other towns in France, are dirty for the same reason. A Frenchman’s
senses and understanding are alike inaccessible to pain—he recognises
(happily for himself) the existence only of that which adds to his
importance or his satisfaction. He is delighted with perfumes, but
passes over the most offensive smells,[12] and will not lift up his
little finger to remove a general nuisance, for it is none to him. He
leaves the walls of his houses unfinished, dilapidated, almost
uninhabitable, because his thoughts are bent on adorning his own
person—on jewels, trinkets, _pomade divine_! He is elaborate in his
cookery and his dress, because the one flatters his vanity, the other
his appetite; and he is licentious in his pleasures, nay gross in his
manners, because in the first he consults only his immediate
gratification, and in the last annoys others continually, from having no
conception that any thing he (a Frenchman) can do can possibly annoy
them. He is sure to offend, because he takes it for granted he must
please. A great deal of ordinary French conversation might be spared
before foreigners, if they knew the pain it gives. Virtue is not only
put out of countenance by it, but vice becomes an indifferent
_common-place_ in their mouths. The last stage of human depravity is,
when vice ceases to shock—or to please. A Frenchman’s candour and
indifference to what must be thought of him (combined with his
inordinate desire to shine) are curious. The hero of his own little tale
carries a load of crimes and misfortunes at his back like a lead of
band-boxes, and (light-hearted wretch) sings and dances as he goes! The
inconsequentiality in the French character, from extreme facility and
buoyancy of impression, is a matter of astonishment to the English. A
young man at Rouen was walking briskly along the street to church, all
the way tossing his prayer-book into the air, when suddenly on reaching
the entrance a priest appeared coming from church, and he fell on his
knees on the steps. No wonder the Popish clergy stand up for their
religion, when it makes others fall on their knees before them, and
worship their appearance as the shadow of the Almighty! The clergy in
France present an agreeable and almost necessary foil to the foibles of
the national character, with their sombre dress, their gravity, their
simplicity, their sanctity. It is not strange they exert such an
influence there: their professional pretensions to learning and piety
must have a double weight, from having nothing to oppose to them but
frivolity and the impulse of the moment. The entering the Cathedral here
after the bustle and confusion of the streets, is like entering a
vault—a tomb of worldly thoughts and pleasures, pointing to the skies.
The slow and solemn movements of the Priests, as grave as they are
unmeaning, resemble the spells of necromancers; the pictures and statues
of the dead contrast strangely with the faces of the living; the chaunt
of the Priests sounds differently from the jargon of the common people;
the little oratories and cells, with some lone mourner kneeling before a
crucifix, every thing leads the thoughts to another world, to death, the
resurrection, and a judgment to come. The walls and ornaments of this
noble pile are left in a state of the most lamentable neglect, and the
infinite number of paltry, rush-bottomed chairs, huddled together in the
aisle, are just like the rubbish of a broker’s shop. The great bell of
the Cathedral is the most deep-mouthed I ever heard, ‘swinging slow with
sullen roar,’ rich and sonorous, and hoarse with counting the flight of
a thousand years. It is worth while to visit France, were it only to see
Rouen.



                              CHAPTER III


THE ROAD TO PARIS.—They vaunt much of the _Lower Road_ from Rouen to
Paris; but it is not so fine as that from Dieppe to Rouen. You have
comparatively few trees, the soil is less fertile, and you are (nearly
the whole way) tantalized with the vast, marshy-looking plains of
Normandy, with the Seine glittering through them like a snake, and a
chain of abrupt chalky hills, like a wall or barrier bounding them.
There is nothing I hate like a distant prospect without any thing
interesting in it—it is continually dragging the eye a wearisome
journey, and repaying it with barrenness and deformity. Yet a Frenchman
contrived to make a panegyric on this scene, after the fashion of his
countrymen, and with that sort of tripping jerk which is peculiar to
their minds and bodies—‘_Il y a de l’eau, il y a des bois, il y a des
montagnes, il y a de la verdure_,’ &c. It is true, there were all these
things in the abstract, or as so many detached particulars to make a
speech about, which was all that he wanted. A Frenchman’s eye for nature
is merely _nominal_. I find that with the novelty, or on farther
experience my enthusiasm for the country and the people, palls a little.
During a long day’s march (for I was too late, or rather too ill to go
by the six o’clock morning Diligence,) I got as tired of toiling on
under a scorching sun and over a dusty road, as if I had been in
England. Indeed, I could almost have fancied myself there, for I
scarcely met with a human being to remind me of the difference. I at one
time encountered a horseman mounted on a _demipique_ saddle, in a half
military uniform, who seemed determined to make me turn out of the
foot-path,[13] or to ride over me. This looked a little English, though
the man did not. I should take him for an Exciseman. I suppose in all
countries people on horseback give themselves airs of superiority over
those who are on foot. The French character is not altogether compounded
of the amiable, any more than the English is of the respectable. In
judging of nations, it will not do to deal in mere abstractions. In
countries, as well as individuals, there is a mixture of good and bad
qualities; yet we may attempt to strike a general balance, and compare
the rules with the exceptions. Soon after my equestrian adventure (or
escape,) I met with another pleasanter one; a little girl, with regular
features and dark eyes, dressed in white, and with a large straw bonnet
flapping over her face, was mounted behind a youth who seemed to be a
relation, on an ass—a common mode of conveyance in this country. The
young lad was trying to frighten her, by forcing the animal out of its
usual easy pace into a canter, while she, holding fast, and between
laughing and crying, called out in a voice of great sweetness and
_naïveté_—‘_Il n’est pas bon trotter, il n’est pas bon trotter_.’ There
was a playfulness in the expression of her terrors quite charming, and
quite French. They turned down an avenue to a villa a little way out of
the road. I could not help looking after them, and thinking what a
delightful welcome must await such innocence, such cheerfulness, and
such dark sparkling eyes! _Mais allons._ These reflections are perhaps
misplaced: France is not at present altogether the land of gallantry or
sentiment, were one ever so much disposed to them.

Within half a mile of Louviers (which is seven leagues from Rouen) a
Diligence passed me on the road at the full speed of a French Diligence,
rolling and rumbling on its way over a paved road, with five
clumsy-looking horses, and loaded to the top like a Plymouth van. I was
to stop at Louviers, at the Hotel de Mouton, and to proceed to Paris by
the coach the next day; for I was told there was no conveyance onwards
that day, and I own that this apparition of a Diligence in full sail,
and in broad day (when I had understood there were none but night
coaches) surprised me. I was going to set it down in ‘my tables,’ that
there is no faith to be placed in what they say at French inns. I
quickened my pace in hopes of overtaking it while it changed horses. The
main street of Louviers appeared to me very long and uneven. On turning
a corner, the Hotel de Mouton opened its gates to receive me, the
Diligence was a little farther on, with fresh horses just put to and
ready to start (a critical and provoking dilemma;) I hesitated a moment,
and at last resolved to take my chance in the Diligence, and seeing
Paris written on the outside, and being informed by _Monsieur le
Conducteur_, that I could stop at Evreux for the night, I took the rest
for granted, and mounted in the cabriolet, where sat an English
gentleman (one of those with whom I had come over in the steam-boat,)
solitary and silent. My seating myself in the opposite corner of the
cabriolet (which is that part of a French Diligence which is placed in
front, and resembles a post-chaise in form and ease,) did not break the
solitude or the silence. In company, _two negatives do not make an
affirmative_. I know few things more delightful than for two Englishmen
to loll in a post-chaise in this manner, taking no notice of each other,
preserving an obstinate silence, and determined to send their country
_to Coventry_.[14] We pretended not to recognise each other, and yet our
saying nothing proved every instant that we were not French. At length,
about half way, my companion opened his lips, and asked in thick, broken
French, ‘How far it was to Evreux?’ I looked at him, and said in
English, ‘I did not know.’ Not another word passed, yet, I dare say,
both of us had a very agreeable time of it, as the Diligence moved on to
Evreux, making reflections on the national character, and each thinking
himself an exception to its absurdities, an instance of its virtues; so
easy is it always (and more particularly abroad) to fancy ourselves free
from the errors we witness in our neighbours. It is this, indeed, which
makes us so eager to detect them, as if to see what is wrong was the
same thing as being in the right!

At Evreux, I found I had gone quite out of my road, and that there was
no conveyance to Paris till the same hour the next night. I was a good
deal mortified and perplexed at this intelligence, but found some
consolation at the Office where I obtained it, from casually hearing the
name of my companion, which is a great point gained in travelling. Of
course, the discovery is pleasant, if it is a name you are acquainted
with; or if not, at least you have the satisfaction of knowing it is
some one you do _not_ know, and so are made easy on that head. I bespoke
a bed, and was shown into the common room, where I took coffee, and had
what the Scotch call a _brandered fowl_ for supper. The room was papered
with marine landscapes, so that you seemed sitting in the open air with
boats and trees and the sea-shore all round you, and Telemachus and
Calypso, figures landing or embarking on halcyon seas. Even a
country-inn in France is classical. It is a pity that the English are so
dull and sluggish, ‘like the fat weed that roots itself at ease on
Lethe’s wharf,’ that they cannot lend themselves to these airy fictions,
always staring them in the face, but rather turn away from them with an
impatience and disgust proportioned to the elegance of the design and
the tax levied on their taste. A Frenchman’s imagination, on the
contrary, is always at the call of his senses. The latter have but to
give the hint, and the former is glad to take it! I tired every one out
by inquiring my best mode of getting on to Paris next day; and being
slow to believe that my only way was to go back to Louviers, like a fool
as I had come, a young Frenchman took compassion on my embarrassment,
and offered to be my interpreter, ‘as he spoke both languages.’ He said,
‘I must feel great pain in not being able to express myself.’ I said
‘None but in giving others the trouble to understand me.’ He shook his
head, I spoke much too fast for him; he apologized for not being able to
follow me from want of habit, though he said, ‘he belonged to a society
of twelve at Paris, where they spoke English every evening generally.’ I
said, ‘we were well matched,’ and when this was explained to him, he
repeated the word ‘_matched_,’ with a ludicrous air of distress, at
finding that there was an English phrase which was not familiarised to
him in ‘the society of twelve, where they spoke the English language
generally every evening.’ We soon came to a dead stand, and he turned to
my English companion in the cabriolet, on whom he bestowed, for the rest
of the evening, the tediousness of any ‘society of twelve.’ I could not
help laughing to see my luckless fellow-countryman, after one or two
attempts to rally and exchange remarks, reduced to the incessant
repetition of his melancholy ‘_oui_,’ and my lively Parisian rioting in
the advantage he had obtained over a straggling Englishman, gliding from
topic to topic without contradiction or control, passing from the
population of Paris to the _Beaux-Arts_, from the Belles-Lettres to
politics, running the circle of knowledge, and finding himself still at
home, faltering at the mention of the Allies and the Bourbons, and
rising with outstretched arm and continuous voice at the name of
_Buonopar-r_ (like the eagle soaring on level wing)—getting nearer and
nearer the victim of his volubility, seizing my poor friend by the
button, and at last retiring abruptly, as if afraid of a re-action, and
wishing him ‘good repose’ for the evening. Happy member of a ‘society of
twelve!’ Apt representative of thirty millions of people, who build
their self-esteem on the basis of vanity, and weave happiness out of
breath, which costs them nothing! Why envy, why wish to interrupt them,
like a mischievous school-boy, who throws a great stone into a pond full
of frogs, who croak their delights ‘generally every evening,’ and who,
the instant the chasm is closed, return to the charge with unabated glee
and joyous dissonance!

I must not forget to mention a favourable trait in the common French
character. I asked to speak to the _Conducteur_, and something like a
charge of deception was brought, from which he defended himself
strenuously. The whole kitchen and stable-yard gathered round to hear a
dispute, which was by no means waged with equal war of words. They
understood that I was disappointed, and had made a ridiculous mistake.
Not a word or look of derision was observable in the whole group; but
rather a rising smile, suppressed for fear of giving pain, and a wish to
suggest some expedient on the occasion. In England, I will venture to
say, that a Frenchman, in similar circumstances, stammering out a grave
charge of imposition against a coachman, and evidently at a loss how to
proceed, would have been hooted out of the place, and it would have been
well for him if he had escaped without broken bones. If the French have
the vices of artificial refinement and effeminacy, the English still
retain too many of those which belong to a barbarous and savage state.

I returned to Louviers the next morning under the safe conduct of my
former guide, where I arrived half an hour before the necessary time,
found myself regularly booked for Paris, with five francs paid on
account; and after a very comfortable breakfast, where I was waited on
by a pretty, modest-looking _brunette_ (for the French country-girls are
in general modest-looking,) I took my seat in the _fourth place_ of the
Diligence. Here I met with every thing to annoy an Englishman. There was
a Frenchman in the coach, who had a dog and a little boy with him, the
last having a doll in his hands, which he insisted on playing with; or
cried and screamed furiously if it was taken from him. It was a true
French child; that is, a little old man, like Leonardo da Vinci’s
_Laughing Boy_, with eyes glittering like the glass ones of his
favourite doll, with flaxen ringlets like hers, with cheeks as smooth
and unhealthy, and a premature expression of cunning and
self-complacency. A disagreeable or ill-behaved child in a stage coach
is a common accident, and to be endured. But who but a Frenchman would
think of carrying his dog? He might as well drag his horse into the
coach after him. A Frenchman (with leave be it spoken) has no need to
take a dog with him to ventilate the air of a coach, in which there are
three other Frenchmen. It was impossible to suffer more from heat, from
pressure, or from the periodical ‘exhalation of rich-distilled
perfumes.’ If the French have lost the sense of smell, they should
reflect (as they are a reflecting people) that others have not. Really,
I do not see how they have a right in a public vehicle to assault one in
this way by proxy, any more than to take one literally by the nose. One
does not expect from the most refined and polished people in Europe
grossnesses that an Esquimaux Indian would have too much sense and
modesty to be guilty of. If the presence of their dogs is a nuisance,
the conversation of their masters is often no less offensive to another
sense—both are suffocating to every body but themselves, and worthy of
each other. Midas whispered his secret to the reeds, that whispered it
again. The French, if they are wise, ought not to commit the national
character on certain delicate points in the manner they do. While they
were triumphant, less caution might be necessary: but no people can
afford at the same time to be odious as well as contemptible in the eyes
of their enemies. We dined at Mantes, where the ordinary was plentiful
and excellent, and where a gentleman of a very prepossessing appearance
took up the conversation (descanting on the adventures of a
shooting-party the day before) in that gay, graceful, and animated tone,
which I conceive to be characteristic of the best French society. In
talking and laughing, he discovered (though a young man) the inroads
which hot soups and high-seasoned ragouts had made in his mouth, with
the same alacrity and good-humour as if he had to shew a complete set of
the whitest teeth. We passed an interesting village, situated on the
slope of a hill, with a quaint old tower projecting above it, and
over-hanging the Seine. Not far from the high road stands Rosny, once
the seat of the celebrated Sully. The approach to the capital on the
side of St. Germain’s is one continued succession of imposing beauty and
artificial splendour, of groves, of avenues, of bridges, of palaces, and
of towns like palaces, all the way to Paris, where the sight of the
Thuilleries completes the triumph of external magnificence, and
oppresses the soul with recollections not to be borne or to be
expressed!—Of them, perhaps, hereafter.

In the coach coming along, a Frenchman was curious to learn of a Scotch
gentleman, who spoke very respectable French, whether Lord Byron was
much regretted in England? He said there was much beauty in his
writings, but too much straining after effect. He added, that there was
no attempt at effect in Racine. This with the French is a final appeal
in matters of poetry and taste. A translation of Lord Byron’s Works
complete is common in all the shops here. I am not sure whether an
English Poet ought to be proud of this circumstance or not. I also saw
an _Elegy on his Death_ advertised, said to be written by his friend,
Sir Thomas More. How oddly the French combine things! There is a Sir
Thomas More in English History and Letters; but _that_ Sir Thomas More
is not _this_ Mr. Thomas Moore—‘let their discreet hearts believe it!’



                               CHAPTER IV


The first thing I did when I got to Paris was to go to the Louvre. It
was indeed ‘first and last and midst’ in my thoughts. Well might it be
so, for it had never been absent from them for twenty years. I had gazed
myself almost blind in looking at the precious works of art it then
contained—should I not weep myself blind in looking at them again, after
a lapse of half a life—or on finding them gone, and with them gone all
that I had once believed and hoped of human kind? What could ever fill
up that blank in my heart, fearful to think upon—fearful to look upon? I
was no longer young; and he who had collected them, and ‘worn them as a
rich jewel in his Iron Crown,’ was dead, a captive and vanquished; and
with him all we who remained were ‘thrown into the pit,’ the lifeless
bodies of men, and wore round our necks the collar of servitude, and on
our foreheads the brand, and in our flesh and in our souls the stain of
thraldom and of the born slaves of Kings. Yet thus far had I come once
more ‘to dream and be an Emperour!’ Thou sacred shrine of God-like
magnificence, must not my heart fail and my feet stumble, as I approach
thee? How gladly would I kneel down and kiss thy threshold; and crawl
into thy presence, like an Eastern slave! For here still linger the
broken remains and the faded splendour of that proud monument of the
triumphs of art and of the majesty of man’s nature over the mock-majesty
of thrones! Here Genius and Fame dwell together; ‘_School_ calleth unto
_School_,’ and mighty names answer to each other; that old gallery
points to the long, dim perspective of waning years, and the shadow of
Glory and of Liberty is seen afar off. In pacing its echoing floors, I
hear the sound of the footsteps of my youth, and the dead start from
their slumbers!... In all the time that I had been away from thee, and
amidst all the changes that had happened in it, did I ever forget, did I
ever profane thee? Never for a moment or in thought have I swerved from
thee, or from the cause of which thou wert the pledge and crown. Often
have I sought thee in sleep, and cried myself awake to find thee, with
the heart-felt yearnings of intolerable affection. Still didst thou
haunt me, like a passionate dream—like some proud beauty, the queen and
mistress of my thoughts. Neither pain nor sickness could wean me from
thee—

                ‘My theme in crowds, my solitary pride.’

In the tangled forest or the barren waste—in the lowly hovel or the
lofty palace, thy roofs reared their vaulted canopy over my head, a
loftier palace, an ampler space—a ‘brave o’er-hanging firmament,’
studded with constellations of art. Wherever I was, thou wert with me,
above me and about me; and didst ‘hang upon the beatings of my heart,’ a
vision and a joy unutterable. There was one chamber of the brain (at
least) which I had only to unlock and be master of boundless wealth—a
treasure-house of pure thoughts and cherished recollections. Tyranny
could not master, barbarism slunk from it; vice could not pollute, folly
could not gainsay it. I had but to touch a certain spring, and lo! on
the walls the divine grace of Guido appeared free from blemish—there
were the golden hues of Titian, and Raphael’s speaking faces, the
splendour of Rubens, the gorgeous gloom of Rembrandt, the airy elegance
of Vandyke, and Claude’s classic scenes lapped the senses in Elysium,
and Poussin breathed the spirit of antiquity over them. There, in that
fine old lumber-room of the imagination, were the Transfiguration, and
the St. Peter Martyr, with its majestic figures and its unrivalled
landscape background. There also were the two St. Jeromes, Domenichino’s
and Correggio’s—there ‘stood the statue that enchants the world’—there
were the Apollo and the Antinous, the Laocoon, the Dying Gladiator,
Diana and her Fawn, and all the glories of the antique world—

              ‘There was old Proteus coming from the sea,
              And aged Triton blew his wreathed horn.’

But Legitimacy did not ‘sit squat, like a toad,’ in one corner of it,
poisoning the very air, and keeping the free-born spirit aloof from it!

There were one or two pictures (old favourites) that I wished to see
again, and that I was told still remained. I longed to know whether
they were there, and whether they would look the same. It was
fortunate I arrived when I did; for a week later the doors would have
been shut against me, on occasion of the death of the King. His bust
is over the door, which I had nearly mistaken for a head of Memnon—or
some Egyptian God. After passing through the modern French Exhibition
(where I saw a picture by Sir Thomas Lawrence, and a vile farrago of
_Bourbon-Restoration_ pictures,) I came within sight of the Grand
Gallery of the Louvre, which is at present only railed off. One or two
English stragglers alone were in it. The coolness and stillness were
contrasted with the bustle, the heat, and the smell of the common
apartments. My thoughts rushed in and filled the empty space. Instead
of the old Republican door-keepers, with their rough voices and
affectation of equality, a servant in a court-livery stood at the
gate. On presenting myself, I inquired if a Monsieur Livernois (who
had formerly ushered me into this region of enchantment) were still
there; but he was gone or dead. My hesitation and foreign accent, with
certain other appeals, procured me admittance. I passed on without
further question. I cast a glance forward, and found that the Poussins
were there. At the sight of the first, which I distinctly recollected
(a fine green landscape, with stately ruins,) the tears came into my
eyes, and I passed an hour or two in that state of luxurious
enjoyment, which is the highest privilege of the mind of man, and
which perhaps makes him amends for many sorrows. To my surprise,
instead of finding the whole changed, I found every thing nearly in
its place, as I proceeded through the first compartments, which I did
slowly, and reserving the Italian pictures for a _bon bouche_. The
colours even seemed to have been mellowed, and to have grown to the
walls in the last twenty years, as if the pictures had been fixed
there by the cramping-irons of Victory, instead of hanging loose and
fluttering, like so much tattered canvass, at the sound of English
drums, and breath of Prussian manifestoes. Nothing could be better
managed than the way in which they had blended the Claudes and
Poussins alternately together—the ethereal refinement and dazzling
brilliancy of the one relieving and giving additional zest to the
sombre, grave, massive character of the other. Claude Lorraine pours
the spirit of air over all objects, and new-creates them of light and
sunshine. In several of his master-pieces which are shewn here, the
vessels, the trees, the temples and middle distances glimmer between
air and solid substance, and seem moulded of a new element in nature.
No words can do justice to their softness, their precision, their
sparkling effect. But they do not lead the mind out of their own magic
circle. They repose on their own beauty; they fascinate with faultless
elegance. Poussin’s landscapes are more properly pictures of time than
of place. They have a fine _moral_ perspective, not inferior to
Claude’s aërial one. They carry the imagination back two or four
thousand years at least, and bury it in the remote twilight of
history. There is an opaqueness and solemnity in his colouring,
assimilating with the tone of long-past events: his buildings are
stiff with age; his implements of husbandry are such as would belong
to the first rude stages of civilization; his harvests are such (as in
the Ruth and Boaz) as would yield to no modern sickle; his grapes (as
in the Return from the Promised Land) are a load to modern shoulders;
there is a simplicity and undistinguishing breadth in his figures; and
over all, the hand of time has drawn its veil. Poussin has his faults;
but, like all truly great men, there is that in him which is to be
found nowhere else; and even the excellences of others would be
defects in him. One picture of his in particular drew my attention,
which I had not seen before. It is an addition to the Louvre, and
makes up for many a flaw in it. It is the Adam and Eve in Paradise,
and it is all that Mr. Martin’s picture of that subject is not. It is
a scene of sweetness and seclusion ‘to cure all sadness but despair.’
There is the freshness of the first dawn of creation, immortal
verdure, the luxuriant budding growth of unpruned Nature’s gifts, the
stillness and the privacy, as if there were only those two beings in
the world, made for each other, and with this world of beauty for the
scene of their delights. It is a Heaven descended upon earth, as if
the finger of God had planted the garden with trees and fruits and
flowers, and his hand had watered it! One fault only can be found by
the critical eye. Perhaps the scene is too flat. If the ‘verdurous
wall of Paradise’ had upreared itself behind our first parents, it
would have closed them in more completely, and would have given effect
to the blue hills that gleam enchantment in the distance. Opposite,
‘in darkness visible,’ hangs the famous landscape of the Deluge by the
same master-hand, a leaden weight on the walls with the ark
‘_hulling_’ on the distant flood, the sun labouring, wan and faint, up
the sky, and the heavens, ‘blind with rain,’ pouring down their total
cisterns on the weltering earth. Men and women and different animals
are struggling with the wide-spread desolation; and trees, climbing
the sides of rocks, seem patiently awaiting it above. One would think
Lord Byron had transcribed his admirable account of the Deluge in his
_Heaven and Earth_ from this noble picture, which is in truth the very
poetry of painting.—One here finds also the more unequivocal
productions of the French school (for Claude and Poussin[15] were in a
great measure Italian,) Le Brun, Sebastian Bourdon, some of Le Sueur’s
expressive faces, and the bland expansive style of Philip Champagne—no
mean name in the history of art. See, in particular, the exquisite
picture of the Sick Nun, (the Nun was his own daughter, and he painted
this picture as a present to the Convent, in gratitude for her
recovery,)—and another of a Religious Communion, with attendants in
rich dresses.

One finds no considerable gap, till one comes to the Antwerp pictures;
and this yawning chasm is not ill supplied by the Luxembourg pictures,
those splendid solecisms of Rubens’s art. Never was exhibited a greater
union of French flutter and Gothic grace, of borrowed absurdity and
inherent power. He has made a strange jumble of the Heathen mythology,
his own wives, and the mistresses of Louis XIII. His youthful Gods are
painted all light and air, and figure in quaintly enough, with some
flaunting Dowager dressed in the height of the fashion in the middle of
the 17th century, or with some strapping quean (his queens are queans)
with her robes of rich stuffs slipping off her shoulders, and displaying
limbs that, both for form and hue, provoke any feeling but indifference.
His groups spring from the bold licentious hand of genius; and decorated
in the preposterous finery of courtly affectation, puzzle the sense. I
do not think with David (the celebrated French painter) that they ought
to be burnt, but he has himself got possession of their old places in
the Luxembourg, and perhaps he is tolerably satisfied with this
arrangement. A landscape with a rainbow by Rubens (a rich and dazzling
piece of colouring) that used to occupy a recess half-way down the
Louvre, was removed to the opposite side. The singular picture (the
Defeat of Goliath, by Daniel Volterra,) painted on both sides on slate,
still retained its station in the middle of the room. It had hung there
for twenty years unmolested. The Rembrandts keep their old places, and
are as fine as ever, with their rich enamel, their thick lumps of
colour, their startling gloom, and bold execution—their ear-rings, their
gold-chains, and fur-collars, on which one is disposed to lay furtive
hands, so much have they the look of wealth and substantial use! The
Vandykes are more light and airy than ever. There is a whole heap of
them; and among the rest that charming portrait of an English lady with
a little child (as fine and true a compliment as was ever paid to the
English female character,) sustained by sweetness and dignity, but with
a mother’s anxious thoughts passing slightly across her serene brow. The
Cardinal Bentivoglio (which I remember procuring especial permission to
copy, and left untouched, because, after Titian’s portraits, there was a
want of interest in Vandyke’s which I could not get over,) is not
there.[16] But in the Dutch division, I found Weenix’s game, the
battle-pieces of Wouvermans, and Ruysdael’s sparkling woods and
waterfalls without number. On these (I recollect as if it were
yesterday) I used, after a hard day’s work, and having tasked my
faculties to the utmost, to cast a mingled glance of surprise and
pleasure, as the light gleamed upon them through the high casement, and
to take leave of them with a _non equidem invideo, miror magis_.

In the third or Italian division of the Gallery, there is a profusion of
Albanos, with Cupids and naked Nymphs, which are quite in the old French
taste. They are certainly very pleasing compositions, but from the
change produced by time, the figures shew like beauty-spots on a dark
ground. How inferior is he to Guido, the painter of grace and sentiment,
two of whose master-pieces enchanted me anew, the Annunciation and the
Presentation in the Temple. In each of these there is a tenderness, a
delicacy of expression like the purest affection, and every attitude and
turn of a limb is conscious elegance and voluptuous refinement. The
pictures, the mind of the painter, are instinct and imbued with beauty.
It is worth while to have lived to have produced works like these, or
even to have seen and felt their power! Painting of old was a language
which its disciples used not merely to denote certain objects, but to
unfold their hidden meaning, and to convey the finest movements of the
soul into the limbs or features of the face. They looked at nature with
a feeling of passion, with an eye to expression; and this it was that,
while they sought for outward forms to communicate their feelings,
moulded them into truth and beauty, and that surrounds them with an
atmosphere of thought and sentiment. To admire a fine old picture is
itself an act of devotion, and as we gaze, we turn idolaters. The
moderns are chiefly intent on giving certain lines and colours, the
_mask_ or material face of painting, and leave out the immortal part of
it. Thus a modern Exhibition Room (whether French or English) has a
great deal of shew and glitter, and a smell of paint in it. In the
Louvre we are thrown back into the presence of our own best thoughts and
feelings, the highest acts and emanations of the mind of man breathe
from the walls, shadowy tears and sighs there keep vigils, and the air
within it is divine!

The _ideal_ is no less observable in the portraits than in the histories
here. Look at the portrait of a man in black, by Titian (No. 1210).
There is a tongue in that eye, a brain beneath that forehead. It is
still; but the hand seems to have been just placed on its side; it does
not turn its head, but it looks towards you to ask, whether you
recognise it or not? It was there to meet me, after an interval of
years, as if I had parted with it the instant before. Its keen,
steadfast glance staggered me like a blow. It was the same—how was I
altered! I pressed towards it, as it were, to throw off a load of doubt
from the mind, or as having burst through the obstacles of time and
distance that had held me in torturing suspense. I do not know whether
this is not the most striking picture in the room—the least
_common-place_. There may be other pictures more delightful to look at;
but this seems, like the eye of the Collection, to be looking at you and
them. One might be tempted to go up and speak to it! The allegorical
portrait of the Marchioness of Guasto is still here, transparent with
tenderness and beauty—Titian’s Mistress, that shines like a crystal
mirror—the Entombing of Christ, solemn, harmonious as the coming on of
evening—the Disciples at Emmaus—and the Crowning with Thorns, the blood
here and there seeming ready to start through the flesh-colour, which
even English artists have not known enough how to admire. The Young
Man’s Head, with a glove that used so much to delight, I confess,
disappointed me, and I am convinced must have been painted upon. There
are other Titians, and a number of Raphaels—the Head of a Student
muffled in thought—his own delightful Head (leaning on its hand)
redolent of youthful genius, and several small Holy Families, full of
the highest spirit and unction. There are also the three Marys with the
Dead Body of Christ, by L. Caracci; the Salutation by Sebastian del
Piombo; the noble Hunting-piece, by Annibal Caracci; the fine Landscapes
of Domenichino (that in particular of the story of Hercules and
Achelous, with the trunk of a tree left in the bed of a
mountain-torrent); and a host besides, ‘thick as the autumnal leaves
that strew the brooks in Vallombrosa,’ and of the same colour! There are
so many of these select and favourite pictures left, that one does not
all at once feel the loss of others which are more common in prints and
in the mouth of fame; and the absence of which may be considered as
almost an advantage for a first recognition and revival of old
associations. But afterwards we find a want of larger pictures to answer
to the magnitude of the Collection, and to sustain the balance of taste
between the Italian and the other schools. We have here as fine Claudes
and Poussins as any in the world, but not as fine Raphaels, Correggios,
Domenichinos, as there are elsewhere,—as were once here. There are
wanting, to make the gallery complete, six or eight capital pictures,
the Transfiguration, the St. Peter Martyr, &c.; and among others (not
already mentioned,) the Altarpiece of St. Mark, by Tintoret, and Paul
Veronese’s Marriage at Cana. With these it had been perfect, ‘founded as
the rock, as broad and general as the casing air;’ without these it is
‘coop’d and cabin’d in by saucy doubts and fears.’ The largest
Collection in the world ought to be colossal, not only in itself, but in
its component parts. The Louvre is a quarter of a mile in length, and
equal (as it is) to Mr. Angerstein’s, the Marquess of Stafford’s, the
Dulwich Gallery, and Blenheim put together. It was once more than equal
to them in every circumstance to inspire genius or console reflection.
We still see the palace of the Thuilleries from the windows, with the
white flag waving over it: but we look in vain for the Brazen Horses on
its gates, or him who placed them there, or the pale bands of warriors
that conquered in the name of liberty and of their country!



                               CHAPTER V


The gravity of the French character is a no less remarkable (though a
less obvious) feature in it than its levity. The last is the quality
that strikes us most by contrast to ourselves, and that comes most into
play in the intercourse of common life; and therefore we are generally
disposed to set them down as an altogether frivolous and superficial
people. It is a mistake which we shall do well to correct on farther
acquaintance with them; or if we persist in it, we must call to our aid
an extraordinary degree of our native blindness and obstinacy. We ought
never to visit their Theatres, to walk along their streets, to enter
their houses, to look in their faces (when they do not think themselves
observed,) to open their books, or take a view of their
picture-galleries. Sterne seems to have been the first, as well as last
traveller, who found out their weak side in this respect. ‘If the French
have a fault, Monsieur le Comte,’ says he, ‘it is that they are too
serious.’ This contradiction in their character has been little noticed,
and they have never had the credit of it, though it stares one in the
face everywhere. How we are to piece the two extremes together is
another question. Is it that their whole character is a system of
_inconsequentiality_? Or are they gay and trifling in serious matters,
serious only in trifles? Or are their minds more of the cameleon-cast,
that reflects all objects alike, whether grave or gay, and give
themselves up entirely, and without resistance, to the prevailing
impulse? Or is it owing to a want of comprehension, so that they are
incapable of correcting one feeling by another, and thus run into
extremes? Or that they have a greater scope and variety of resources,
excelling us as much in gravity as in want of thought, outdoing us in
tragedy and comedy, as they betake themselves to each, in the poetical
or in the prosaic departments of life, only that they sometimes make a
transposition of the two characters a little oddly, and pass from the
one to the other without our well knowing why?

I have been frequently puzzled with this exception to the butterfly,
airy, thoughtless, fluttering character of the French (on which we
compliment ourselves,) and never more so than the first night I went to
the theatre. The order, the attention, the decorum were such as would
shame any London audience. The attention was more like that of a learned
society to a lecture on some scientific subject, than of a promiscuous
crowd collected together merely for amusement, and to pass away an idle
hour. There was a professional air, an unvarying gravity in the looks
and demeanour of the whole assembled multitude, as if every one had an
immediate interest in the character of the national poetry, in the
purity of the French accent, in the propriety of the declamation, in the
conceptions of the actor, and the developement of the story, instead of
its presenting a mob of idle boys and girls, of ignorant gaping
citizens, or supercilious box-lobby loungers, affecting a contempt for
the performance, and for every one around them. The least noise or
irregularity called forth the most instant and lively disapprobation;
and the vivacity of the French character displayed itself to advantage
in earnest gesticulations and expressions of impatience. Not only was
the strictest silence observed, as soon as the curtain drew up, but no
one moved or attempted to move. The spell thrown over the customary or
supposed restlessness and volatility of the French was in this respect
complete. The uniformity of the appearance was indeed almost ridiculous;
for the rows of heads in the seats of the pit no more stirred or
projected the breadth of a finger beyond the line, than those of a
regiment of recruits on parade, or than if a soldier were stationed to
keep each chin in its place. They may be reduced to the state of
automatons; but there were no traces of the _monkey_ character left.[17]
If the performance had been _at Court_, greater propriety could not have
been maintained; but it was a French play (one of Racine’s) and acted
before a Parisian audience: this seemed to be enough to ensure it a
proper reception. One would suppose, from their interest in dramatic
representations, that the French were a nation of actors. Perhaps it may
be asked, ‘Is not that the case? and is it not their vanity, their own
desire to shine, or their sympathy with whatever or whoever is a
candidate for applause, that accounts for their behaviour?’ At least,
their vanity makes them _grave_; and if it is this which rivets their
attention, and silences their eternal loquacity, it must be allowed to
produce effects which others would do well to imitate from better
motives, if they have them![18]

The play was not much; but there seemed to be an abstract interest felt
in the stage as such, in the sound of the verse, in the measured step of
the actors, in the recurrence of the same pauses, and of the same ideas;
in the correctness of the costume, in the very notion of the endeavour
after excellence, and in the creation of an artificial and imaginary
medium of thought. If the French are more susceptible of immediate,
sensible impressions, it would appear, judging from their behaviour at
their own theatres, that they are also more sensible of reflex and
refined ones. The bare suggestion of an interesting topic is to them
interesting: it may be said, on the most distant intimation, to excite
the most lively concern, and to collect their scattered spirits into a
focus. Their sensibility takes the alarm more easily; their
understanding is quicker of hearing. With them, to the sublime or
pathetic there is but one step—the _name_; the moment the subject is
started, they ‘jump at’ the catastrophe and all the consequences. We are
slow, and must have a thing made out to us in striking instances, and by
successive blows. We are sluggish, and must be lifted up to the heights
of a factitious enthusiasm by the complicated machinery of a powerful
imagination: we are obstinate, not to say selfish, and require to be
urged over the abyss of mental anguish by the utmost violence of terror
and pity. But with the French, all this is a matter of course, a verbal
process. Tears, as well as smiles, cost them less than they do us. Words
are more nearly allied to things in their minds; the one have a more
vital being, though it does not follow that the other are altogether
empty and barren of interest. But the French seem (in their dramatic
exhibitions) not to wish to get beyond, or (shall I speak it more
plainly?) to have no faculty for getting beyond the abstract conception,
the naked proposition of the subject. They are a people (I repeat it)
void and bare of the faculty of imagination, if by this we mean the
power of placing things in the most novel and striking point of view;
and they are so for this reason, that they have no need of it. It is to
them a superfluity—a thankless toil. Their quick, discursive
apprehension runs on before, and anticipates and defeats the efforts of
the highest poetry. They are contented to indulge in all the agony or
ecstacy of sounding and significant common-places. The words _charming_,
_delicious_, _indescribable_, &c. excite the same lively emotions in
their minds as the most vivid representations of what is said to be so;
and hence verbiage and the cant of sentiment fill the place, and stop
the road to genius—a vague, flaccid, enervated rhetoric being too often
substituted for the pith and marrow of truth and nature. The greatest
facility to feel or to comprehend will not produce the most intense
passion, or the most electrical expression of it. There must be a
resistance in the matter to do this—a collision, an obstacle to
overcome. The torrent rushes with fury from being impeded in its course:
the lightning splits the gnarled oak. There is no malice in this
statement; but I should think they may themselves allow it to be an
English version of the truth, containing a great deal that is favourable
to them, with a saving clause for our own use. The long (and to us
tiresome) speeches in French tragedy consist of a string of emphatic and
well-balanced lines, announcing general maxims and indefinite sentiments
applicable to human life. The poet seldom commits any excesses by giving
way to his own imagination, or identifying himself with individual
situations and sufferings. We are not now raised to the height of
passion, now plunged into its lowest depths; the whole finds its level,
like water, in the liquid, yielding susceptibility of the French
character, and in the unembarrassed scope of the French intellect. The
finest line in Racine, that is, in French poetry, is by common consent
understood to be the following:—

        Craignez Dieu, mon cher Abner, et ne craignez que Dieu.

That is, _Fear God, my dear Abner, and fear only him_. A pious and just
exhortation, it is true; but, when this is referred to as the highest
point of elevation to which their dramatic genius has aspired, though we
may not be warranted in condemning their whole region of poetry as a
barren waste, we may consider it as very nearly a level plain, and
assert, that though the soil contains mines of useful truths within its
bosom and glitters with the graces of a polished style, it does not
abound in picturesque points of view or romantic interest! It is certain
that a thousand such lines would have no effect upon an English audience
but to set them to sleep, like a sermon, or to make them commence a
disturbance to avoid it. Yet, though the declamation of the French stage
is as monotonous as the dialogue, the French listen to it with the tears
in their eyes, holding in their breath, beating time to the cadence of
the verse, and following the actors with a book in their hands for hours
together. The English most assuredly do not pay the same attention to a
play of Shakspeare’s, or to any thing but a cock-fight or a
sparring-match. This is no great compliment to them; but it makes for
the gravity of the French, who have mistaken didactic for dramatic
poetry, who can sit out a play with the greatest patience and
complacency, that an Englishman would hoot off the stage, or yawn over
from beginning to end for its want of striking images and lively effect,
and with whom Saturn is a God no less than Mercury! I am inclined to
suspect the genius of their religion may have something to do with the
genius of their poetry. The first absorbs in a manner their powers of
imagination, their love of the romantic and the marvellous, and leaves
the last in possession of their sober reason and moral sense. Their
churches are theatres; their theatres are like churches. Their fancies
are satiated with the mummeries and pageantry of the Catholic faith,
with hieroglyphic obscurity and quaint devices; and, when they come to
the tangible ground of human affairs, they are willing to repose alike
from ornament and extravagance, in plain language and intelligible
ideas. They go to mass in the morning to dazzle their senses, and
bewilder their imagination, and inflame their enthusiasm; and they
resort to the theatre in the evening to seek relief from superstitious
intoxication in the prose of poetry, and from Gothic mysteries and
gloom, in classic elegance and costume. Be this as it may, the love of
the French for Racine is not a feeling of the moment, or left behind
them at the theatres; they can quote him by heart, and his sententious,
admirable lines occupy the next place in their minds to their _amatory
poetry_. There is nothing unpleasant in a French theatre but a certain
infusion of _soup-maigre_ into the composition of the air, (so that one
inhales a kind of thin pottage,) and an oily dinginess in the
complexions both of the men and women, which shews more by lamp-light.
It is not true (as has been said) that their theatres are nearly dark,
or that the men stand in the pit. It is true, none but men are admitted
into it, but they have seats just the same as with us, and a curious
custom of securing their places when they go out, by binding their
handkerchiefs round them, so that at the end of the play the benches
presented nothing but a row of knotted pocket handkerchiefs. Almost
every one returned and sat out the entertainment, which was not a farce,
but a sentimental comedy, and a very charming one too, founded on the
somewhat national subject of a seduction by an English nobleman in
France, and in which the fair sufferer was represented by a young
_debutante_, in natural expression and pathos little inferior to Miss
Kelly, (as far as we can translate French into English nature,) but
fatter and prettier. So much for their taste in theatricals, which does
not incline wholly to puppet-shows and gew-gaws. The Theatre, in short,
is the Throne of the French character, where it is mounted on its
pedestal of pride, and seen to every advantage. I like to contemplate it
there, for it reconciles me to them and to myself. It is a common and
amicable ground on which we meet. Their tears are such as others
shed—their interest in what happened three thousand years ago is not
exclusively French. They are no longer a distinct race or _caste_, but
human beings. To feel towards others as of a different species, is not
the way to increase our respect for ourselves or human nature. Their
defects and peculiarities, we may be almost sure, have corresponding
opposite vices in us—the excellences are confined pretty much to what
there is in common.

The ordinary prejudice entertained on this subject in England is, that
the French are little better than grown children—

             ‘Pleas’d with a feather—tickled with a straw—’

full of grimace and noise and shew, lively and pert, but with no turn or
capacity for serious thought or continued attention of any kind, and
hardly deserving the name of rational beings, any more than apes or
jackdaws. They may laugh and talk more than the English; but they read,
and, I suspect, think more, taking them as a people. You see an
apple-girl in Paris, sitting at a stall with her feet over a stove in
the coldest weather, or defended from the sun by an umbrella, reading
Racine or Voltaire. Who ever saw such a thing in London as a
barrow-woman reading Shakspeare or Fielding? You see a handsome, smart
_grisette_ at the back of every little shop or counter in Paris, if she
is not at work, reading perhaps one of Marmontel’s Tales, with all the
absorption and delicate interest of a heroine of romance. Yet we make
doleful complaints of the want of education among the common people, and
of the want of reflection in the female character in France. There is
something of the same turn for reading in Scotland; but then where is
the gaiety or the grace? They are more sour and formal even than the
English. The book-stalls all over Paris present a very delightful
appearance. They contain neatly-bound, cheap, and portable editions of
all their standard authors, which of itself refutes the charge of a want
of the knowledge or taste for books. The French read with avidity
whenever they can snatch the opportunity. They read standing in the open
air, into which they are driven by the want of air at home. They read in
garrets and in cellars. They read at one end of a counter, when a person
is hammering a lock or a piece of cabinet-work at the other, without
taking their eye from the book, or picking a quarrel with the person who
is making the noise. Society is the school of education in France; there
is a transparency in their intellects as in their atmosphere, which
makes the communication of thought or sound more rapid and general. The
_farina_ of knowledge floats in the air, and circulates at random. Alas!
it ‘quickens, even with blowing.’ A periwig-maker is an orator; a
fish-woman is a moralist; a woman of fashion is a metaphysician, armed
with all the topics; a pretty woman in Paris, who was not also a
_blue-stocking_, would make little figure in the circles. It would be in
vain for her to know how to dispose a knot of ribands or a bunch of
flowers in her hair, unless she could arrange a critical and analytical
argument in all the forms. It is nothing against her, if she excels in
personal and mental accomplishments at the same time. This turn for
literary or scientific topics in the women may indeed be accounted for
in part from the modes of social intercourse in France; but what does
this very circumstance prove, but that an interchange of ideas is
considered as one great charm in the society between men and women, and
that the thirst of knowledge is not banished by a grosser passion?
Knowledge and reason, however, descend; and where the women are
philosophers, the men are not quite block-heads or _petit-maitres_. They
are far from being the ignorant smatterers that we pretend. They are not
backward at asking for reasons, nor slow in giving them. They have a
theory for every thing, even for vice and folly. Their faces again are
grave and serious when they are by themselves, as they are gay and
animated in society. Their eyes have a vacant, absent stare; their
features set or lengthen all at once into ‘the melancholy of Moorditch.’
The _Conducteur_ of the Diligence from Rouen confirmed me agreeably in
my theory of the philosophical character of the French physiognomy. With
large grey eyes and drooping eye-lids, prominent distended nostrils, a
fine Fenelon expression of countenance, and a mouth open and eloquent,
with furrowed lines twisted round it like whip-cord, he stood on the
steps of the coach, and harangued to the gentlemen within on the
_bêtise_ of some _voyageur Anglois_ with the air of a professor, and in
a deep sonorous voice, worthy of an oration of Bossuet. I should like to
hear a Yorkshire guard, with his bluff, red face, bristly bullet head,
little peering eyes, round shoulders, and squeaking voice, ascend into
an imaginary rostrum in this manner, wave a florid speculation in one
hand, and hold fast by the coach-door with the other, or get beyond an
oath, a hearty curse, or his shrewd country gibberish! The face of the
French soldiery is a face of great humanity—it is manly, sedate,
thoughtful—it is equally free from fierceness and stupidity; and it
seems to bear in its eye defeat and victory, the eagle and the lilies! I
cannot help adding here, that a French gentleman (_un Rentier_) who
lodges in the hotel opposite to me, passes his time in reading all the
morning, dines, plays with his children after dinner, and takes a hand
at backgammon with an old _gouvernante_ in the evening. He does not
figure away with a couple of horses in the streets like our English
_jockeys_ (who really are nothing without a footman behind them,) nor
does his wife plague his life out to run after all the new sights. And
yet they are from the country. This looks like domestic comfort and
internal resources. How many disciples of Rousseau’s _Emilius_ are there
in France at the present day? I knew one twenty years ago.

The French are a people who practise the arts and sciences naturally. A
shoe-black is the _artiste du jour_ (artist of the day,) and a
rat-catcher approaches you under some insidious _nom de guerre_. Every
thing is with them imposing, grave, important. ‘Except (it may be said)
what really is so;’ and it may be insinuated, that all their pretensions
are equally idly mockery and grimace. Look, then, at their works of
science and of art—the one the most comprehensive and exact, the other
the most laborious and finished in the world. What are their chemists,
their astronomers, their naturalists, their painters, their sculptors?
If not the greatest and most inventive geniuses, the most accurate
compilers, and the most severe students in their several departments. La
Place, Lavoisier, Cuvier, David, Houdon, are not triflers or pretenders.
In science, if we have discovered the principles, they have gone more
into the details—in art we accuse them of being over-laboured, and of
finishing too minutely and mechanically; and they charge us (justly
enough) with a want of _finesse_, and with producing little more than
rude sketches and abortive caricatures. Their frigid, anatomical
inquiries—their studies after the antique, and acquaintance with all the
professional and scientific branches of their art, are notorious—and the
care with which they work up their draperies and back-grounds is obvious
to every one, and a standing subject of complaint and ridicule to
English artists and critics. Their refinement in art, I confess,
consists chiefly in an attention to rules and details, but then it does
imply an attention to these, which is contrary to our idea of the
flighty French character. I remember, some years ago, a young French
artist in the Louvre, who was making a chalk-drawing of a small _Virgin
and Child_, by Leonardo da Vinci, and he took eleven weeks to complete
it, sitting with his legs astride over a railing, looking up and talking
to those about him—consulting their opinion as to his unwearied
imperceptible progress—going to the fire to warm his hands, and
returning to _perfectionate himself_! There was a good deal of
‘laborious foolery’ in all this, but still he kept on with it, and did
not fly to fifty things one after the other. Another student had
undertaken to copy the _Titian’s Mistress_, and the method he took to do
it was to parcel out his canvass into squares like an engraver; after
which he began very deliberately, not with the face or hair, but with
the first square in the right-hand corner of the picture, containing a
piece of an old table. He did not care where he began, so that he went
through the whole regularly. _C’est égal_, is the common reply in all
such cases. This continuity of purpose, without any great effort or deep
interest, surprises an Englishman. We can do nothing without a strong
motive, and without violent exertion. But it is this very circumstance
probably that enables them to proceed: they take the matter quite
easily, and have not the same load of anxious thought to bear up
against, nor the same impatient eagerness to reach perfection at a
single stride, to stop them midway. They have not the English air
hanging at their backs, like the Old Man of the Sea at Sinbad’s! The
same freedom from any thing like morbid humour assists them to plod on
like the Dutch from mere phlegm, or to diverge into a variety of
pursuits, which is still more natural to them. Horace Vernet has in the
present Exhibition a portrait of a lady, (a rival to Sir T. Lawrence’s)
and close to it, a battle-piece, equal to Ward or Cooper. Who would not
be a Parisian born, to attain excellence with the wish to succeed from
mere confidence or indifference to success, to unite such a number of
accomplishments, or be equally satisfied without a single one!

The English are over-hasty in supposing a certain lightness and
petulance of manner in the French to be incompatible with sterling
thought or steady application, and flatter themselves that not to be
merry is to be wise. A French lady who had married an Englishman
remarkable for his dullness, used to apologise for his silence in
company by incessantly repeating ‘_C’est toujours Locke, toujours
Newton_,’ as if these were the subjects that occupied his thoughts. It
is well we have these names to appeal to in all cases of emergency; and
as far as mere gravity is concerned, let these celebrated persons have
been as wise as they would, they could not for the life of them have
appeared duller or more stupid than the generality of their countrymen.
The chief advantage I can find in the English over the French comes to
this, that though slower, if they once take a thing up, they are longer
in laying it down, provided it is a grievance or a _sore subject_. The
reason is, that the French do not delight in grievances or in sore
subjects; and that the English delight in nothing else, and battle their
way through them most manfully. Their _forte_ is the disagreeable and
repulsive. I think they would have fought the battle of Waterloo over
again! The English, besides being ‘good haters,’ are dogged and
downright, and have no salvos for their self-love. Their vanity does not
heal the wounds made in their pride. The French, on the contrary, are
soon reconciled to fate, and so enamoured of their own idea, that
nothing can put them out of conceit with it. Whatever their attachment
to their country, to liberty or glory, they are not so affected by the
loss of these as to make any desperate effort or sacrifice to recover
them. Their continuity of feeling is such, as to be no enemy to a whole
skin. They over-ran Europe like tigers, and defended their own territory
like deer. They are a nation of heroes—on this side of martyrdom!



                               CHAPTER VI


DIALOGUE, FRENCH AND ENGLISH

French.—Have you seen the whole of our _Exposition_ of the present
year?—

English.—No, but I have looked over a good part of it. I have been much
pleased with many of the pictures. As far as I can judge, or have a
right to say so, I think your artists have improved within these few
years.

French.—Perhaps so, occasionally, but we have not David and some others.

English.—I cannot say that I miss him much. He had, I dare say, many
excellences, but his faults were still more glaring, according to our
insular notions of the art. Have you Guerin now? He had just brought out
his first picture of Phædra and Hippolitus when I was in Paris formerly.
It made a prodigious sensation at the time, and very great things were
expected from him.

French.—No, his works are not much spoken of.

English.—The Hippolitus in the picture I speak of was very beautiful;
but the whole appeared too much cast in the mould of the antique, and it
struck me then that there was a _mannerism_ about it that did not augur
favourably for his future progress, but denoted a premature perfection.
What I like in your present Exhibition is, that you seem in a great
measure to have left this academic manner, and to have adopted a more
natural style.

French.—I do not exactly comprehend.

English.—Why, you know the English complain of French art as too
laboured and mechanical, as not allowing scope enough for genius and
originality, as you retort upon us for being coarse and rustic.

French.—Ah! I understand. _There_ is a picture in the English style; the
subject is a Greek massacre, by Rouget. It is an _ébauche_. It is for
effect. There is much spirit in the expression, and a boldness of
execution, but every part is not finished. It is like a first sketch, or
like the painting of the scenes at our theatres. He has another picture
here.

English.—Yes, of great merit in the same style of dashing, off-hand,
explosive effect. He is something between our Ward and Haydon. But that
is not what I mean. I do not wish you to exchange your vices for ours.
We are not as yet models in the FINE ARTS. I am only glad that you
imitate us, as it is a sign you begin to feel a certain deficiency in
yourselves. There is no necessity for grossness and extravagance, any
more than for being finical or pedantic. Now there is a picture yonder,
which I think has broken through the trammels of the modern French
school, without forfeiting its just pretensions to classical history. It
has the name of Drölling on it. What, pray, is the subject of it?

French.—It is _Ulysses conducting Polyxena to the sacrifice_. He has one
much better at the Luxembourg.

English.—I don’t know; I have not seen that, but this picture appears to
me to be a very favourable specimen of the present French school. It has
great force, considerable beauty, symmetry of form, and expression; and
it is animated flesh, not coloured stone. The action and gestures into
which the figures throw themselves, seem the result of life and feeling,
and not of putting casts after the antique into Opera attitudes.

French.—We do not think much of that picture. It has not been perfected.

English.—Perhaps it passes a certain conventional limit, and is borne
away by the impulse of the subject; and of that the most eminent among
the French artists might be thought to be as much afraid as the old lady
at Court was that her face would fall in pieces, if her features relaxed
into a smile. The Ulysses is poor and stiff: the nurse might be finer;
but I like the faces of the two foremost figures much; they are
handsome, interesting, and the whole female group is alive and in
motion.

French.—What do you think of the picture by Gerard, No. 745, of the
_Meeting between Louis XIV. and the Spanish Ambassador_? It is greatly
admired here.

English.—It appeared to me (as I passed it just now) to be a picture of
great bustle and spirit; and it looks as if Iris had dipped her woof in
it, the dresses are so gay and fine. Really, the show of variegated
colours in the principal group is like a bed of tulips. That is
certainly a capitally painted head of a priest stooping forward in a red
cap and mantle.

French.—And the youth near him no less.

English.—The complexion has too much the texture of fruit.

French.—But for the composition—the contrast between youth and age is so
justly marked. Are you not struck with the figure of the Spanish
Ambassador? His black silk drapery is quite in the Italian style.

English.—I thought Gerard had been chiefly admired for a certain
delicacy of expression, more than for his colouring or costume. He was a
favourite painter of the Empress Josephine.

French.—But in the present subject there is not much scope for
expression.

English.—It is very true; but in a picture of the same crowded and
courtly character (_The last Moments of Henry IV._,) the painter has
contrived to introduce a great deal of beauty and tenderness of
expression in the appearance of some of the youthful attendants. _This_
is a more shewy and finely painted drawing-room picture; but _that_
appears to me to have more character in it. It has also the merit of
being finished with great care. I think the French excel in small
histories of the domestic or ornamental kind. Here, for instance, is a
very pretty picture by Madame Hersent, 897, _Louis XIV. taking leave of
his Grand-child_. It is well painted, the dresses are rich and
correct—the monarch has a great deal of negligent dignity mixed with the
feebleness of age, the contrast of innocence and freshness in the child
is well-managed, and the attendants are decayed beauties and very
confidential-looking persons of that period. One great charm of all
historical subjects is, to carry us back to the scene and time, which
this picture does. Probably from the Age and Court of Louis XVIII. to
that of Louis XIV. it is not far for a French imagination to transport
itself.

French.—Monsieur, it is so far that we should never have got from the
one to the other, if you had not helped us.

English.—So much the worse! But do you not think that a clever picture
of the _Interior of a Gothic Ruin_, 247, (Bouton.[19]) It seems to me as
if the artist had been reading Sir Walter Scott. That lofty, ruinous
cave looks out on the wintry sea from one of the Shetland Isles. There
is a cold, desolate look of horror pervading it to the utmost extremity.
But the finishing is, perhaps, somewhat too exact for so wild a scene.
Has not the snow, lodged on the broken ledges of the rocks, a little of
the appearance of the coat of candied sugar on a twelfth-cake? But how
comes the dog in possession of so smart a kennel? It is said in the
Catalogue, that by his barking he alarms his master, who saves the poor
woman and her infant from perishing. Who would have thought that such a
scene as this had a master?

French.—Dogs are necessary everywhere in France: there is no place that
we can keep them out of. They are like the machines in ancient poetry—a
part of every plot. Poodles are the true _désirs_: they have ousted even
the priests. They may soon set up a hierarchy of their own. They swarm,
and are as filthy as an Egyptian religion.

English.—But this is a house-dog, not a lap-dog.

French.—There is no saying—but pass on. Is there any other picture that
you like?

English.—Yes, I am much pleased with the one opposite, the _Marriage of
the Virgin_, 268, by Mons. Caminade. It is both elegant and natural. The
Virgin kneels in a simple and expressive attitude; in the children there
is a playful and healthy aspect, and the grouping is quite like a
classic bas-relief. Perhaps, in this respect, it wants depth. Can you
tell me, why French painting so much affects the qualities of sculpture
in general,—flatness and formality in the groups, and hardness of
outline in the single figures?

French.—I cannot answer that question, as it is some time since I left
England, where I remained only ten months to perfect myself in the
language. You probably think more highly of the next picture: _The
Establishment of the Enfans Trouvés_, by M——?

English.—I am afraid not; for it has the old French flimsiness and
flutter. The face of the Foundress resembles a shower of roseate tints.
You may be sure, however, that the English in general will approve
mightily of it, who like all subjects of charitable institutions. I
heard an English lady just now in raptures with the naked children
seated on the blankets, calling them affectionately, ‘poor little
dears!’ We like subjects of want, because they afford a relief to our
own sense of comfortlessness, and subjects of benevolence, because they
soothe our sense of self-importance—a feeling of which we stand greatly
in need.

French.—What is your opinion of the portrait of Louis XVIII., by Gerard?

English.—It seems to have been painted after dinner, and as if his
Majesty was uneasy in his seat—the boots might have been spared.

French.—We have a picture by one of your compatriots—the Chevalier
Lawrence—

English.—Yes, the portrait of a Lady, in the next room. It was accounted
one of the best portraits in our Somerset-house Exhibition last summer.

French.—But there is a portrait of a French Lady, placed as a companion
to it, by Horace Vernet, which is thought better.

English.—I have no doubt. But I believe, in England, the preference
would be given the contrary way.

French.—May I ask on what ground, Sir?

English.—Let me ask, did you ever happen to sit to have a cast of your
head taken? Because I conceive that precisely the same heated, smooth,
oily, close, stifling feeling that one’s face has just before the mask
is taken off, is that which is conveyed by the texture and look of a
finished French portrait, generally speaking, and by this in particular.
I like the Head of a Lady, by Guerin (838), on the opposite side of the
room, better. It is clear, cold, blue and white, with an airy attitude,
and firm drawing. There is no attempt to smother one with dingy flesh
_rouged_ over.

French.—But have you seen our miniatures? The English miniatures, I
imagine, are not good.

English.—At least, we have a good many of them. I know an English
critic, who would at least count you up thirty eminent English
miniature-painters at a breath,—all first-rate geniuses; so differently
do we view these things on different sides of the Channel! In truth, all
miniatures must be much alike. There can be no such thing as an _English
miniature_, that is, as a coarse, slovenly daub in little. We finish
when we cannot help it. We do not volunteer a host of graces, like you;
but we can make a virtue of necessity. There was a Mr. Hayter, who
painted resplendent miniatures, perfect mirrors of the highest heaven of
beauty; but he preferred the English liberty of sign-post painting in
oil. I observe among your miniatures several enamels and copies from the
Old Masters in the Louvre. Has not the coming to them the effect of
looking through a window? What a breadth, what a clearness, what a
solidity? How do you account for this superiority? I do not say this
invidiously, for I confess it is the same, whenever copies are
introduced by stealth in our English Exhibition.

French.—I perceive, Sir, you have a prejudice in favour of the English
style of art.

English.—None at all; but I cannot think our faults any justification of
yours, or yours of ours. For instance, here is a landscape by a
countryman of mine, Mr. Constable (No. 358). Why then all this
affectation of dashing lights and broken tints and straggling lumps of
paint, which I dare say give the horrors to a consummate French artist?
On the other hand, why do not your artists try to give something of the
same green, fresh, and healthy look of living nature, without smearing
coats of varnish over raw _dabs_ of colour (as we do), till the
composition resembles the ice breaking up in marshy ground after a
frosty morning? Depend upon it, in disputes about taste, as in other
quarrels, there are faults on both sides.

French.—The English style has effect, but it is gross.

English.—True: yet in the inner rooms there are some water-colour
landscapes, by Copley Fielding, which strike me as uniting effect with
delicacy, particularly No. 360, with some beautiful trees fringing the
fore-ground. I think our painters do best when they are cramped in the
vehicle they employ. They are abusers of oil-colours.

French.—I recollect the name; but his works did not seem to me to be
finished.

English.—They are finished as nature is finished: that is, the details
are to be found in them, though they do not obtrude themselves. You
French require every thing to be made out like pin’s points or botanic
specimens of leaves and trees. Your histories want life, and your
landscapes air. I could have sworn the little fishing-piece (No. —) was
English. It is such a daub, and yet has such a feeling of out-of-door
scenery in it.

French.—You do not flatter us. But you allow our excellence in
sculpture.

English.—There is an admirable study of a little girl going into a bath,
by Jacquot. It is so simple, true, and expressive, I thought it might be
Chantry’s. I cannot say I saw any others that pleased me. The Eurydice,
by Nantreuil, is a French Eurydice. It is an elegantly-formed female,
affecting trifling airs and graces in the agonies of death. Suppose we
return to the pictures in the Green Room. There is nothing very
remarkable here, except the portrait of an artist by himself, which
looks for all the world as if it fed upon its own white lead.

French.—Do like the figure of a woman in one corner in the _Massacre of
the Innocents_? The artist has done all he could to propitiate the
English taste. He has left his work in a sufficiently barbarous and
unfinished state.

English.—But he has taken pains to throw expression, originality, and
breadth into it. With us it would be considered as a work of genius. I
prefer it much to any thing by our artists of the same kind, both for
the tone, the wild lofty character, and the unctuous freedom of the
pencilling. There is a strange hurly-burly in the background, and a
lurid tone over the whole picture. This is what we mean by
imagination—giving the feeling that there is in nature. You mean by
imagination the giving something _out of_ it—such as the _Nymph_ (No. —)
_appearing to the River God_. The young lady is a very charming
transparency, or gauze-drawing; and the River God is a sturdy wooden
statue, painted over; but I would ask you, is there any thing in the
picture that takes you beyond a milliner’s shop in the Palais-royal, or
a tea-garden in the neighbourhood of St. Cloud? The subject of _Locusta
poisoning a young slave_, by Figalon, is, I think, forcibly and well
treated. The old sorceress is not an every day person. The French too
seldom resort to the grace of Deformity. Yet how finely it tells! They
are more timid and fastidious than the ancients, whom they profess to
imitate. There is one other large historical composition in the room
which I am partial to; and yet the faces, the manners, the colouring,
every thing in it is French. It is the _Henry the Fourth pardoning the
peasants who have supplied the besieged in Paris with food_. That head
of a young woman near the middle is particularly fine, and in the
happiest style of French art. Its effect against the sky is picturesque;
it is handsome, graceful, sensitive, and tinged with an agreeable florid
hue.

French.—But what is your opinion of Horace Vernet’s Battle-piece?

English.—May I ask the subject?

French.—It is the battle of Mont-Mirail, after the return from Russia.

English.—Good: I was sadly afraid it was the Battle of Mont St. Jean.
_We_ ought to blot it forever from our history, if we have been, or
intend to be, free. But I did not know but some Frenchman might be found
to stain his canvass with it, and present it to M. le Vicomte
Chateaubriand.

French.—But I speak of the painting, Sir.

English.—It is something in the same style, but hardly so clever as the
picture of the Queen’s Trial, by Hayter. Did you see that when you were
in London?

French.—No, Sir.

English.—Then we cannot enter into the comparison.

French.—That is true.

English.—We never had a school of painting till the present day. Whether
we have one at present, will be seen in the course of the winter. Yours
flourished one hundred and fifty years ago. For, not to include Nicholas
Poussin and Claude Lorraine in it, (names that belong to time and
nature,) there were Philip Champagne, Jouvenet, Le Sueur, whose works
are surely unequalled by the present race of artists, in colouring, in
conception of the subject, in the imitation of nature, and in
picturesque effect. As a proof of it, they become their places, and look
well in the Louvre. A picture of David’s would be an eye-sore there. You
are familiar with their works?

French.—I have seen those masters, but there is an objection to passing
into that part of the Louvre.

English.—The air is, I own, different.



                              CHAPTER VII


THE LUXEMBOURG GALLERY

Racine’s poetry, and Shakspeare’s, however wide apart, do not absolutely
prove that the French and English are a distinct race of beings, who can
never properly understand one another. But the Luxembourg Gallery, I
think, settles this point forever—not in our favour, for we have nothing
(thank God) to oppose to it, but decidedly against _them_, as a people
incapable of any thing but the little, the affected, and extravagant in
works of imagination and the FINE ARTS. Poetry is but the language of
feeling, and we may convey the same meaning in a different form of
words. But in the language of painting, words become _things_; and we
cannot be mistaken in the character of a nation, that, in thus
expressing themselves, uniformly leave out certain elements of feeling,
and greedily and ostentatiously insert others that they should not. The
English have properly no school of art, (though they have one painter at
least equal to Molière,)—we have here either done nothing worth speaking
of, compared with our progress in other things, or our faults are those
of negligence and rusticity. But the French have done their utmost to
attain perfection, and they boast of having attained it. What they have
done is, therefore, a fair specimen of what they can do. Their works
contain undoubted proofs of labour, learning, power; yet they are only
the worse for all these, since, without a thorough knowledge of the
scientific and mechanical part of their profession, as well as profound
study, they never could have immortalized their want of taste and genius
in the manner they have done. Their pictures at the Luxembourg are
‘those faultless monsters which the _art_ ne’er saw’ till now—the
‘hand-writing on the wall,’ which nothing can reverse. It has been said,
that ‘Vice to be hated needs but to be seen,’ and the same rule holds
good in natural as in moral deformity. It is a pity that some kind hand
does not take an opportunity of giving to ashes this monument of their
glory and their shame, but that it is important to preserve the proofs
of such an anomaly in the history of the human mind as a generation of
artists painting in this manner, and looking down upon the rest of the
world as not even able to appreciate their paramount superiority in
refinement and elegance. It is true, strangers know not what to make of
them. The ignorant look at them with wonder—the more judicious, with
pain and astonishment at the perversion of talents and industry. Still,
they themselves go on, quoting one another’s works, and parcelling out
the excellences of the several pictures under different heads—_pour les
coloris_, _pour le dessein_, _pour la composition_, _pour l’expression_,
as if all the world were of accord on this subject, and Raphael had
never been heard of. It is enough to stagger a nation, as well as an
individual, in their admiration of their own accomplishments, when they
find they have it all to themselves; but the French are blind,
insensible, incorrigible to the least hint of any thing like
imperfection or absurdity. It is this want of self-knowledge, and
incapacity to conceive of any thing beyond a certain conventional
circle, that is the original sin—the incurable error of all their works
of imagination. If Nature were a French courtezan or Opera-dancer, their
poetry and painting would be the finest in the world.[20]

The fault, then, that I should find with this Collection of Pictures is,
that it is equally defective in the imitation of nature, which belongs
to painting in general; or in giving the soul of nature-expression,
which belongs more particularly to history-painting. Their style of art
is false from beginning to end, nor is it redeemed even by the vices of
genius, originality, and splendour of appearance. It is at once tame and
extravagant, laboured and without effect, repulsive to the senses and
cold to the heart. Nor can it well be otherwise. It sets out on a wrong
principle, and the farther it goes, nay, the more completely it succeeds
in what it undertakes, the more inanimate, abortive, and unsatisfactory
must be the performance. French painting, in a word, is not to be
considered as an independent art, or original language, coming
immediately from nature, and appealing to it—it is a bad _translation_
of sculpture into a language essentially incompatible with it. The
French artists take plaster-casts from the antique, and colour them by a
receipt; they take plaster-casts and put them into action, and give
expression to the features according to the traditional rules for
composition and expression. This is the invariable process: we see the
infallible results, which differ only according to the patience, the
boldness, and ingenuity of the painter in departing from nature, and
caricaturing his subject.

For instance, let us take the _Endymion_ of Girodet, No 57. It is a
well-drawn, though somewhat effeminate Academy-figure. All the rest is
what I have said. It is a waste of labour, an abuse of power. There is
no repose in the attitude; but the body, instead of being dissolved in
an immortal sleep, seems half lifted up, so as to produce a balance of
form, and to make a display of the symmetry of the proportions. Vanity
here presides even over sleep. The head is turned on one side as if it
had not belonged to the body (which it probably did not) and discovers a
meagre, insignificant profile, hard and pinched up, without any of the
genial glow of youth, or the calm, delighted expansion of the heavenly
dream that hovered so long over it. The sharp edges of the features,
like rims of tin, catch the moonlight, but do not reflect the benign
aspect of the Goddess! There is no feeling (not a particle) of the
poetry of the subject. Then the colouring is not natural, is not
beautiful, is not delicate, but that of a livid body, glittering in the
moon-beams, or with a cloud of steel-filings, glimmering round it for a
veil of light. It is not left as _dead-colouring_ in an evidently
unfinished state, or so as to make a blank for the imagination to fill
up (as we see in Fuseli’s pictures); but every part is worked up with
malicious industry, not to represent flesh, but to be as like marble or
polished steel as possible. There is no variety of tint, no reflected
light, no massing, but merely the difference that is produced in a
smooth and uniformly coloured surface, by the alterations proper to
sculpture, which are given with a painful and oppressive sense of effort
and of difficulty overcome.

This is not a natural style. It is foppish and mechanical; or just what
might be expected from taking a piece of stone and attempting to colour
it, not from nature, not from imagination or feeling, but from a mere
wilful determination to supply the impressions of one sense from those
of another, by dint of perseverance and a growing conceit of one’s-self.
There is, indeed, a progress to perfection; for by the time the work is
finished, it is a finished piece of arrogance and folly. If you are
copying a yellow colour, and you resolve to make it blue, the more blue
you make it, the more perfectly you succeed in your purpose; but it is
the less like yellow. So the more perfectly French a work of art is, the
less it is like nature! The French artists have imitated the presumption
of the tyrant Mezentius, who wished to link dead bodies to living
ones.—Again, in the same artist’s picture of _Atala at the Tomb_ (which
I think his best, and which would make a fine bas-relief[21]) the
outline of the countenance of Atala is really noble, with a beautiful
expression of calm resignation; and the only fault to be found with it
is, that, supported as the head is in the arms of the Priest, it has too
much the look of a bust after the antique, that we see carried about the
streets by the Italian plaster-cast-makers. Otherwise, it is a classical
and felicitous stroke of French genius. They do well to paint Sleep,
Death, Night, or to approach as near as they can to the verge of
_still-life_, and leaden-eyed obscurity! But what, I believe, is
regarded as the master-piece of this artist, and what I have no
objection to consider as the triumph of French sublimity and pathos, is
his picture of the _Deluge_, No. 55. The national talent has here broken
loose from the trammels of refinement and pedantry, and soars
unconstrained to its native regions of extravagance and bombast. The
English are willing to abide by this as a test. If there be in the whole
of this gigantic picture of a gigantic subject any thing but distortion,
meanness, extreme absurdity and brute force, we are altogether mistaken
in our notions of the matter. Was it not enough to place that huge,
unsightly skeleton of old age upon the shoulders of the son, who is
climbing a tottering, overhanging precipice, but the farce of imposture
and improbability must be systematically kept up by having the wife
clinging to him in all the agony of the most preposterous theatrical
affectation, and then the two children dangling to her like the
_fag-end_ of horror, and completing the chain of disgusting, because
impracticable and monstrous distress? _Quod sic mihi ostendis,
incredulus odi._ The principle of gravitation must be at an end, to make
this picture endurable for a moment. All the effect depends on the fear
of falling, and yet the figures could not remain suspended where they
are for a single instant (but must be flung ‘with hideous ruin and
combustion down,’) if they were any thing else but grisly phantoms. The
terror is at once physical and preternatural. Instead of death-like
stillness or desperate fortitude, preparing for inevitable fate, or
hurrying from it with panic-fear at some uncertain opening, they have
set themselves in a picturesque situation, to meet it under every
disadvantage, playing off their antics like a family of tumblers at a
fair, and exhibiting the horrid grimaces, the vulgar rage, cowardice,
and impatience of the most wretched actors on a stage. The painter has,
no doubt, ‘accumulated horror on horror’s head,’ in straining the
credulity or harrowing up the feelings of the spectator to the utmost,
and proving his want of conception no less by the exaggeration, than his
want of invention by the monotony of his design. Real strength knows
where to stop, because it is founded on truth and nature; but
extravagance and affectation have no bounds. They rush into the vacuum
of thought and feeling, and commit every sort of outrage and excess.[22]
Neither in the landscape is there a more historic conception than in the
actors on the scene. There is none of the keeping or unity that so
remarkably characterizes Poussin’s fine picture of the same subject, nor
the sense of sullen, gradually coming fate. The waters do not rise
slowly and heavily to the tops of the highest peaks, but dash
tumultuously and violently down rocks and precipices. This is not the
truth of the history, but it accords with the genius of the composition.
I should think the painter might have received some hints from M.
Chateaubriand for the conduct of it. It is in his frothy, fantastic,
rhodomontade way—‘It out-herods Herod!’

David’s pictures, after this, are tame and trite in the comparison; they
are not romantic or _revolutionary_, but they are completely French;
they are in a little, finical manner, without beauty, grandeur, or
effect. He has precision of outline and accuracy of costume; but how
small a part is this of high history! In a scene like that of the _Oath
of the Horatii_, or the _Pass of Thermopylæ_, who would think of
remarking the turn of an ancle, or the disposition of a piece of
drapery, or the ornaments of a shield? Yet one is quite at leisure to do
this in looking at the pictures, without having one’s thoughts called
off by other and nobler interests. The attempts at expression are meagre
and constrained, and the attitudes affected and theatrical. There is,
however, a unity of design and an interlacing of shields and limbs,
which seems to express one soul in _the Horatii_, to which considerable
praise would be due, if they had more the look of heroes, and less that
of _petit-maitres_. I do not wonder David does not like Rubens, for he
has none of the Fleming’s bold, sweeping outline. He finishes the
details very prettily and skilfully, but has no idea of giving magnitude
or motion to the whole. His stern Romans and fierce Sabines look like
young gentlemen brought up at a dancing or fencing school, and taking
lessons in these several elegant exercises. What a fellow has he made of
Romulus, standing in the act to strike with all the air of a modern
dandy! The women are in attitudes, and contribute to the eloquence of
the scene. Here is a wife, (as we learn from the Catalogue) there a
sister, here a mistress, there a grandmother with three infants. Thus
are the episodes made out by a genealogical table of the relations of
human life! Such is the nature of French genius and invention, that they
can never get out of leading-strings! The figure of Brutus, in the
picture of that subject, has a fine, manly, unaffected character. It has
shrunk on one side to brood over its act, without any strut or
philosophic ostentation, which was much to be dreaded. He is wrapt in
gloomy thought, as in a mantle. Mr. Kean might have sat for this figure,
for, in truth, it is every way like him. The group of women on the
opposite side of the canvass, making a contrast by their lively colours
and flimsy expression of grief, might have been spared. These pictures
have, as we were told, been objected to for their too great display of
the naked figure, in some instances bordering on indecency. The
indecency (if so it is) is not in the nakedness of the figures, but in
the barrenness of the artist’s resources to clothe them with other
attributes, and with genius as with a garment. If their souls had been
laid bare as well as their limbs, their spirits would have shone through
and concealed any outward deformity. Nobody complains of Michael
Angelo’s figures as wanting severity and decorum.

Guerin’s _Phædra and Hippolitus_ I have already treated of, and I see no
reason to alter my opinion. It was just painted when I last saw it, and
has lost some of its freshness and the gloss of novelty. Modern pictures
have the art of very soon becoming old. What remains of it has the merit
of very clever studies after the antique, arranged into a subject. The
rest is not worth speaking of. A set of school-boys might as well come
with their portfolios and chalk-drawings under their arms, and set up
for a school of Fine Art. A great nation ought to know better, and
either strike out something original _for others to imitate_, or
acknowledge that they have done nothing worthy of themselves. To arch an
eye-brow, or to point a finger, is not to paint history. The study of
nature can alone form the genuine artist. Any thing but this can only
produce counterfeits. The tones and colours that feed the eye with
beauty, the effects of light and shade, the soul speaking in the eyes or
gasping on the lips, the groups that varying passion blends, these are
the means by which nature reveals herself to the inspired gaze of
genius, and that, treasured up and stamped by labour and study on the
canvass, are the indispensable materials of historical composition. To
take plaster-casts and add colour to them by an act of the will; or to
take the same brittle, inanimate, inflexible models, and put life and
motion into them by mechanical and learned rules, is more than
Prometheus or Iris could pretend to do. It is too much for French genius
to achieve. To put a statue into motion, or to give appropriate,
natural, and powerful expression to set features of any kind, is at all
times difficult; but, in the present instance, the difficulty is
enhanced, till it amounts to a sort of contradiction in terms; for it is
proposed to engraft French character and expression (the only ones with
which the artists are acquainted, or to which they can have access as
living studies) on Greek forms and features. Two things more abhorrent
in nature exist not. One of two consequences necessarily happens: either
the original model is given literally and entire, without any attempt to
disguise the awkward plagiarism, and inform it with a new character; or
if the artist, disdaining such servile trammels, strives to infuse his
own conceptions of grace and grandeur into it, then the hero or God of
antiquity comes down from his pedestal to strut a French dancing-master
or tragedian. For simplicity and unexampled grace, we have impertinence
and affectation; for stoic gravity and majestic suffering, we have
impatience, rage, womanish hysterics, and the utmost violence of
frenzied distortion. French art (like all other national art) is either
nothing, or a transcript of the national character. In the _Æneas and
Dido_, of the same artist, the drawing, the costume, the ornaments, are
correct and classical; the toilette of the picture is well made; the
Æneas is not much more insipid than the hero of Virgil, and there is an
exceedingly pretty girl, (like a common French peasant girl,) a supposed
attendant on the Queen. The only part of the picture in which he has
attempted an extraordinary effect, and in which he has totally failed,
is in the expression of enamoured attention on the part of the Queen.
Her eyes do not, ‘like stars, shoot madly from their spheres,’ but they
seem to have no sort of business in her head, and make the _doucereuse_
in a most edifying manner. You are attracted to the face at a distance
by the beauty of the outline (which is Greek) and instantly repelled by
the grossness of the filling up of the expression (which is French). The
Clytemnestra is, I think, his _chef d’œuvre_. She is a noble figure,
beautiful in person, and deadly of purpose; and there is that kind of
breathless suppression of feeling, and noiseless moving on to her end,
which the rigid style of French art is not ill-adapted to convey. But
there is a strange tone of colouring thrown over the picture, which
gives it the appearance of figures done in stained porcelain, or of an
optical deception. There is nothing to remind you that the actors of the
scene are of flesh and blood. They may be of steel or bronze, or glazed
earthenware, or any other smooth, unfeeling substance. This hard,
_liny_, metallic, tangible character is one of the great discriminating
features of French painting, which arises partly from their habitual
mode of study, partly from the want of an eye for nature, but chiefly, I
think, from their craving after precise and definite ideas, in which, if
there is the least flaw or inflection, their formal apprehension loses
sight of them altogether, and cannot recover the clue. This incrusted,
impenetrable, stifling appearance is not only unpleasant to the eye, but
repels sympathy, and renders their pictures (what they have been
asserted to be) _negations_ equally of the essential qualities both of
painting and sculpture.

Of their want of _ideal_ passion, or of the poetry of painting, and
tendency to turn every thing either into comic or tragic pantomime, the
picture of _Cain after the Murder of Abel_, by Paul Guerin, is a
striking example. This composition does not want power. It would be
disingenuous to say so. The artist has done what he meant in it. What,
then, has he expressed? The rage of a wild beast, or of a maniac
gnashing his teeth, and rushing headlong down a precipice to give vent
to a momentary frenzy; not the fixed inward anguish of a man, withered
by the curse of his Maker, and driven out into the wide universe with
despair and solitude and unavailing remorse for his portion. The face of
his wife, who appears crouched behind him, possesses great beauty and
sweetness. But the sweetness and beauty are kept quite distinct. That
is, grief absorbs some of the features, while others retain all their
softness and serenity. This hypercriticism would not have been possible,
if the painter had studied the expression of grief in nature. But he
took a plaster-model, and tried to melt it into becoming woe!

I have said enough to explain my objections to the grand style of French
art; and I am sure I do not wish to pursue so unpleasant a subject any
farther. I only wish to hint to my countrymen some excuse for not
admiring these pictures, and to satisfy their neighbours that our want
of enthusiasm is not wholly owing to barbarism and blindness to merit.
It may be asked then, ‘Is there nothing to praise in this collection?’
Far from it. There are many things excellent and admirable, with the
drawbacks already stated, and some others that are free from them. There
is Le Thiere’s picture of the _Judgment of Brutus_; a manly, solid, and
powerful composition, which was exhibited some years ago in London, and
is, I think, decidedly superior to any of our West’s. In Horace Vernet’s
_Massacre of the Mamelukes_, no English critic will deny the expression
of gloomy ferocity in the countenance of the Sultan, or refuse to extol
the painting of the drapery of the Negro, with his back to the
spectator, which is, perhaps, equal to any thing of the Venetian School,
and done (for a wager) from real drapery. Is not ‘the human face divine’
as well worth studying in the original as the dyes and texture of a
tunic? A small picture, by Delacroix, taken from the Inferno, _Virgil
and Dante in the boat_, is truly picturesque in the composition and the
effect, and shews a real eye for Rubens and for nature. The forms
project, the colours are thrown into masses. Gerard’s _Cupid and Psyche_
is a beautiful little picture, and is indeed as beautiful, both in
composition and expression, as any thing of the kind can well be
imagined; I mean, that it is done in its essential principles as a
design _from_ or _for_ sculpture. The productions of the French school
make better prints than pictures. Yet the best of them look like
engravings from antique groups or cameos.[23] There is also a set of
small pictures by Ducis, explaining the effects of Love on the study of
Painting, Sculpture, and Poetry, taken from appropriate subjects, and
elegantly executed. Here French art appears in its natural character
again, courtly and polished, and is proportionably attractive. Perhaps
it had better lay aside the club of Hercules, and take up the distaff of
Omphale; and then the women might fairly beat the men out of the field,
as they threaten almost to do at present. The French excel in pieces of
light gallantry and domestic humour, as the English do in interiors and
pig-styes. This appears to me the comparative merit and real bias of the
two nations, in what relates to the productions of the pencil; but both
will scorn the compliment, and one of them may write over the doors of
their Academies of Art—‘_Magnis excidit ausis_.’ The other cannot even
say so much.



                              CHAPTER VIII


NATIONAL ANTIPATHIES

The prejudice we entertain against foreigners is not in the first
instance owing to any ill-will we bear them, so much as to the
untractableness of the imagination, which cannot admit two standards of
moral value according to circumstances, but is puzzled by the diversity
of manners and character it observes, and made uneasy in its estimate of
the propriety and excellence of its own. It seems that others ought to
conform to our way of thinking, or we to theirs; and as neither party is
inclined to give up their peculiarities, we cut the knot by hating those
who remind us of them. We get rid of any idle, half-formed, teazing,
irksome sense of obligation to sympathise with or meet foreigners half
way, by making the breach as wide as possible, and treating them as an
inferior species of beings to ourselves. We become enemies, because we
cannot be friends. Our self-love is annoyed by whatever creates a
suspicion of our being in the wrong; and only recovers its level by
setting down all those who differ from us as thoroughly odious and
contemptible.

It is this consideration which makes the good qualities of other
nations, in which they excel us, no set-off to their bad ones, in which
they fall short of us; nay, we can forgive the last much sooner than the
first. The French being a dirty people is a complaint we very often
bring against them. This objection alone, however, would give us very
little disturbance; we might make a wry face, an exclamation, and laugh
it off. But when we find that they are lively, agreeable, and
good-humoured in spite of their dirt, we then know not what to make of
it. We are angry at seeing them enjoy themselves in circumstances in
which we should feel so uncomfortable; we are baulked of the advantage
we had promised ourselves over them, and make up for the disappointment
by despising them heartily, as a people callous and insensible to every
thing like common decency. In reading Captain Parry’s account of the
Esquimaux Indian woman, who so dexterously trimmed his lamp by licking
up half the train-oil, and smearing her face and fingers all over with
the grease, we barely smile at this trait of barbarism. It does not
provoke a serious thought; for it does not stagger us in our opinion of
ourselves. But should a fine Parisian lady do the same thing (or
something like it) in the midst of an eloquent harangue on the infinite
superiority of the French in delicacy and refinement, we should hardly
restrain our astonishment at the mixture of incorrigible grossness and
vanity. Unable to answer her arguments, we should begin to hate her
person: her gaiety and wit, which had probably delighted us before,
would be changed into forwardness, flippancy, and impertinence; from
seeing it united with so many accomplishments, we should be led to doubt
whether _sluttishness_ was not a virtue, and should remove the doubt out
of court by indulging a feeling of private resentment, and resorting to
some epithet of national abuse. The mind wishes to pass an act of
uniformity for all its judgments: in defiance of every day’s experience,
it will have things of a piece, and where it cannot have every thing
right or its own way, is determined to have it all wrong.

A Frenchman, we will say, drops what we think a frivolous remark, which
excites in us some slight degree of impatience: presently after, he
makes a shrewd, sensible observation. This rather aggravates the
mischief, than mends it; for it throws us out in our calculations, and
confounds the distinction between _sense_ and _nonsense_ in our minds. A
volley of unmeaning declamation or frothy impertinence causes us less
chagrin than a single word that overturns some assertion we had made, or
puts us under the necessity of reversing, or imposes on us the still
more unwelcome task of revising our conclusions. It is easy in this case
to save ourselves the trouble by calling our antagonist _knave_ or
_fool_; and the temptation is too strong, when we have a whole host of
national prejudices at our back to justify us in so concise and
satisfactory a mode of reasoning. A greater fund of vivacity and
agreeable qualities in our neighbours is not sure to excite simple
gratitude or admiration; it much oftener excites envy, and we are uneasy
till we have quieted the sense of our deficiency by construing the
liveliness of temper or invention, with which we cannot keep pace, into
an excess of levity, and the continued flow of animal spirits into a
species of intoxication or insanity. Because the French are animated and
full of gesticulation, they are a _theatrical_ people; if they smile and
are polite, they are _like monkeys_—an idea an Englishman never has out
of his head, and it is well if he can keep it between his lips.[24] No
one assuredly would appear dull and awkward, who can help it. Many an
English _belle_, who figures at home in the first circles of fashion and
is admired for her airy, thoughtless volubility, is struck dumb, and
looks a mere _dowdy_ (as if it were a voluntary or assumed
transformation of character) the moment she sets foot on French ground;
and the whispered sounds, _lourde_ or _elle n’est pas spirituelle_,
lingering in her ears, will not induce her to dissuade her husband (if
he is a Lord or Member of Parliament) from voting for a French war, and
are answered by the thunders of our cannon on the French coast! We even
quarrel with the beauty of French women, because it is not English. If
their features are regular, we find fault with their complexions; and as
to their expression, we grow tired of that eternal smile upon their
faces; though their teeth are white, why should they be always shewing
them? Their eyes have an unpleasant glitter about them; and their
eye-brows, which are frequently black and arched, are painted and put
on! In short, no individual, no nation is liked by another for the
advantages it possesses over it in wit or wisdom, in happiness or
virtue. We despise others for their inferiority, we hate them for their
superiority; and I see no likelihood of an accommodation at this rate.
The English go abroad; and when they come back, they brood over the
civilities or the insults they have received with equal discontent. The
gaiety of the Continent has thrown an additional damp upon their native
air, and they wish to clear it by setting fire to a foreign town or
blowing up a foreign citadel. We are then easy and comfortable for a
while. We think we can do something, that is, violence and wrong; and
should others talk of retaliating, we say with Lord Bathurst, ‘Let them
come!—our fingers tingling for the fray, and finding that nothing rouses
us from our habitual stupor like hard blows. Defeated in the arts of
peace, we get in good humour with ourselves by trying those of war.
Ashamed to accost a lady, we dare face a bastion—without spirit to hold
up our heads, we are too obstinate to turn our backs—and give ourselves
credit for being the greatest nation in the world, because our Jack Tars
(who defend the wooden walls of Old England—the same that we afterwards
see with sore arms and wooden legs, begging and bawling about our
streets) are the greatest _blackguards_ on the face of the globe;
because our Life Guardsmen, who have no brains to lose, are willing to
have them knocked out, and because with the incessant noise and stir of
our steam-engines and spinning-jennies (for having no wish to enjoy, we
are glad to work ourselves to death) we can afford to pay all costs!

What makes the matter worse, is the idle way in which we _abstract_ upon
one another’s characters. We are struck only with the differences, and
leave the common qualities out of the question. This renders a mutual
understanding hopeless. We put the exceptions for the rule. If we meet
with any thing odd and absurd in France, it is immediately set down as
French and characteristic of the country, though we meet with a thousand
odd and disagreeable things every day in England (that we never met
before) without taking any notice of them. There is a wonderful
_keeping_ in our prejudices; we reason as consistently as absurdly upon
the confined notions we have taken up. We put the good, wholesome,
hearty, respectable qualities into one heap and call it English, and the
bad, unwholesome, frivolous, and contemptible ones into another heap,
and call it French; and whatever does not answer to this pretended
sample, we reject as spurious and partial evidence. Our coxcomb conceit
stands over the different races of mankind, like a smart serjeant of a
regiment, and drills them into a pitiful uniformity, we ourselves being
picked out as the _élite du corps_, and the rest of the world forming
the forlorn hope of humanity. One would suppose, to judge from the
conversation of the two nations, that all Frenchmen were alike, and that
all Englishmen were personified by a particular individual, nicknamed
John Bull. The French have no idea that there is any thing in England
but roast-beef and plum-pudding, and a number of round, red faces,
growing fat and stupid upon such kind of fare; while our traditional
notion of the French is that of _soup-maigre_ and wooden shoes, and a
set of scare-crow figures corresponding to them. All classes of society
and differences of character are by this unfair process consolidated
into a sturdy, surly English yeoman on the one side of the Channel, or
are boiled down and evaporate into a shivering, chattering
valet-de-chambre, or miserable half-starved peasant on the other. It is
a pleasant way of settling accounts and taking what we please for
granted. It is a very old method of philosophizing, and one that is
quite likely to last!

If we see a little old hump-backed withered Frenchman about five feet
high, tottering on before us on a pair of spindle-shanks, with white
thread stockings, a shabby great-coat, and his hair done up into a
queue, his face dry, grey, and pinched up, his cheeks without blood in
them, his eyes without lustre, and his body twisted like a corkscrew, we
point to this grotesque figure as a true Frenchman, as the very essence
of a Parisian, and an edifying vestige of the ancient _régime_ and of
the last age, before the French character was sophisticated. It does not
signify that just before we had passed a bluff, red-faced, jolly-looking
coachman or countryman, six feet four inches high, having limbs in
proportion, and able to eat up any two ordinary Englishmen. This
thumping make-weight is thrown out of the scale, because it does not
help out our argument, or confirm our prejudices. This huge, raw-boned,
heavy, knock-kneed, well-fed, shining-faced churl makes no impression on
our minds, because he is not French, according to our idea of the word;
or we pass him over under the pretext that he _ought_ to be an
Englishman. But the other extreme we seize upon with avidity and
delight; we dandle it, we doat upon it, we make a puppet of it to the
imagination; we speak of it with glee, we quote it as a text, we try to
make a caricature of it; our pens itch to describe it as a complete
specimen of the French nation, and as a convincing and satisfactory
proof, that the English are the only people who are of sound mind and
body, strong wind and limb, and free from the infirmities of a puny
constitution, affectation, and old age! An old woman in France, with
wrinkles and a high-plaited cap, strikes us as being quite French, as if
the old women in England did not wear night-caps, and were not wrinkled.
In passing along the streets, or through the walks near Paris, we
continually meet a gentleman and lady whom we take for English, and they
turn out to be French; or we fancy that they are French, and we find on
a nearer approach, or from hearing them speak, that they are English.
This does not at all satisfy us that there is no such marked difference
between the two nations as we are led to expect; but we fasten on the
first _lusus naturæ_ we can find out as a striking representative of the
universal French nation, and chuckle over and almost hug him to our
bosoms as having kindly come to the relief of our wavering prejudices,
and as an undoubted proof of our superiority to such a set of abortions
as this, and of our right to insult and lord it over them at pleasure!
If an object of this kind (as it sometimes happens) asks charity with an
air of briskness and _politesse_, and does not seem quite so wretched as
we would have him, this is a further confirmation of our theory of the
national conceit and self-sufficiency; and his cheerfulness and content
under deformity and poverty are added to his catalogue of crimes![25] We
have a very old and ridiculous fancy in England, that all Frenchmen are
or ought to be lean, and their women short and crooked; and when we see
a great, fat, greasy Frenchman waddling along and ready to burst with
good living, we get off by saying that it is an unwholesome kind of fat;
or, if a Frenchwoman happens to be tall and straight, we immediately
take a disgust at her masculine looks, and ask if all the women in
France are giantesses?

It is strange we cannot let other people alone who concern themselves so
little about us. Why measure them by our standard? Can we allow nothing
to exist for which we cannot account, or to be right which has not our
previous sanction? The difficulty seems to be to suspend our judgments,
or to suppose a variety of causes to produce a variety of effects. All
men must be alike—all Frenchmen must be alike. This is a portable
theory, and suits our indolence well. But, if they do not happen to come
exactly into our terms, we are angry, and transform them into beasts.
Our first error lies in expecting a number of different things to tally
with an abstract idea, or general denomination, and we next stigmatize
every deviation from this standard by a nickname. A Spaniard, who has
more gravity than an Englishman, is an owl; a Frenchman, who has less,
is a monkey. I confess, this last simile sticks a good deal in my
throat; and at times it requires a stretch of philosophy to keep it from
rising to my lips. A walk on the Boulevards is not calculated to rid an
Englishman of all his prejudices or of all his spleen. The resemblance
to an English _promenade_ afterwards makes the difference more
mortifying. There is room to breathe, a footpath on each side of the
road, and trees over your head. But presently the appearance of a
Bartlemy-fair all the year round, the number of little shabby stalls,
the old iron, pastry, and children’s toys; the little white lapdogs,
with red eyes, combing and washing; the mud and the green trees, wafting
alternate odours; the old women sitting like _terra cotta_ figures; the
passengers running up against you, (most of them so taken up with
themselves that they seem like a crowd of absent people!) the noise, the
bustle, the flutter, the hurry without visible object; the vivacity
without intelligible meaning; the loud and incessant cry of
‘_Messieurs_’ from a bawling charlatan inviting you to some paltry,
cheating game, and a broad stare or insignificant grin from the most
ill-bred and ill-looking of the motley set at the appearance of an
Englishman among them; all this jumble of little teazing, fantastical,
disagreeable, chaotic sensations really puts one’s patience a little to
the test, and throws one a little off one’s guard. I was in this humour
the other day, and wanted some object to conduct off a superfluity of
rising irritability, when, at a painted booth opposite, I saw a great
lubberly boy in an ecstacy of satisfaction. He had on a red coat, a huge
wig of coarse yellow hair, and with his hat was beating a monkey in the
face, dressed _en militaire_—grinning, jabbering, laughing, screaming,
frantic with delight at the piteous aspect and peevish gestures of the
animal; while a tall showman, in a rusty blue coat and long pig-tail,
(which might have been stolen from the monkey) looked on with severe
complacency and a lofty pride in the _bizarrerie_, and the ‘mutually
reflected charities’ of the scene. The trio (I am vexed to think it)
massed themselves in my imagination, and I was not sorry to look upon
them as a little national group, well-matched, and tricked out alike in
pretensions to humanity.[26]

I was relieved from this fit of misanthropy, by getting into the shade
of the barrier-wall, and by meeting a man, (a common French mechanic,)
carrying a child in his arms, and the mother by its side, clapping her
hands at it, smiling, and calling out ‘Mon petit ami!’ with unmingled
and unwearied delight. There was the same over-animation in talking to
the child as there would have been in talking to a dog or a parrot. But
here it gave pleasure instead of pain, because our sympathies went along
with it. I change my opinion of the French character fifty times a day,
because, at every step, I wish to form a theory, which at the next step,
is contradicted. The ground seems to me so uncertain—the tenure by which
I hold my opinions so frail, that at last I grow ashamed of them
altogether—of what I think right, as of what I think wrong.

To praise or to blame is perhaps equally an impertinence. While we are
strangers to foreign manners and customs, we cannot be judges; it would
take almost a life to understand the reasons and the differences; and by
the time we can be supposed to do this, we become used to them, and in
some sense parties concerned. The English are the fools of an
hypothesis, as the Scotch are of a system. We must have an opinion—right
or wrong; but, in that case, till we have the means of knowing whether
it is right or wrong, it is as well to have a qualified one. We may at
least keep our temper, and collect hints for self-correction; we may
amuse ourselves in collecting materials for a decision that may never be
passed, or will have little effect, even when it is, and may clear our
eyesight from the motes and beams of prejudice by looking at things as
they occur. Our opinions have no great influence on others; but the
spirit in which we form them has a considerable one on our own
happiness. It is of more importance to ourselves than to the French,
what we think of them. It would be hard if a mental obliquity on their
parts should ‘thrust us from a level consideration,’ or some hasty
offence taken at the outset should shut up our eyes, our ears, and
understandings for the rest of a journey, that we have commenced for no
other purpose than to be spectators of a new and shifting scene, and to
have our faculties alike open to impressions of all sorts.

What Englishman has not seen the _Cemetery of Père la Chaise_? What
Englishman will undertake either to condemn or entirely approve it,
unless he could enter completely into the minds of the French
themselves? The approach to it (a little way out of Paris) is literally
‘garlanded with flowers.’ You imagine yourself in the neighbourhood of a
wedding, a fair, or some holiday-festival. Women are sitting by the
road-side or at their own doors, making chaplets of a sort of yellow
flowers, which are gathered in the fields, baked, and will then last a
French ‘Forever.’ They have taken ‘the lean abhorred monster,’ Death,
and strewed him o’er and o’er with sweets; they have made the grave a
garden, a flower-bed, where all Paris reposes, the rich and the poor,
the mean and the mighty, gay and laughing, and putting on a fair outside
as in their lifetime. Death here seems life’s playfellow, and grief and
smiling content sit at one tomb together. Roses grow out of the clayey
ground; there is the urn for tears, the slender cross for faith to twine
round; the neat marble monument, the painted wreaths thrown upon it to
freshen memory, and mark the hand of friendship. ‘No black and
melancholic yew-trees’ darken the scene, and add a studied gloom to
it—no ugly death’s heads or carved skeletons shock the sight. On the
contrary, some pretty Ophelia, as general mourner, appears to have been
playing her fancies over a nation’s bier, to have been scattering
‘pansies for thoughts, rue for remembrances.’ But is not the expression
of grief, like hers, a little too fantastical and light-headed? Is it
not too much like a childish game of _Make-Believe_? Or does it not
imply a certain want of strength of mind, as well as depth of feeling,
thus to tamper with the extremity of woe, and varnish over the most
serious contemplation of mortality? True sorrow is manly and decent, not
effeminate or theatrical. The tomb is not a baby-house for the
imagination to hang its idle ornaments and mimic finery in. To meet sad
thoughts, and overpower or allay them by other lofty and tender ones, is
right; but to shun them altogether, to affect mirth in the midst of
sighing, and divert the pangs of inward misfortune by something to catch
the eye and tickle the sense, is what the English do not sympathize
with. It is an advantage the French have over us. The fresh plants and
trees that wave over our graves; the cold marble that contains our
ashes; the secluded scene that collects the wandering thoughts; the
innocent, natural flowers that spring up, unconscious of our
loss—objects like these at once cherish and soften our regrets; but the
petty daily offerings of condolence, the forced liveliness and the
painted pride of the scene before us, are like galvanic attempts to
recall the fleeting life—they neither flatter the dead nor become the
living! One of the most heartless and flimsy extravagances of the _New
Eloise_, is the attempt made to dress up the daughter of Madame d’Orbe
like Julia, and set her in her place at the table after her death. Is
not the burying-ground of the _Père la Chaise_ tricked out and
over-acted much on the same false principle, as if there were nothing
sacred from impertinence and affectation? I will not pretend to
determine; but to an English taste it is so. We see things too much,
perhaps, on the dark side; they see them too much (if that is possible)
on the bright. Here is the tomb of Abelard and Eloise—immortal monument,
immortal as the human heart and poet’s verse can make it! But it is
slight, fantastic, of the olden time, and seems to shrink from the glare
of daylight, or as if it would like to totter back to the old walls of
the Paraclete, and bury its quaint devices and its hallowed inscriptions
in shadowy twilight. It is, however, an affecting sight, and many a
votive garland is sprinkled over it. Here is the tomb of Ney, (the
double traitor) worthy of his fate and of his executioner;—and of
Massena and Kellerman. There are many others of great note, and some of
the greatest names—Molière, Fontaine, De Lille. Chancellors and
_charbottiers_ lie mixed together, and announce themselves with equal
pomp. These people have as good an opinion of themselves after death as
before it. You see a bust with a wreath or crown round its head—a
strange piece of masquerade—and other tombs with a print or miniature of
the deceased hanging to them! Frequently a plain marble slab is laid
down for the surviving relatives of the deceased, waiting its prey in
expressive silence. This is making too free with death, and
acknowledging a claim which requires no kind of light to be thrown upon
it. We should visit the tombs of our friends with more soothing
feelings, without marking out our own places beside them. But every
French thought or sentiment must have an external emblem. The
inscriptions are in general, however, simple and appropriate. I only
remarked one to which any exception could be taken; it was a plain
tribute of affection to some individual by his family, who professed to
have ‘erected this _modest_ monument to preserve his memory _forever_!’
What a singular idea of modesty and eternity! So the French, in the
Catalogue of the Louvre, in 1803, after recounting the various
transmigrations of the Apollo Belvidere in the last two thousand years
(vain warnings of mutability!) observed, that it was at last placed in
the Museum at Paris, ‘to remain there forever.’ Alas! it has been gone
these ten years.



                               CHAPTER IX


Mademoiselle Mars (of whom so much has been said) quite comes up to my
idea of an accomplished comic actress. I do not know that she does more
than this, or imparts a feeling of excellence that we never had before,
and are at a loss how to account for afterwards (as was the case with
our Mrs. Jordan and Mrs. Siddons in opposite departments,) but she
answers exactly to a preconception in the mind, and leaves nothing
wanting to our wishes. I had seen nothing of the kind on our stage for
many years, and my satisfaction was the greater, as I had often longed
to see it. The last English actress who shone in genteel comedy was Miss
Farren, and she was just leaving the stage when I first became
acquainted with it. She was said to be a faint copy of Mrs. Abington—but
I seem to see her yet, glittering in the verge of the horizon,
fluttering, gay, and airy, the ‘elegant turn of her head,’ the nodding
plume of feathers, the gloves and fan, the careless mien, the provoking
indifference—we have had nothing like it since, for I cannot admit that
Miss O’Neil had the _Lady-Teazle_ air at all. Out of tragedy she was
awkward and heavy. She could draw out a white, patient, pathetic
pocket-handkerchief with great grace and simplicity; she had no notion
of flirting a fan. The rule here is to do every thing without effort—

                  ‘Flavia the least and slightest toy
                  Can with resistless art employ.’

This art is lost among us; the French still have it in very considerable
perfection. Really, it is a fine thing to see Molière’s _Misanthrope_,
at the Theatre Français, with Mademoiselle Mars as _Celimène_. I had
already seen some very tolerable acting at the minor French Theatres,
but I remained sceptical; I still had my English scruples hanging about
me, nor could I get quite reconciled to the French manner. For
_mannerism_ is not excellence. It might be good, but I was not sure of
it. Whatever one hesitates about in this way, is not the best. If a
thing is first-rate, you see it at once, or the fault is yours. True
genius will always get the better of our local prejudices, for it has
already surmounted its own. For this reason, one becomes an immediate
convert to the excellence of the French school of serious comedy. Their
actors have lost little or nothing of their spirit, _tact_, or skill in
embodying the wit and sense of their favourite authors. The most
successful passages do not interfere with our admiration of the best
samples of English acting, or run counter to our notions of propriety.
That which we thought well done among ourselves, we here see as well or
better done; that which we thought defective, avoided. The excellence or
even superiority of the French over us only confirms the justness of our
taste. If the actor might feel some jealousy, the critic can feel none.
What Englishman does not read Molière with pleasure? Is it not a treat
then to see him well acted? There is nothing to recall our national
antipathies, and we are glad to part with such unpleasant guests.

The curtain is scarcely drawn up, when something of this effect is
produced in the play I have mentioned, and the entrance of Mademoiselle
Mars decides it. Her few first simple sentences—her ‘_Mon Ami_’ at her
lover’s first ridiculous suggestion, the mingled surprise, displeasure,
and tenderness in the tone—her little peering eyes, full of languor and
archness of meaning—the peaked nose and thin compressed lips, opening
into an intelligent, cordial smile—her self-possession—her slightest
gesture—the ease and rapidity of her utterance, every word of which is
perfectly distinct—the playful, wondering good-nature with which she
humours the Misanthrope’s eccentricities throughout, and the finer tone
of sense and feeling in which she rejects his final proposal, must stamp
her a favourite with the English as well as with the French part of the
audience. I cannot see why that should not be the case. She is all life
and spirit. Would we be thought entirely without them? She has a
thorough understanding and relish of her author’s text. So, we think,
have we. She has character, expression, decision—they are the very
things we pique ourselves upon. Ease, grace, propriety—we aspire to
them, if we have them not. She is free from the _simagrées_, the
unmeaning petulance and petty affectation that we reproach the French
with, and has none of the awkwardness, insipidity, or vulgarity that we
are so ready to quarrel with at home. It would be strange if the English
did not admire her as much as they profess to do. I have seen but one
book of travels in which she was abused, and that was written by a
Scotchman! Mademoiselle Mars is neither handsome nor delicately formed.
She has not the light airy grace, nor the evanescent fragility of
appearance that distinguished Miss Farren, but more point and meaning,
or more of the intellectual part of comedy.

She was admirably supported in _Celimène_. Monsieur Damas played the
hero of the _Misanthrope_, and played it with a force and natural
freedom which I had no conception of as belonging to the French stage.
If they drawl out their tragic rhymes into an endless sing-song, they
cut up their comic verses into _mincemeat_. The pauses, the emphasis,
are left quite _ad libitum_, and are as sudden and varied as in the most
familiar or passionate conversation. In Racine they are obliged to make
an effort to get out of themselves, and are solemn and well-behaved; in
Molière they are at home, and commit all sorts of extravagances with
wonderful alacrity and effect. Heroes in comedy, pedants in tragedy,
they are greatest on small occasions; and their most brilliant efforts
arise out of the ground of common life. Monsieur Damas’s personification
of the Misanthrope appeared to me masterly. He had apparently been
chosen to fill the part for his ugliness; but he played the lover and
the fanatic with remarkable skill, nature, good-breeding, and disordered
passion. The rapidity, the vehemence of his utterance and gestures, the
transitions from one feeling to another, the fond rapture, the despair,
the rage, the sarcastic coolness, the dignified contempt, were much in
the style of our most violent tragic representations, and such as we do
not see in our serious comedy or in French tragedy. The way in which
this philosophic madman gave a loose to the expression of his feelings,
when he first suspects the fidelity of his mistress, when he quarrels
with her, and when he is reconciled to her, was strikingly affecting. It
was a regular furious scolding-bout, with the ordinary accompaniments of
tears, screams, and hysterics. A comic actor with us would have made the
part insipid and genteel; a tragic one with them pompous and affected.
At Drury-lane, Mr. Powell would take the part. Our fine gentlemen are
walking suits of clothes; their tragic performers are a professor’s gown
and wig: the Misanthrope of Molière, as Monsieur Damas plays it, is a
true orator and man of genius. If they pour the oil of decorum over the
loftier waves of tragedy, their sentimental comedy is like a puddle in a
storm. The whole was admirably cast, and ought to make the English
ashamed of themselves, if they are not above attending to any thing that
can give pleasure to themselves or other people. Arsinoe, the friend and
rival of Celimène, was played by Madame ——, a ripe, full-blown beauty, a
prude, the redundancies of whose person and passions are kept in due
bounds by tight lacing and lessons of morality. Eliante was a
Mademoiselle Menjaud, a very amiable-looking young person, and exactly
fitted to be an _élève_ in this _School for Scandal_. She smiled and
blushed and lisped mischief in the prettiest manner imaginable. The man
who comes to read his Sonnet to Alceste was inimitable. His teeth had an
enamel, his lips a vermilion, his eyes a brilliancy, his smile a
self-complacency, such as never met in poet or in peer, since
Revolutions and Reviews came into fashion. He seemed to have been
preserved in a glass-case for the last hundred and fifty years, and to
have walked out of it in these degenerate days, dressed in brocade, in
smiles and self-conceit, to give the world assurance of what a Frenchman
was! Philinte was also one of those prosing confidants, with grim
features, and profound gravity, that are to be found in all French
plays, and who, by their patient attention to a speech of half an hour
long, acquire an undoubted right to make one of equal length in return.
When they were all drawn up in battle-array, in the scene near the
beginning, which Sheridan has copied, it presented a very formidable
aspect indeed, and the effect was an historical deception. You forgot
you were sitting at a play at all, and fancied yourself transported to
the court or age of Louis XIV.!—Blest period!—the triumph of folly and
of France, when, instead of poring over systems of philosophy, the world
lived in a round of impertinence—when to talk nonsense was wit, to
listen to it politeness—when men thought of nothing but themselves, and
turned their heads with dress instead of the affairs of Europe—when the
smile of greatness was felicity, the smile of beauty Elysium—and when
men drank the brimming nectar of self-applause, instead of waiting for
the opinion of the _reading public_! Who would not fling himself back to
this period of idle enchantment? But as we cannot, the best substitute
for it is to see a comedy of Molière’s acted at the Theatre Français.
The thing is there imitated to the life.

After all, there is something sufficiently absurd and improbable in this
play. The character from which it takes its title is not well made out.
A misanthrope and a philanthropist are the same thing, as Rousseau has
so well shewn in his admirable criticism on this piece. Besides, what
can be so nationally characteristic as the voluntary or dramatic
transfers of passion in it? Alceste suspects his mistress’s truth, and
makes an abrupt and violent declaration of love to another woman in
consequence, as if the passion (in French) went along with the speech,
and our feelings could take any direction at pleasure which we bethought
ourselves of giving them. And then again, when after a number of
outrages and blunders committed by himself, he finds he is in the wrong,
and that he ought to be satisfied with _Celimène_ and the world, which
turns out no worse than he always thought it; he takes, in pure spite
and the spirit of contradiction, the resolution to quit her forever,
unless she will agree to go and live with him in a wilderness. This is
not misanthropy, but sheer ‘midsummer madness.’ It is a mere idle
abstract determination to be miserable, and to make others so, and not
the desperate resource of bitter disappointment (for he has received
none) nor is it in the least warranted by the proud indignation of a
worthy sensible man at the follies of the world (which character Alceste
is at first represented to be). It is a gratuitous start of French
imagination, which is still in extremes, and ever in the wrong. Why, I
would ask, must a man be either a mere courtier and man of the world,
pliant to every custom, or a mere enthusiast and maniac, absolved from
common sense and reason? Why could not the hero of the piece be a
philosopher, a satirist, a railer at mankind in general, and yet marry
_Celimène_, with whom he is in love, and who has proved herself worthy
of his regard? The extravagance of _Timon_ is tame and reasonable to
this, for _Timon_ had been ruined by his faith in mankind, whom he
shuns. Yet the French would consider _Timon_ as a very _farouche_ and
_outré_ sort of personage. To be hurried into extremities by extreme
suffering and wrong, is with them absurd and shocking: to play the fool
without a motive or in virtue of making a set speech, they think in
character and keeping. So far, to be sure, we differ in the first
principles of dramatic composition. A similar remark might be made on
the Tartuffe. This character is detected over and over again in acts of
the most barefaced profligacy and imposture; he makes a fine speech on
the occasion, and _Orgon_ very quietly puts the offence in his pocket.
This credulity to verbal professions would be tolerated on no stage but
the French, as natural or probable. Plain English practical good sense
would revolt at it as a monstrous fiction. But the French are so fond of
hearing themselves talk, that they take a sort of interest (by proxy) in
whatever affords an opportunity for an ingenious and prolix harangue,
and attend to the dialogue of their plays, as they might to the
long-winded intricacies of a law-suit. Mr. Bartolino Saddletree would
have _assisted_ admirably at a genuine prosing French Comedy.

Mademoiselle Mars played also in the afterpiece, a sort of shadowy
_Catherine and Petruchio_. She is less at home in the romp than in the
fine lady. She did not give herself up to the ‘whole loosened soul’ of
farce, nor was there the rich laugh, the sullen caprice, the childish
delight and astonishment in the part, that Mrs. Jordan would have thrown
into it. Mrs. Orger would have done it almost as well. There was a
dryness and restraint, as if there was a constant dread of running into
caricature. The outline was correct, but the filling up was not bold or
luxuriant. There is a tendency in the lighter French comedy to a certain
_jejuneness_ of manner, such as we see in lithographic prints. They do
not give full swing to the march of the humour, just as in their short,
tripping walk they seem to have their legs tied. Madame Marsan is in
this respect superior. There was an old man and woman in the same piece,
in whom the quaint drollery of a couple of veteran retainers in the
service of a French family was capitally expressed. The humour of
Shakspeare’s play, as far as it was extracted, hit very well.—The
behaviour of the audience was throughout exemplary. There was no crowd
at the door, though the house was as full as it could hold; and indeed
most of the places are bespoke, whenever any of their standard pieces
are performed. The attention never flags; and the buzz of eager
expectation and call for silence, when the curtain draws up, is just the
same as with us when an Opera is about to be performed, or a song to be
sung. A French audience are like flies caught in treacle. Their wings
are clogged, and it is all over with their friskings and vagaries. Their
bodies and their minds _set_ at once. They have, in fact, a national
theatre and a national literature, which we have not. Even well-informed
people among us hardly know the difference between Otway and Shakspeare;
and if a person has a fancy for any of our elder classics, he may have
it to himself for what the public cares. The French, on the contrary,
know and value their best authors. They have Molière and Racine by
heart—they come to their plays as to an intellectual treat; and their
beauties are reflected in a thousand minds around you, as you see your
face at every turn in the _Café des Milles-Colonnes_. A great author or
actor is really in France what one fancies them in England, before one
knows any thing of the world as it is called. It is a pity we should set
ourselves up as the only reading or reflecting people—_ut lucus a non
lucendo_.[27] But we have here no oranges in the pit, no cry of porter
and cider, no jack-tars to _encore_ Mr. Braham three times in ‘The Death
of Abercrombie,’ and no play-bills. This last is a great inconvenience
to strangers, and is what one would not expect from a play-going people;
though it probably arises from that very circumstance, as they are too
well acquainted with the actors and pieces to need a prompter. They are
not accidental spectators, but constant visitors, and may be considered
as behind the scenes.

I saw three very clever comic actors at the Theatre des Variétés on the
Boulevards, all quite different from each other, but quite French. One
was _Le Peintre_, who acted a master-printer; and he _was_ a
master-printer, so bare, so dingy, and so wan, that he might be supposed
to have lived on printer’s ink and on a crust of dry bread cut with an
_oniony_ knife. The resemblance to familiar life was so complete and so
habitual, as to take away the sense of imitation or the pleasure of the
deception. Another was Odry, (I believe,) who with his blue coat,
gold-laced hat, and corpulent belly, resembled a jolly, swaggering,
good-humoured parish-officer, or the boatswain of an English man-of-war.
His _éclats de rire_, the giddy way in which he ran about the stage
(like an overgrown school-boy), his extravagant noises, and his gabbling
and face-making were, however, quite in the French style. A fat, pursy
Englishman, acting the _droll_ in this manner, would be thought drunk or
mad; the Frenchman was only gay! Monsieur Potier played an old lover,
and, till he was _drest_, looked like an old French cook-shop keeper.
The old beau transpired through his finery afterwards. But, though the
part was admirably understood, the ridicule was carried too far. This
person was too meagre, his whisper too inaudible, his attempts at
gallantry too feeble and vapid, and the whole too much an exhibition of
mere physical decay to make the satire pleasant. There should be at
least some revival of the dead; the taper of love ought to throw out an
expiring gleam. In the song in praise of Love he threw a certain
romantic air into the words, warbling them in a faint _demi-voix_, and
with the last sigh of a youthful enthusiasm fluttering on his lips. This
was charming. I could not help taking notice, that during his breakfast,
and while he is sipping his coffee, he never once ceases talking to his
valet the whole time. The concluding scene, in which, after kneeling to
his mistress, he is unable to rise again without the help of his nephew,
who surprises him in this situation, and who is also his rival, is very
amusing.[28] The songs at this theatre are very pleasing and light, but
so short, that they are over almost as soon as begun, and before your
ears have a _mouthful_ of sound. This is very tantalizing to us; but the
French seem impatient to have the dialogue go on again, in which they
may suppose themselves to have a share. I wanted to see Brunet, but did
not.

Talma and Mademoiselle Georges (the great props of French tragedy) are
not at present here. Talma is at Lyons, and Mademoiselle Georges has
retired _on a pique_ into the country, in the manner of some English
actresses. I had seen them both formerly, and should have liked to see
them again. Talma has little of the formal _automaton_ style in his
acting. He has indeed that common fault in his countrymen of speaking as
if he had swallowed a handful of snuff; but in spite of this, there is
great emphasis and energy in his enunciation, a just conception, and an
impressive representation of character. He comes more in contact with
nature than our Kemble-school, with more of dignity than the antagonist
one. There is a dumb eloquence in his gestures. In _Œdipus_, I remember
his raising his hands above his head, as if some appalling weight were
falling on him to crush him; and in the _Philoctetes_, the expression of
excruciating pain was of that mixed mental and physical kind, which is
so irresistibly affecting in reading the original Greek play, which
Racine has paraphrased very finely. The sounds of his despair and the
complaints of his desolate situation were so thrilling, that you might
almost fancy you heard the wild waves moan an answer to them.
Mademoiselle Georges (who gave recitations in London in 1817) was, at
the time I saw her, a very remarkable person. She was exceedingly
beautiful, and exceedingly fat. Her fine handsome features had the
regularity of an antique statue, with the roundness and softness of
infancy. Her well-proportioned arms (swelled out into the largest
dimensions) tapered down to a delicate baby-hand. With such a
disadvantage there was no want of grace or flexibility in her movements.
Her voice had also great sweetness and compass. It either sunk into the
softest accents of tremulous plaintiveness, or rose in thunder. The
effect was surprising; and one was not altogether reconciled to it at
first. She plays at the Odeon, and has a rival at the Theatre Français,
Madame Paradol, who is very like her in person. She is an immense woman;
when I saw her, I thought it was Mademoiselle Georges fallen away! There
are some other tragic actresses here, with the prim airs of a French
milliner forty years ago, the _hardiesse_ of a battered _gouvernante_,
and the brazen lungs of a drum-major. Mademoiselle Duchesnois I have not
had an opportunity of seeing.



                               CHAPTER X


Paris is a beast of a city to be in—to those who cannot get out of it.
Rousseau said well, that all the time he was in it, he was only trying
how he should leave it. It would still bear Rabelais’ double etymology
of _Par-ris_ and _Lutetia_.[29] There is not a place in it where you can
set your foot in peace or comfort, unless you can take refuge in one of
their hotels, where you are locked up as in an old-fashioned citadel,
without any of the dignity of romance. Stir out of it, and you are in
danger of being run over every instant. Either you must be looking
behind you the whole time, so as to be in perpetual fear of their
hackney-coaches and cabriolets; or, if you summon resolution, and put
off the evil to the last moment, they come up against you with a sudden
acceleration of pace and a thundering noise, that dislocates your
nervous system, till you are brought to yourself by having the same
startling process repeated. Fancy yourself in London with the footpath
taken away, so that you are forced to walk along the middle of the
streets with a dirty gutter running through them, fighting your way
through coaches, waggons, and handcarts trundled along by large
mastiff-dogs, with the houses twice as high, greasy holes for
shop-windows, and piles of wood, green-stalls, and wheelbarrows placed
at the doors, and the contents of wash-hand basins pouring out of a
dozen stories—fancy all this and worse, and, with a change of scene, you
are in Paris. The continual panic in which the passenger is kept, the
alarm and the escape from it, the anger and the laughter at it, must
have an effect on the Parisian character, and tend to make it the
whiffling, skittish, snappish, volatile, inconsequential, unmeaning
thing it is. The coachmen nearly drive over you in the streets, because
they would not mind being driven over themselves—that is, they would
have no fear of it the moment before, and would forget it the moment
after. If an Englishman turns round, is angry, and complains, he is
laughed at as a blockhead; and you must submit to be rode over in your
national character. A horseman makes his horse curvet and capriole right
before you, because he has no notion how an English lady, who is
passing, can be nervous. They run up against you in the street out of
mere heedlessness and hurry, and when you expect to have a quarrel (as
would be the case in England) make you a low bow and slip on one side,
to shew their politeness. The very walk of the Parisians, that light,
jerking, fidgetting trip on which they pride themselves, and think it
grace and spirit, is the effect of the awkward construction of their
streets, or of the round, flat, slippery stones, over which you are
obliged to make your way on tiptoe, as over a succession of
stepping-stones, and where natural ease and steadiness are out of the
question. On the same principle, French women shew their legs (it is a
pity, for they are often handsome, and a stolen glimpse of them would
sometimes be charming) sooner than get draggle-tailed; and you see an
old French beau generally walk like a crab nearly sideways, from having
been so often stuck up in a lateral position between a coach-wheel, that
threatened the wholeness of his bones, and a stone-wall that might
endanger the cleanliness of his person. In winter, you are splashed all
over with the mud; in summer, you are knocked down with the smells. If
you pass along the middle of the street, you are hurried out of breath;
if on one side, you must pick your way no less cautiously. Paris is a
vast pile of tall and dirty alleys, of slaughter-houses and barbers’
shops—an immense suburb huddled together within the walls so close, that
you cannot see the loftiness of the buildings for the narrowness of the
streets, and where all that is fit to live in, and best worth looking
at, is turned out upon the quays, the boulevards, and their immediate
vicinity.

Paris, where you can get a sight of it, is really fine. The view from
the bridges is even more imposing and picturesque than ours, though the
bridges themselves and the river are not to compare with the Thames, or
with the bridges that cross it. The mass of public buildings and houses,
as seen from the Pont Neuf, rises around you on either hand, whether you
look up or down the river, in huge, aspiring, tortuous ridges, and
produces a solidity of impression and a fantastic confusion not easy to
reconcile. The clearness of the air, the glittering sunshine, and the
cool shadows add to the enchantment of the scene. In a bright day, it
dazzles the eye like a steel mirror. The view of London is more open and
extensive; it lies lower, and stretches out in a lengthened line of
dusky magnificence. After all, it is an ordinary town, a place of trade
and business. Paris is a splendid vision, a fabric dug out of the earth,
and hanging over it. The stately, old-fashioned shapes and jutting
angles of the houses give it the venerable appearance of antiquity,
while their texture and colour clothe it in a robe of modern splendour.
It looks like a collection of palaces, or of ruins! They have, however,
no single building that towers above and crowns the whole, like St.
Paul’s, (the Pantheon is a stiff, _unjointed_ mass to it)—nor is
_Notre-Dame_ at all to be compared to Westminster-Abbey with its Poets’
Corner, that urn full of noble English ashes, where Lord Byron was
ashamed to lie. The Chamber of Deputies (formerly the residence of the
Dukes of Bourbon) presents a brilliant frontispiece, but it is a kind of
architectural abstraction, standing apart, and unconnected with every
thing else, not burrowing, like our House of Commons (that true and
original model of a Representative Assembly House!) almost underground,
and lost among the _rabble_ of streets. The Tuileries is also a very
noble pile of buildings, if not a superb piece of architecture. It is a
little heavy and monotonous, a habitation for the bodies or for the
minds of Kings, but it goes on in a laudable jog-trot, right-lined
repetition of itself, without much worth or sense in any single part
(like the accumulation of greatness in an hereditary dynasty). At least
it ought to be finished (for the omen’s sake), to make the concatenation
of ideas inviolable and complete! The Luxembourg, the Hospital of
Invalids, the Hall of Justice, and innumerable other buildings, whether
public or private, are far superior to any of the kind we have in
London, except Whitehall, on which Inigo Jones laid his graceful hands;
or Newgate, where we English shine equally in architecture, morals, and
legislation. Our palaces (within the bills of mortality) are dog-holes,
or receptacles for superannuated Abigails, and tabbies of either
species. Windsor (whose airy heights are placed beyond them) is, indeed,
a palace for a king to inhabit, or a poet to describe, or to turn the
head of a prose-writer. (See Gray’s Ode, and the famous passage in Burke
about it.) Buonaparte’s Pillar, in the Place Vendôme, cast in bronze,
and with excellent sculptures, made of the cannon taken from the Allies
in their long march to Paris, is a fine copy of the antique. A white
flag flaps over it. I should like to write these lines at the bottom of
it. Probably, Mr. Jerdan will know where to find them.

            ‘The painful warrior, famoused for fight
              After a thousand victories once foiled,
            Is from the book of honour razed quite,
              And all the rest forgot, for which he toiled.’

The new streets and squares in this neighbourhood are also on an
improved plan—there is a double side-path to walk on, the shops are more
roomy and richer, and you can stop to look at them in safety. This is as
it should be—all we ask is common sense. Without this practical
concession on their parts, in the dispute whether Paris is not better
than London, it would seem to remain a question, whether it is better to
walk on a mall or in a gutter, whether airy space is preferable to fetid
confinement, or whether solidity and show together are not better than
mere frippery? But for a real West End, for a solid substantial _cut_
into the heart of a metropolis, commend me to the streets and squares on
each side of the top of Oxford-street—with Grosvenor and Portman squares
at one end, and Cavendish and Hanover at the other, linked together by
Bruton, South-Audley, and a hundred other fine old streets, with a broad
airy pavement, a display of comfort, of wealth, of taste, and rank all
about you, each house seeming to have been the residence of some
respectable old English family for half a century past, and with
Portland-place looking out towards Hampstead and Highgate, with their
hanging gardens and lofty terraces, and Primrose-hill nestling beneath
them, in green, pastoral luxury, the delight of the Cockney, the
aversion of Sir Walter and his merry-men! My favourite walk in Paris is
to the Gardens of the Tuileries. Paris differs from London in this
respect, that it has no suburbs. The moment you are beyond the barriers,
you are in the country to all intents and purposes. You have not to wade
through ten miles of straggling houses to get a breath of fresh air, or
a peep at nature. It is a blessing to counterbalance the inconveniences
of large cities built within walls, that they do not extend far beyond
them. The superfluous population is pared off, like the pie-crust by the
circumference of the dish—even on the court side, not a hundred yards
from the barrier of Neuilly, you see an old shepherd tending his flock,
with his dog and his crook and sheep-skin cloak, just as if it were a
hundred miles off, or a hundred years ago. It was so twenty years ago. I
went again to see if it was the same yesterday. The old man was gone;
but there was his flock by the road-side, and a dog and a boy, grinning
with white healthy teeth, like one of Murillo’s beggar-boys. It was a
bright frosty noon; and the air was, in a manner, _vitreous_, from its
clearness, its coolness, and hardness to the feeling. The road I speak
of, frequented by English jockeys and French market-women, riding
between panniers, leads down to the Bois de Boulogne on the left, a
delicious retreat, covered with copse-wood for fuel, and intersected by
greensward paths and shady alleys, running for miles in opposite
directions, and terminating in a point of inconceivable brightness. Some
of the woods on the borders of Wiltshire and Hampshire present exactly
the same appearance, with the same delightful sylvan paths through them,
and are covered in summer with hyacinths and primroses, sweetening the
air, enamelling the ground, and with nightingales loading every bough
with rich music. It was winter when I used to wander through the Bois de
Boulogne formerly, dreaming of fabled truth and good. Somehow my
thoughts and feet still take their old direction, though hailed by no
friendly greetings:—

          ‘What though the radiance which was once so bright,
          Be now for ever vanished from my sight;
          Though nothing can bring back the hour
          Of glory in the grass—of splendour in the flower:’—

yet the fever and the agony of hope is over too, ‘the burden and the
mystery;’ the past circles my head, like a golden dream; it is a fine
fragment of an unfinished poem or history; and the ‘worst,’ as
Shakspeare says, ‘returns to good!’ I cannot say I am at all annoyed (as
I expected) at seeing the Bourbon court-carriages issuing out with a
flourish of trumpets and a troop of horse. It looks like a fantoccini
procession, a State mockery. The fine moral lesson, the soul of
greatness, is wanting. The legitimate possessors of royal power seem to
be playing at _Make-Believe_; the upstarts and impostors are the true
_Simon Pures_ and genuine realities. Bonaparte mounted a throne from the
top of the pillar of Victory. People ask who Charles X. is? But to
return from this digression.

Through the arch-way of the Tuileries, at the end of the Champs Elysées,
you see the Barrier of Neuilly, like a thing of air, diminished by a
fairy perspective. The effect is exquisitely light and magical. You pass
through the arch-way, and are in the gardens themselves. Milton should
have written those lines abroad, and in this very spot—

               ‘And bring with thee retired Leisure,
               That in trim gardens takes his pleasure.’

True art is ‘nature to advantage drest;’ it is here a powdered beau. The
prodigality of littleness, the excess of ornament, the superficial
gloss, the studied neatness, are carried to a pitch of the romantic. The
Luxembourg gardens are more extensive, and command a finer view; but are
not kept in the same order, are dilapidated and desultory. This is an
enclosure of all sweet sights and smells, a concentration of elegance.
The rest of the world is barbarous to this ‘paradise of dainty devices,’
where the imagination is spell-bound. It is a perfectly-finished
miniature set in brilliants. It is a toilette for nature to dress
itself; where every flower seems a narcissus! The smooth gravel-walks,
the basin of water, the swans (they might be of wax), the golden fishes,
the beds of flowers, chine-asters, larkspur, geraniums, bright
marigolds, mignonette (‘the Frenchman’s darling’) scenting the air with
a faint luscious perfume, the rows of orange-trees in boxes, blooming
verdure and vegetable gold, the gleaming statues, the raised terraces,
the stately avenues of trees, and the gray cumbrous towers of the
Tuileries overlooking the whole, give an effect of enchantment to the
scene. This and the man in black by Titian, in the Louvre just by (whose
features form a _sombre_ pendant to the gay parterres) are the two
things in Paris I like best. I should never tire of walking in the one,
or of looking at the other. Yet no two things can be more opposite.[30]
The one is the essence of French, the other of Italian art. By following
the windings of the river in this direction, you come to Passy—a
delightful village, half-way to St. Cloud, which is situated on a rich
eminence that looks down on Paris and the Seine, and so on to
Versailles, where the English reside. I have not been to see them, nor
they me. The whole road is interspersed with villas, and lined with rows
of trees. This last is a common feature in foreign scenery. Whether from
the general love of pleasurable sensations, or from the greater warmth
of southern climates making the shelter from the heat of the sun more
necessary, or from the closeness of the cities making a promenade round
them more desirable, the approach to almost all the principal towns
abroad is indicated by shady plantations, and the neighbourhood is a
succession of groves and arbours.

The Champ de Mars (the French Runnymede) is on the opposite side of the
river, a little above the Champs Elysées. It is an oblong square piece
of ground immediately in front of the École Militaire, covered with sand
and gravel, and bare of trees or any other ornament. It is left a blank,
as it should be. In going to and returning from it, you pass the fine
old Invalid Hospital, with its immense gilded cupola and outer-walls
overgrown with vines, and meet the crippled veterans who have lost an
arm or leg, fighting the battles of the Revolution, with a bit of white
ribbon sticking in their button-holes, which must gnaw into their souls
worse than the wounds in their flesh, if Frenchmen did not alike
disregard the wounds both of their bodies and minds.

The Jardin des Plantes, situated at the other extremity of Paris, on the
same side of the river, is well worth the walk there. It is delightfully
laid out, with that mixture of art and nature, of the useful and
ornamental, in which the French excel all the world. Every plant of
every quarter of the globe is here, growing in the open air; and
labelled with its common and its scientific name on it. A prodigious
number of animals, wild and tame, are enclosed in separate divisions,
feeding on the grass or shrubs, and leading a life of learned leisure.
At least, they have as good a title to this ironical compliment as most
members of colleges and seminaries of learning; for they grow fat and
sleek on it. They have a great variety of the _simious_ tribe. Is this
necessary in France? The collection of wild beasts is not equal to our
Exeter-‘Change; nor are they confined in iron cages out of doors under
the shade of their native trees (as I was told), but shut up in a range
of very neatly-constructed and very ill-aired apartments.

I have already mentioned the Père la Chaise—the Catacombs I have not
seen, nor have I the least wish. But I have been to the top of
Mont-Martre, and intend to visit it again. The air there is truly
vivifying, and the view inspiring. Paris spreads out under your feet on
one side, ‘with glistering spires and pinnacles adorned,’ and appears to
fill the intermediate space, to the very edge of the horizon, with a sea
of hazy or sparkling magnificence. All the different striking points are
marked as on a map. London nowhere presents the same extent or integrity
of appearance. This is either because there is no place so near to
London that looks down upon it from the same elevation, or because Paris
is better calculated for a panoramic view from the loftier height and
azure tone of its buildings. Its form also approaches nearer to a
regular square. London, seen either from Highgate and Hampstead, or from
the Dulwich side, looks like a long black wreath of smoke, with the dome
of St. Paul’s floating in it. The view on the other side Mont-Martre is
also fine, and an extraordinary contrast to the Paris side—it is clear,
brown, flat, distant, completely rustic, full of ‘low farms and pelting
villages.’ You see St. Denis, where the Kings of France lie buried, and
can fancy you see Montmorenci, where Rousseau lived, whose pen was near
being as fatal to their race as the scythe of death. On this picturesque
site, which so near London would be enriched with noble mansions, there
are only a few paltry lodging-houses and tottering windmills. So little
prone are the Parisians to extricate themselves from the sty of
Epicurus; so fond of _cabinets of society_, of playing at dominoes in
the coffee-houses, and of practising the art _de briller dans les
Salons_; so fond are they of this, that even when the Allies were at
Mont-Martre, they ran back to be the first to give an imposing account
of the attack, to finish the game of the Revolution, and make the
_éloge_ of the new order of things. They shew you the place where the
affair with the Prussians happened, as—a brilliant exploit. When will
they be no longer liable to such intrusions as these, or to such a
result from them? When they get rid of that eternal smile upon their
countenances, or of that needle-and-thread face, that is twisted into
any shape by every circumstance that happens,[31] or when they can write
such lines as the following, or even understand their meaning, their
force or beauty, as a charm to purge their soil of insolent foes—theirs
only, because the common foes of man!

             ‘But let thy spiders that suck up thy venom,
             And heavy-gaited toads, lie in their way;
             Doing annoyance to the feet of them
             That with usurping steps do trample thee;
             Yield stinging-nettles to mine enemies;
             And when they from thy bosom pluck a flower,
             Guard it, I pray thee, with a lurking adder,
             Whose double tongue may, with a mortal touch,
             Throw death upon thy baffled enemies.’

No Parisian’s sides can ‘bear the beating of so strong a passion,’ as
these lines contain; nor have they it in them to ‘endure to the end for
liberty’s sake.’ They can never hope to defend the political principles
which they learnt from us, till they understand our poetry, both of
which originate in the same cause, the strength of our livers and the
stoutness of our hearts.



                               CHAPTER XI


Statuary does not affect me like painting. I am not, I allow, a fair
judge, having paid a great deal more attention to the one than to the
other. Nor did I ever think of the first as a profession; and it is that
perhaps which adds the sting to our love of excellence, the hope of
attaining it ourselves in any particular walk. We strain our faculties
to the utmost to conceive of what is most exquisite in any art to which
we devote ourselves, and are doubly sensitive to it when we see it
attained. Knowledge may often beget indifference, but here it begets
zeal. Our affections kindled and projected forward by the ardour of
pursuit, we come to the contemplation of truth and beauty with the
passionate feeling of lovers; the examples of acknowledged excellence
before us are the steps by which we scale the path of distinction, the
spur which urges us on; and the admiration which we fondly cherish for
them is the seed of future fame. No wonder that the youthful student
dwells with delight and rapture on the finished works of art, when they
are to his heated fancy the pledge and foretaste of immortality; when at
every successful stroke of imitation he is ready to cry out with
Correggio—‘I also am a painter!’—when every heightening flush of his
enthusiasm is a fresh assurance to him of congenial powers—and when
overlooking the million of failures (that all the world have forgot) or
names of inferior note, Raphael, Titian, Guido, Salvator are each
another self. Happy union of thoughts and destinies, lovelier than the
hues of the rainbow! Why can it not last and span our brief date of
life?

One reason, however, why I prefer painting to sculpture is, that
painting is more like nature. It gives one entire and satisfactory view
of an object at a particular moment of time, which sculpture never does.
It is not the same in reality, I grant; but it is the same in
appearance, which is all we are concerned with. A picture wants
solidity, a statue wants colour. But we see the want of colour as a
palpably glaring defect, and we do not see the want of solidity, the
effects of which to the spectator are supplied by light and shadow. A
picture is as perfect an imitation of nature as is conveyed by a
looking-glass; which is all that the eye can require, for it is all it
can take in for the time being. A fine picture resembles a real living
man; the finest statue in the world can only resemble a man turned to
stone. The one is an image, the other a cold abstraction of nature. It
leaves out half the visible impression. There is therefore something a
little shocking and repulsive in this art to the common eye, that
requires habit and study to reconcile us completely to it, or to make it
an object of enthusiastic devotion. It does not amalgamate kindly and at
once with our previous perceptions and associations. As to the
comparative difficulty or skill implied in the exercise of each art, I
cannot pretend to judge: but I confess it appears to me that statuary
must be the most trying to the faculties. The idea of moulding a limb
into shape, so as to be right from every point of view, fairly makes my
head turn round, and seems to me to enhance the difficulty to an
infinite degree. There is not only the extraordinary circumspection and
precision required (enough to distract the strongest mind, as I should
think), but if the chisel, working in such untractable materials, goes a
hair’s-breadth beyond the mark, there is no remedying it. It is not as
in painting, where you may make a thousand blots, and try a thousand
experiments, efface them all one after the other, and begin anew: the
hand always trembles on the brink of a precipice, and one step over is
irrecoverable. There is a story told, however, of Hogarth and
Roubilliac, which, as far as it goes, may be thought to warrant a
contrary inference. These artists differed about the difficulty of their
several arts, and agreed to decide it by exchanging the implements of
their profession with each other, and seeing which could do best without
any regular preparation. Hogarth took a piece of clay, and succeeded in
moulding a very tolerable bust of his friend; but when Roubilliac, being
furnished with paints and brushes, attempted to daub a likeness of a
human face, he could make absolutely nothing out, and was obliged to own
himself defeated. Yet Roubilliac was a man of talent, and no mean
artist. It was he who, on returning from Rome where he had studied the
works of Bernini and the antique, and on going to see his own
performances in Westminster Abbey, exclaimed, that ‘they looked like
tobacco-pipes, by G—d! ‘What sin had this man or his parents committed,
that he should forfeit the inalienable birthright of every
Frenchman—imperturbable, invincible self-sufficiency? The most pleasing
and natural application of sculpture is, perhaps, to the embellishment
of churches and the commemoration of the dead. I don’t know whether they
were Roubilliac’s or not, but I remember seeing many years ago in
Westminster Abbey (in the part that is at present shut up) two figures
of angels bending over a tomb, that affected me much in the same manner
that these lines of Lord Byron’s have done since—

              ‘And when I think that his immortal wings
              Shall one day hover o’er the sepulchre
              Of the poor child of clay that so adored him
              As he adores the highest, Death becomes
              Less terrible!’

It appears to me that sculpture, though not proper to express health or
life or motion, accords admirably with the repose of the tomb; and that
it cannot be better employed than in arresting the fleeting dust in
imperishable forms, and in embodying a lifeless shadow. Painting, on the
contrary, from what I have seen of it in Catholic countries, seems to be
out of its place on the walls of churches; it has a flat and flimsy
effect contrasted with the solidity of the building, and its rich
flaunting colours harmonize but ill with the solemnity and gloom of the
surrounding scene.

I would go a pilgrimage to see the St. Peter Martyr, or the Jacob’s
Dream by Rembrandt, or Raphael’s Cartoons, or some of Claude’s
landscapes;—but I would not go far out of my way to see the Apollo, or
the Venus, or the Laocoon. I never cared for them much; nor, till I saw
the Elgin Marbles, could I tell why, except for the reason just given,
which does not apply to these particular statues, but to statuary in
general. These are still to be found in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, with
appropriate descriptive stanzas appended to them;[32] but they are no
longer to be found in the Louvre, nor do the French seem to know they
ever were there. _Out of sight, out of mind_, is a happy motto. What is
not French, either as done by themselves, or as belonging to them, is of
course not worth thinking about. Be this as it may, the place is fairly
emptied out. Hardly a trace remains of the old Collection to remind you
of what is gone. A short list includes all of distinguished
excellence—the admirable bust of Vitellius, the fine fragment of Inopus,
a clothed statue of Augustus, the full-zoned Venus, and the Diana and
Fawn, whose light, airy grace seems to have mocked removal. A few more
are ‘thinly scattered to make up a shew,’ but the bulk, the main body of
the Grecian mythology, with the flower of their warriors and heroes,
were carried off by the Chevalier Canova on his shoulders, a load for
Hercules! The French sculptors have nothing of their own to shew for it
to fill up the gap. Like their painters, their style is either literal
and rigid, or affected and burlesque. Their merit is chiefly confined to
the academic figure and anatomical skill; if they go beyond this, and
wander into the regions of expression, beauty, or grace, they are apt to
lose themselves. The real genius of French sculpture is to be seen in
the curled wigs and swelling folds of the draperies in the statues of
the age of Louis XIV. There they shone unrivalled and alone. They are
the best man-milliners and _friseurs_ in ancient or modern Europe. That
praise cannot be denied them; but it should alarm them for their other
pretensions. I recollect an essay in the _Moniteur_ some years ago (very
playful and very well written) to prove that a great hair-dresser was a
greater character than Michael Angelo or Phidias; that his art was more
an invention, more a creation out of nothing, and less a servile copy of
any thing in nature. There was a great deal of ingenuity in the
reasoning, and I suspect more sincerity than the writer was aware of. It
expresses, I verily believe, the firm conviction of every true
Frenchman. In whatever relates to the flutter and caprice of fashion,
where there is no impulse but vanity, no limit but extravagance, no rule
but want of meaning, they are in their element, and quite at home.
Beyond that, they have no style of their own, and are a nation of
second-hand artists, poets, and philosophers. Nevertheless, they have
Voltaire, La Fontaine, Le Sage, Molière, Rabelais, and Montaigne—good
men and true, under whatever class they come. They have also Very and
Vestris. This is granted. Is it not enough? I should like to know the
thing on the face of God’s earth in which they allow other nations to
excel them. Nor need their sculptors be afraid of turning their talents
to account, while they can execute pieces of devotion for the shrines of
Saints, and classical _equivoques_ for the saloons of the old or new
_Noblesse_.

The foregoing remarks are general. I shall proceed to mention a few
exceptions to, or confirmations of them in their _Exposé_[33] of the
present year. The _Othryadas wounded_ (No. 1870), by Legendre Heral, is,
I think, the least _mannered_, and most natural. It is a huge figure,
powerful and somewhat clumsy (with the calves of the legs as if they had
gaiters on), but it has great power and repose in it. It seems as if,
without any effort, a blow from it would crush any antagonist, and
reminds one of Virgil’s combat of Dares and Entellus. The form of the
head is characteristic, and there is a fine mixture of sternness and
languor in the expression of the features. The sculptor appears to have
had an eye to the countenance of the Dying Gladiator; and the figure,
from its ease and massiness, has some resemblance to the Elgin Marbles.
It is a work of great merit. The statue of _Othryadas erecting the
Trophy to his Companions_ (No. 1774) is less impressive, and aims at
being more so. It comes under the head of _theatrical_ art, that is of
French art _proper_. They cannot long keep out of this. They cannot
resist an attitude, a significant effect. They do not consider that the
definition of Sculpture is, or ought to be, nearly like their own
celebrated one of _Death_—an eternal repose! This fault may in some
measure be found with the _Hercules recovering the body of Icarus from
the Sea_ (No. 1903), by Razzi. The body of Icarus can hardly be said to
have found a resting-place. Otherwise, the figure is finely designed,
and the face is one of considerable beauty and expression. The Hercules
is a man-mountain. From the size and arrangement of this group, it seems
more like a precipice falling on one’s head, than a piece of sculpture.
The effect is not so far pleasant. If a complaint lies against this
statue on the score of unwieldy and enormous size, it is relieved by No.
1775, _A Zephyr thwarting the loves of a Butterfly and a Rose_, Boyer.
Here French art is on its legs again, and in the true vignette style. A
Zephyr, a Butterfly, and a Rose, all in one group—Charming! In such
cases the lightness, the prettiness, the flutter, and the affectation
are extreme, and such as no one but themselves will think of rivalling.
One of their greatest and most successful attempts is the _Grâce aux
Prisonniers_. No. 1802, by David. Is it not the _Knife-grinder_ of the
ancients, thrown into a more heroic attitude, and with an impassioned
expression? However this may be, there is real boldness in the design,
and animation in the countenance, a feeling of disinterested generosity
contending with the agonies of death. I cannot give much praise to their
religious subjects in general. The French of the present day are not
bigots, but sceptics in such matters; and the cold, formal indifference
of their artists appears in their works. The _Christ confounding the
incredulity of St. Thomas_ (by Jacquot) is not calculated to produce
this effect on anybody else. They treat classical subjects much more
_con amore_; but the mixture of the Christian Faith and of Pagan
superstitions is at least as reprehensible in the present Collection as
in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Among pieces of devotion, _The Virgin and
Child_, and the _St. Catherine_ of Cortot (Nos. 1791–22) struck me as
the best. There is a certain delicacy of finishing and graceful
womanhood about both, which must make them very acceptable
accompaniments to Catholic zeal. The French excel generally in
emblematic subjects, or in whatever depends on accuracy and invention in
costume, of which there are several examples here. What I liked best,
however, were some of their studies of the naked figure, which have
great simplicity and ease, such as a _Nymph making a Garland of
Flowers_, No. 1888 (Parmentier), and a _Youth going to bathe_, No. 1831
(Espercieux). This last figure, in particular, appears to be really
sliding down into the bath. _Cupid tormenting the Soul_ (after Chaudet)
is a very clever and spirited design, in bronze. Their busts, in
general, are not excellent. There are, however, a few exceptions, one
especially of a Mademoiselle Hersilie de F——, by Gayrard, which is a
perfect representation of nature. It is an unaffected, admirable
portrait, with good humour and good sense playing over every feature of
the face.

In fine, I suspect there is nothing in the French Saloon of Sculpture
greatly to stagger or entirely to overset the opinion of those who have
a prejudice against the higher pretensions of French art. They have no
masterpieces equal to Chantry’s busts, nor to Flaxman’s learned
outlines, nor to the polished elegance of Canova; to say nothing of the
exquisite beauty and symmetry of the antique, nor of the Elgin Marbles,
among which the Theseus sits in form like a demi-god, basking on a
golden cloud. If ever there were models of the Fine Arts fitted to give
an impulse to living genius, these are they.[34] With enough to teach
the truest, highest style in art, they are not in sufficient numbers or
preservation to distract or discourage emulation. With these and Nature
for our guides, we might do something in sculpture, if we were not
indolent and unapt. The French, whatever may be their defects, cannot be
charged with want of labour and study. The only charge against them (a
heavy one, if true) is want of taste and genius.



                              CHAPTER XII


The French themselves think less about their music than any other of
their pretensions. It is almost a sore subject with them; for it
interrupts their talking, and they had rather hear nothing about it,
except as an accompaniment to a jig. Their ears are, in this respect,
_in their heels_, and it is only the light and giddy that they at all
endure. They have no idea of _cadence_ in any of the arts—of the rise
and fall of the passions—of the elevations or depressions of hope or
fear in poetry—of alternate light or shade in pictures—all is reduced
(as nearly as possible) in their minds to the level of petty, vapid
self-satisfaction, or to dry and systematic prosing for the benefit of
others. But they must be more particularly at a loss in music, which
requires the deepest feeling, and admits the least of the impertinence
of explanation, which mounts on its own raptures and is dissolved in its
own tenderness; which has no witness or vouchers but the inward sense of
delight, and rests its faith on the speechless eloquence, the rich,
circling intoxication of inarticulate but heart-felt sounds. The French
have therefore no national music, except a few meagre _chansons_, and
their only idea of musical excellence is either rapidity or loudness of
execution. You perceive the effect of this want of enthusiasm even in
the streets,—they have neither barrel-organs nor blind fiddlers as with
us, who are willing to pay for the encouragement of the arts, however
indifferently we may practise them; nor does the national spirit break
out from every strolling party or village group, as it is said to do in
Italy. A French servant-girl, while she is cleaning out a room, lays
down her brush to dance—she takes it up to finish her work, and lays it
down again to dance, impelled by the lightness of her head and of her
heels. But you seldom hear her sing at her work, and never, if there is
any one within hearing to talk to.—The French Opera is a splendid, but a
comparatively empty theatre. It is nearly as large (I should think) as
the King’s Theatre in the Hay-market, and is in a semi-circular form.
The pit (the evening I was there) was about half full of men, in their
black, dingy _sticky-looking_ dresses; and there were a few
plainly-dressed women in the boxes. But where was that blaze of beauty
and fashion, of sparkling complexions and bright eyes, that streams like
a galaxy from the boxes of our Opera-house—like a Heaven of loveliness
let half-way down upon the earth, and charming ‘the upturned eyes of
wondering mortals,’ before which the thrilling sounds that circle
through the House seem to tremble with delight and drink in new rapture
from its conscious presence, and to which the mimic Loves and Graces are
proud to pay their distant, smiling homage? Certainly it was not here;
nor do I know where the sun of beauty hides itself in France. I have
seen but three rays of it since I came, gilding a dark and pitchy cloud!
It was not so in Rousseau’s time, for these very _Loges_ were filled
with the most beautiful women of the Court, who came to see his _Devin
du Village_, and whom he heard murmuring around him in the softest
accents—‘_Tous ces sons là vont au cœur!_’ The change is, I suppose,
owing to the Revolution; but whatever it is owing to, the monks have
not, by their return, banished this conventual gloom from their
theatres; nor is there any of that airy, flaunting, florid, butterfly,
gauzy, variegated appearance to be found in them that they have with us.
These gentlemen still keep up the farce of refusing actors burial in
consecrated ground; the mob pelt them, and the critics are even with
them by going to see the representation of the Tartuffe!

I found but little at the Royal Academy of Music (as it is affectedly
called) to carry off this general dulness of effect, either through the
excellence or novelty of the performances. A Mademoiselle Noel (who
seems to be a favourite) made her _debut_ in Dido. Though there was
nothing very striking, there was nothing offensive in her representation
of the character. For any thing that appeared in her style of singing or
acting, she might be a very pleasing, modest, unaffected English girl
performing on an English stage. There was not a single trait of French
_bravura_ or grimace. Her execution, however, seldom rose higher than an
agreeable mediocrity; and with considerable taste and feeling, her
powers seemed to be limited. She produced her chief effect in the latter
and more pathetic scenes, and ascended the funeral pile with dignity and
composure. Is it not strange (if contradictions and hasty caprices taken
up at random, and laid down as laws, were strange in this centre of
taste and refinement) that the French should raise such an outcry
against our assaults at arms and executions on the stage, and yet see a
young and beautiful female prepare to give herself the fatal blow,
without manifesting the smallest repugnance or dissatisfaction?—Æneas
and Iarbas were represented by Messrs. Mourritt and Derivis. The first
was insipid, the last a perfect Stentor. He spoke or sung all through
with an unmitigated ferocity of purpose and manner, and with lungs that
seemed to have been forged expressly for the occasion. Ten bulls could
not bellow louder, nor a whole street-full of frozen-out gardeners at
Christmas. His barbarous tunic and accoutrements put one strongly in
mind of Robinson Crusoe, while the modest demeanour and painted
complexion of the pious Æneas bore a considerable analogy to the
submissive advance and rosy cheeks of that usual accompaniment of
English travelling, who ushers himself into the room at intervals, with
awkward bows, and his hat twirled round in his hands, ‘to hope you’ll
remember the coachman.’ The Æneas of the poet, however, was a shabby
fellow, and had but justice done him.

I had leisure during this _otiose_ performance to look around me, and as
‘it is my vice to spy into abuses,’ the first thing that struck me was
the prompter. Any Frenchman who has that sum at his disposal, should
give ten thousand francs a year for this situation. It must be a source
of ecstasy to him. For not an instant was he quiet—tossing his hands in
the air, darting them to the other side of the score which he held
before him in front of the stage, snapping his fingers, nodding his
head, beating time with his feet; and this not mechanically, or as if it
were a drudgery he was forced to go through, and would be glad to have
done with, but with unimpaired glee and vehemence of gesture, jerking,
twisting, fidgeting, wriggling, starting, stamping, as if the incessant
motion had fairly turned his head, and every muscle in his frame were
saturated with the spirit of quicksilver. To be in continual motion for
four hours, and to direct the motions of others by the wagging of a
finger, to be not only an object of important attention to the stage and
orchestra, but (in his own imagination) to pit, boxes, and gallery, as
the pivot on which the whole grand machinery of that grandest of all
machines, the French Opera, turns—this is indeed, for a Parisian, the
acme of felicity! Every nerve must thrill with electrical satisfaction,
and every pore into which vanity can creep tingle with self-conceit! Not
far from this restless automaton (as if extremes met, or the volatility
of youth subsided into a sort of superannuated still-life) sat an old
gentleman in front of the pit, with his back to me, a white powdered
head, the curls sticking out behind, and a coat of the finest black.
This was all I saw of him for some time—he did not once turn his head or
shift his position, any more than a wig and coat stuck upon a barber’s
block—till I suddenly missed him, and soon after saw him seated on the
opposite side of the house, his face as yellow and hard as a piece of
mahogany, but without expressing either pleasure or pain. Neither the
fiddlers’ elbows nor the dancers’ legs moved him one jot. His fiddling
fancies and his dancing-days were flown, and had left this shadow, this
profile, this mummy of a French gentleman of the old _régime_ behind. A
Frenchman has no object in life but to talk and move with _éclat_, and
when he ceases to do either, he has no heart to do any thing. Deprived
of his vivacity, his thoughtlessness, his animal spirits, he becomes a
piece of costume, a finely-powdered wig, an embroidered coat, a pair of
shoe-buckles, a gold cane, or a snuff-box. Drained of mere sensations
and of their youthful blood, the old fellows seem like the ghosts of the
young ones, and have none of their overweening offensiveness, or teasing
officiousness. I can hardly conceive of a young French _gentleman_, nor
of an old one who is otherwise. The latter come up to my _ideal_ of this
character, cut, as it were, out of pasteboard, moved on springs,
amenable to forms, crimped and starched like a cravat, without a single
tart ebullition, or voluntary motion. Some of them may be seen at
present gliding along the walks of the Tuileries, and the sight of them
is good for sore eyes. They are also thinly sprinkled through the
play-house; for the drama and the _belles-lettres_ were in their time
the amusement and the privilege of the Court, and the contrast of their
powdered heads and pale faces makes the rest of the audience appear like
a set of greasy, impudent mechanics. A Frenchman is nothing without
powder, an Englishman is nothing with it. The character of the one is
artificial, that of the other natural. The women of France do not submit
to the regular approaches and the sober discipline of age so well as the
men. I had rather be in company with an old French gentleman than a
young one; I prefer a young Frenchwoman to an old one. They aggravate
the encroachments of age by contending with them, and instead of
displaying the natural graces and venerable marks of that period of
life, paint and patch their wrinkled faces, and _toupee_ and curl their
grizzled locks, till they look like Friesland hens, and are a caricature
and burlesque of themselves. The old women in France that figure at the
theatre or elsewhere, have very much the appearance of having kept a
tavern or a booth at a fair, or of having been mistresses of a place of
another description, for the greater part of their lives. A _mannish_
hardened look and character survives the wreck of beauty and of female
delicacy.

Of all things that I see here, it surprises me the most that the French
should fancy they can dance. To dance is to move with grace and harmony
to music. But the French, whether men or women, have no idea of dancing
but that of moving with agility, and of distorting their limbs in every
possible way, till they really alter the structure of the human form. By
grace I understand the natural movements of the human body, heightened
into dignity or softened into ease, each posture or step blending
harmoniously into the rest. There is grace in the waving of the branch
of a tree or in the bounding of a stag, because there is freedom and
unity of motion. But the French Opera-dancers think it graceful to stand
on one leg or on the points of their toes, or with one leg stretched out
behind them, as if they were going to be shod, or to raise one foot at
right angles with their bodies, and twirl themselves round like a
_te-totum_, to see how long they can spin, and then stop short all of a
sudden; or to skim along the ground, flat-footed, like a spider running
along a cobweb, or to pop up and down like a pea on a tobacco-pipe, or
to stick in their backs till another part projects out behind _comme des
volails_, and to strut about like peacocks with infirm, vain-glorious
steps, or to turn out their toes till their feet resemble apes, or to
raise one foot above their heads, and turn swiftly round upon the other,
till the petticoats of the female dancers (for I have been thinking of
them) rise above their garters, and display a pair of spindle-shanks,
like the wooden ones of a wax-doll, just as shapeless and as tempting.
There is neither voluptuousness nor grace in a single attitude or
movement, but a very studious and successful attempt to shew in what a
number of uneasy and difficult positions the human body can be put with
the greatest rapidity of evolution. It is not that they do all this with
much more to redeem it, but they do all this, and do nothing else. It
would be very well as an exhibition of tumbler’s tricks, or as
rope-dancing (which are only meant to surprise), but it is bad as
Opera-dancing, if opera-dancing aspires to be one of the Fine Arts, or
even a handmaid to them; that is, to combine with mechanical dexterity a
sense of the beautiful in form and motion, and a certain analogy to
sentiment. ‘The common people,’ says the Author of _Waverley_, ‘always
prefer exertion and agility to grace.’ Is that the case also with the
most refined people upon earth? These antics and vagaries, this kicking
of heels and shaking of feet as if they would come off, might be
excusable in the men, for they shew a certain strength and muscular
activity; but in the female dancers they are unpardonable. What is said
of poetry might be applied to the sex. _Non sat[is] est pulchra poemata
esse, dulcia sunto._ So women who appear in public, should be soft and
lovely as well as skilful and active, or they ought not to appear at
all. They owe it to themselves and others. As to some of the ridiculous
extravagances of this theatre, such as turning out their toes and
holding back their shoulders, one would have thought the Greek statues
might have taught their scientific professors better—if French artists
did not see every thing with French eyes, and lament all that differs
from their established practice as a departure from the line of beauty.
They are sorry that the Venus does not hold up her head like a
boarding-school miss—

                  ‘And would ask the Apollo to dance!’

In three months’ practice, and with proper tuition, Greek forms would be
French, and they would be perfect!—Mademoiselles Fanny and Noblet, I
kiss your hands; but I have no pardon to beg of Madame Le Gallois, for
she looked like a lady (very tightly laced) in the ballet, and played
like a heroine in the pantomime part of _La Folle par Amour_. There was
a violent start at the first indication of her madness, that alarmed me
a little, but all that followed was natural, modest, and affecting in a
high degree. The French turn their Opera-stage into a mad-house; they
turn their mad-houses (at least they have one constructed on this
principle) into theatres of gaiety, where they rehearse ballets, operas,
and plays. If dancing were an antidote to madness, one would think the
French would be always in their right senses.

I was told I ought to see _Nina, or La Folle par Amour_ at the Salle
Louvois, or Italian Theatre. If I went for that purpose, it would be
rather with a wish than from any hope of seeing it better done. I went
however.

               ‘Oh for a beaker full of the warm South!’

It was to see the _Gazza Ladra_. The house was full, the evening sultry,
a hurry and bustle in the lobbies, an eagerness in the looks of the
assembled crowd. The audience seemed to be in earnest, and to have
imbibed an interest from the place. On the stage there were rich dresses
and voices, the tones of passion, ease, nature, animation; in short, the
scene had a soul in it. One wondered how one was in Paris, with their
pasteboard maps of the passions, and thin-skinned, dry-lipped humour.
Signora Mombelli played the humble, but interesting heroine charmingly,
with truth, simplicity, and feeling. Her voice is neither rich nor
sweet, but it is clear as a bell. Signor Pellegrini played the
intriguing Magistrate, with a solemnity and farcical drollery, that I
would not swear is much inferior to Liston. But I swear, that Brunet
(whom I saw the other night, and had seen before without knowing it) is
not equal to Liston. Yet he is a feeble, quaint diminutive of that
original. He squeaks and gibbers oddly enough at the _Théâtre des
Variétés_, like a mouse in the hollow of a musty cheese, his small eyes
peering out, and his sharp teeth nibbling at the remains of some faded
joke. The French people of quality go to the Italian Opera, but they do
not attend to it. The _tabbies_ of the Court are tabbies still; and took
no notice of what was passing on the stage on this occasion, till the
tolling of the bell made a louder and more disagreeable noise than
themselves; this they seemed to like. They behave well at their own
theatres, but it would be a breach of etiquette to do so anywhere else.
A girl in the gallery (an Italian by her complexion, and from her
interest in the part) was crying bitterly at the story of the _Maid and
the Magpie_, while three Frenchmen, in the _Troisième Loge_, were
laughing at her the whole time. I said to one of them, ‘It was not a
thing to laugh at, but to admire.’ He turned away, as if the remark did
not come within his notions of sentiment. This did not stagger me in my
theory of the French character; and when one is possessed of nothing but
a theory, one is glad, not sorry to keep it, though at the expense of
others.[35]



                              CHAPTER XIII


We left Paris in the Diligence, and arrived at Fontainbleau the first
night. The accommodations at the inn were indifferent, and not cheap.
The palace is a low straggling mass of very old buildings, having been
erected by St. Louis in the 12th century, whence he used to date his
Rescripts, ‘From my Deserts of Fontainbleau!’ It puts one in mind of
Monkish legends, of faded splendour, of the leaden spouts and uncouth
stone-cherubim of a country church-yard. It is empty or gaudy within,
stiff and heavy without. Henry IV. figures on the walls with the fair
Gabrielle, like the Tutelary Satyr of the place, keeping up the
remembrance of old-fashioned royalty and gallantry. They here shew you
the table (a plain round piece of mahogany) on which Buonaparte in 1814
signed _the abdication of the human race, in favour of the hereditary
proprietors of the species_. We walked forward a mile or two before the
coach the next day on the road to Montargis. It presents a long, broad,
and stately avenue without a turning, as far as the eye can reach, and
is skirted on each side by a wild, woody, rocky scenery. The
birch-trees, with their grey stems and light glittering branches,
silvered over the darker back-ground, and afforded a striking contrast
to the brown earth and green moss beneath. There was a stillness in the
woods, which affects the mind the more in objects whose very motion is
gentleness. The day was dull, but quite mild, though in the middle of
January. The situation of Fontainbleau is certainly interesting and
fine. It stands in the midst of an extensive forest, intersected with
craggy precipices and rugged ranges of hills; and the various roads
leading to or from it are cut out of a wilderness, which a hermit might
inhabit. The approach to the different towns in France has, in this
respect, the advantage over ours; for, from burning wood instead of
coal, they must have large woods in the neighbourhood, which clothe the
country round them, and afford, as Pope expresses it,

                   ‘In summer shade, in winter fire.’

We dig our fuel out of the bowels of the earth, and have a greater
portion of its surface left at our disposal, which we devote not to
ornament, but use. A copse-wood or an avenue of trees however, makes a
greater addition to the beauty of a town than a coal-pit or a
steam-engine in its vicinity.

When the Diligence came up, and we took our seats in the _coupé_ (which
is that part of a French stage-coach which resembles an old shattered
post-chaise, placed in front of the main body of it) we found a French
lady occupying the third place in it, whose delight at our entrance was
as great as if we had joined her on some desert island, and whose
mortification was distressing when she learnt we were not going the
whole way with her. She complained of the cold of the night air; but
this she seemed to dread less than the want of company. She said she had
been deceived, for she had been told the coach was full, and was in
despair that she should not have a soul to speak to all the way to
Lyons. We got out, notwithstanding, at the inn at Montargis, where we
met with a very tolerable reception, and were waited on at supper by one
of those Maritorneses that perfectly astonish an English traveller. Her
joy at our arrival was as extreme as if her whole fortune depended on
it. She laughed, danced, sung, fairly sprung into the air, bounced into
the room, nearly overset the table, hallooed and talked as loud as if
she had been alternately ostler and chamber-maid. She was as rough and
boisterous as any country bumpkin at a wake or statute-fair; and yet so
full of rude health and animal spirits, that you were pleased instead of
being offended. In England, a girl with such boorish manners would not
be borne; but her good-humour kept pace with her coarseness, and she was
as incapable of giving as of feeling pain. There is something in the air
in France that carries off the _blue devils_!

The mistress of the inn, however, was a little peaking, pining woman,
with her face wrapped up in flannel, and not quite so inaccessible to
nervous impressions; and when I asked the girl, ‘What made her speak so
loud?’ she answered for her, ‘To make people deaf!’ This side-reproof
did not in the least moderate the brazen tones of her help-mate, but
rather gave a new fillip to her spirits; though she was less on the
alert than the night before, and appeared to the full as much bent on
arranging her curls in the looking-glass when she came into the room, as
on arranging the breakfast things on the tea-board.

We staid here till one o’clock on Sunday (the 16th,) waiting the arrival
of the Lyonnais, in which we had taken our places forward, and which I
thought would never arrive. Let no man trust to a placard stuck on the
walls of Paris, advertising the cheapest and most expeditious mode of
conveyance to all parts of the world. It may be no better than a snare
to the unwary. The Lyonnais, I thought from the advertisement, was the
_Swift-sure_ of Diligences. It was to arrive ten hours before any other
Diligence; it was the most compact, the most elegant of modern vehicles.
From the description and the print of it, it seemed ‘a thing of life,’ a
minion of the fancy. To see it stand in a state of disencumbered
abstraction, it appeared a self-impelling machine; or if it needed aid,
was horsed, unlike your Paris Diligences, by nimble, airy Pegasuses. To
look at the _fac-simile_ of it that was put into your hand, you would
say it might run or fly—might traverse the earth, or whirl you through
the air, without let or impediment, so light was it to outward
appearance in structure ‘fit for speed succinct’—a chariot for _Puck_ or
_Ariel_ to ride in! This was the account I had (or something like it)
from Messieurs the Proprietors at the _Cour des Fontaines_. ‘Mark how a
plain tale shall put them down.’ Those gentlemen came to me after I had
paid for two places as far as Nevers, to ask me to resign them in favour
of two Englishmen, who wished to go the whole way, and to re-engage them
for the following evening. I said I could not do that; but as I had a
dislike to travelling at night, I would go on to Montargis by some other
conveyance, and proceed by the Lyonnais, which would arrive there at
eight or nine on Sunday morning, as far as I could that night. I set out
on the faith of this understanding. I had some difficulty in finding the
Office _sur la place_, to which I had been directed, and which was
something between a stable, a kitchen, and a cook-shop. I was led to it
by a shabby _double_ or counterpart of the Lyonnais, which stood before
the door, empty, dirty, bare of luggage, waiting the Paris one, which
had not yet arrived. It drove into town four hours afterwards, with
three foundered _hacks_, with the postilion and _Conducteur_ for its
complement of passengers, the last occupying the left hand corner of the
_coupé_ in solitary state, with a whisp of straw thrust through a broken
pane of one of the front windows, and a tassel of blue and yellow fringe
hanging out of the other; and with that mixture of despondency and
_fierté_ in his face, which long and uninterrupted pondering on the
state of the way-bill naturally produces in such circumstances. He
seized upon me and my trunks as lawful prize; he afterwards insisted on
my going forward in the middle of the night to Lyons, (contrary to my
agreement,) and I was obliged to comply, or to sleep upon trusses of
straw in a kind of out-house. We quarrelled incessantly, but I could not
help laughing, for he sometimes looked like my old acquaintance, Dr. S.,
and sometimes like my friend, A—— H——, of Edinburgh. He said we should
reach Lyons the next evening, and we got there twenty-four hours after
the time. He told me for my comfort, the reason of his being so late
was, that two of his horses had fallen down dead on the road. He had to
raise relays of horses all the way, as if we were travelling through a
hostile country; quarrelled with all the postilions about an abatement
of a few sous; and once our horses were arrested in the middle of the
night by a farmer who refused to trust him; and he had to go before the
Mayor, as soon as day broke. We were quizzed by the post-boys, the
innkeepers, the peasants all along the road, as a shabby concern; our
_Conducteur_ bore it all, like another _Candide_. We stopped at all the
worst inns in the outskirts of the towns, where nothing was ready; or
when it was, was not eatable. The second morning we were to breakfast at
Moulins; when we alighted, our guide told us it was eleven: the clock in
the kitchen pointed to three. As he laughed in my face when I complained
of his misleading me, I told him that he was ‘_un impudent_,’ and this
epithet sobered him the rest of the way. As we left Moulins, the crimson
clouds of evening streaked the west, and I had time to think of Sterne’s
_Maria_. The people at the inn, I suspect, had never heard of her. There
was no trace of romance about the house. Certainly, mine was not a
Sentimental Journey. Is it not provoking to come to a place, that has
been consecrated by ‘famous poet’s pen,’ as a breath, a name, a
fairy-scene, and find it a dull, dirty town? Let us leave the realities
to shift for themselves, and think only of those bright tracts that have
been reclaimed for us by the fancy, where the perfume, the sound, the
vision, and the joy still linger, like the soft light of evening skies!
Is the story of Maria the worse, because I am travelling a dirty road in
a rascally Diligence? Or is it an injury done us by the author to have
invented for us what we should not have met with in reality? Has it not
been read with pleasure by thousands of readers, though the people at
the inn had never heard of it? Yet Sterne would have been vexed to find
that the fame of his Maria had never reached the little town of Moulins.
We are always dissatisfied with the good we have, and always punished
for our unreasonableness.

At Palisseau (the road is rich in melodramatic recollections) it became
pitch-dark; you could not see your hand; I entreated to have the lamp
lighted; our _Conducteur_ said it was broken (_cassé_). With much
persuasion, and the ordering a bottle of their best wine, which went
round among the people at the inn, we got a lantern with a rushlight in
it, but the wind soon blew it out, and we went on our way darkling; the
road lay over a high hill, with a loose muddy bottom between two hedges,
and as we did not attempt to trot or gallop, we came safe to the level
ground on the other side. We breakfasted at Rouane, where we were first
shewn into the kitchen, while they were heating a suffocating stove in a
squalid _salle à manger_. There, while I was sitting half dead with cold
and fatigue, a boy came and scraped a wooden dresser close at my ear,
with a noise to split one’s brain, and with true French _nonchalance_;
and a portly landlady, who had risen just as we had done breakfasting,
ushered us to our carriage with the airs and graces of a Madame
Maintenon. In France you meet with the court address in a stable-yard.
In other countries you may find grace in a cottage or a wilderness; but
it is simple, unconscious grace, without the full-blown pride and strut
of _mannered_ confidence and presumption. A woman in France is graceful
by going out of her sphere; not by keeping within it.—In crossing the
bridge at Rouane, the sun shone brightly on the river and shipping,
which had a busy cheerful aspect; and we began to ascend the Bourbonnois
under more flattering auspices. We got out and walked slowly up the
sounding road. I found that the morning air refreshed and braced my
spirits; and that even the continued fatigue of the journey, which I had
dreaded as a hazardous experiment, was a kind of seasoning to me. I was
less exhausted than the first day. I will venture to say, that for an
invalid, sitting up all night is better than lying in bed all day.
Hardships, however dreadful to nervous apprehensions, by degrees give us
strength and resolution to endure them: whereas effeminacy softens and
renders us less and less capable of encountering pain or difficulty. It
is the love of indulgence, or the shock of the first privation or
effort, that confirms almost all the weaknesses of body or mind. As we
loitered up the long, winding ascent of the road from Rouane, we
occasionally approached the brink of some Alpine declivity tufted with
pine trees, and noticed the white villas, clustering [or] scattered,
which in all directions spotted the very summits of that vast and
gradual amphitheatre of hills which overlooked the neighbouring town.
The Bourbonnois is the first large chain of hills piled one upon
another, and extending range beyond range, that you come to on the route
to Italy, and that occupy a wide-spread district, like a mighty
conqueror, with uniform and growing magnificence. To those who have
chiefly seen detached mountains or abrupt precipices rising from the
level surface of the ground, the effect is exceedingly imposing and
grand. The descent on the other side into Tarare is more sudden and
dangerous; and you avoid passing over the top of the mountain (along
which the road formerly ran) by one of those fine, broad,
firmly-cemented roads with galleries and bridges, which bespeak at once
the master-hand that raised them. Tarare is a neat little town, famous
for the manufacture of serges and calicoes. We had to stop here for
three-quarters of an hour, waiting for fresh horses; and as we sat in
the _coupé_ in this helpless state, the horses taken out, the sun
shining in, and the wind piercing through every cranny of the broken
panes and rattling sash-windows, the postilion came up and demanded to
know if we were English, as there were two English gentlemen who would
be glad to see us. I excused myself from getting out, but said I should
be happy to speak to them. Accordingly, my informant beckoned to a young
man in black, who was standing at a little distance in a state of
anxious expectation, and who coming to the coach-door said, he presumed
we were from London, and that he had taken the liberty to pay his
respects to us. His friend, he said, who was staying with him, was ill
in bed, or he would have done himself the same pleasure. He had on a
pair of wooden clogs, turned up and pointed at the toes in the manner of
the country (which he recommended to me as useful for climbing the hills
if ever I should come into those parts) warm worsted mittens, and had a
thin, genteel, shivering aspect. I expected every moment he would tell
me his name or business; but all I learnt was that he and his friend had
been here some time, and that they could not get away till spring, that
there were no entertainments, that trade was flat, and that the French
seemed to him a very different people from the English. The fact is, he
found himself quite at a loss in a French country-town, and had no other
resource or way of amusing himself, than by looking out for the
Diligences as they passed, and trying to hear news from England. He
stood at his own door, and waved his hand with a melancholy air as we
rode by, and no doubt instantly went up stairs to communicate to his
sick friend, that he had conversed with two English people.

Our delay at Tarare had deprived us of nearly an hour of daylight; and,
besides, the miserable foundered jades of horses, that we had to get on
with in this paragon of Diligences, were quite unequal to the task of
dragging it up and down the hills on the road to Lyons, which was still
twenty miles distant. The night was dark, and we had no light. I found
it was quite hopeless when we should reach our journey’s end (if we did
not break our necks by the way) and that both were matters of very great
indifference to Mons. _le Conducteur_, who was only bent on saving the
pockets of Messieurs his employers, and who had no wish, like me, to see
the Vatican! He affected to make bargains for horses, which always
failed and added to our delay; and lighted his lantern once or twice,
but it always went out. At last I said that I had intended to give him a
certain sum for himself, but that if we did not arrive in Lyons by ten
o’clock at night, he might depend upon it I would not give him a single
farthing. This had the desired effect. He got out at the next village we
came to, and three stout horses were fastened to the harness. He also
procured a large piece of candle (with a reserve of another piece of
equal length and thickness in his lantern) and held it in his hand the
whole way, only shifting it from one hand to the other, as he grew
tired, and biting his lips and making wry faces at this new office of a
_candelabrum_, which had been thrust upon him much against his will. I
was not sorry, for he was one of the most disagreeable Frenchmen I ever
met with, having all the indifference and self-sufficiency of his
countrymen with none of their usual obligingness. He seemed to me a
person out of his place (a thing you rarely discover in France)—a
broken-down tradesman, or ‘one that had had misfortunes,’ and who
neither liked nor was fit for his present situation of _Conducteur_ to a
Diligence without funds, without horses, and without passengers. We
arrived in safety at Lyons at eleven o’clock at night, and were
conducted to the _Hotel des Couriers_, where we, with some difficulty,
procured a lodging and a supper, and were attended by a brown, greasy,
dark-haired, good-humoured, awkward gypsey of a wench from the south of
France, who seemed just caught; stared and laughed, and forgot every
thing she went for; could not help exclaiming every moment—‘_Que Madame
a le peau blanc!_’ from the contrast to her own dingy complexion and
dirty skin, took a large brass-pan of scalding milk, came and sat down
by me on a bundle of wood, and drank it; said she had had no supper, for
her head ached, and declared the English were _braves gens_, and that
the Bourbons were _bons enfans_, started up to look through the
key-hole, and whispered through her broad strong-set teeth, that a fine
Madam was descending the staircase, who had been to dine with a great
gentleman, offered to take away the supper things, left them, and called
us the next morning with her head and senses in a state of even greater
confusion than they were over-night. The familiarity of common servants
in France surprises the English at first; but it has nothing offensive
in it, any more than the good natured gambols and freedoms of a
Newfoundland dog. It is quite natural.

Lyons is a fine, dirty town. The streets are good, but so high and
narrow, that they look like sinks of filth and gloom. The shops are mere
dungeons. Yet two noble rivers water the city, the Rhone and the
Saone—the one broad and majestic, the other more confined and impetuous
in its course, and join a little below the town to pour their friendly
streams into the Mediterranean. The square is spacious and handsome, and
the heights of St. Just, that overlook it, command a fine view of the
town, the bridges, both rivers, the hills of Provence, the road to
Chambery, and the Alps, with their snowy tops propping the clouds. The
sight of them effectually deterred me from attempting to go by Geneva
and the Simplon; and we were contented (for this time) with the humbler
passage of Mount Cenis. Here is the _Hotel de Notre Dâme de Piété_,
which is shewn you as the inn where Rousseau stopped on his way to
Paris, when he went to overturn the French Monarchy by the force of
style. I thought of him, as we came down the mountain of Tarare, in his
gold-laced hat, and with his _jet d’eau_ playing. If they could but have
known who was coming, how many battalions would have been sent out to
meet him; what a ringing of alarm-bells, what a beating of drums, what
raising of drawbridges, what barring of gates, what examination of
passports, what processions of priests, what meetings of magistrates,
what confusion in the towns, what a panic through the country, what
telegraphic despatches to the Court of Versailles, what couriers posting
to all parts of Europe, what manifestoes from armies, what a hubbub of
Holy Alliances, and all for what? To prevent one man from speaking what
he and every other man felt, and whose only fault was that the beatings
of the human heart had found an echo in his pen! At Lyons I saw this
inscription over a door: _Ici on trouve le seul et unique depôt de
l’encre sans pareil et incorruptible_—which appeared to me to contain
the whole secret of French poetry. I went into a shop to buy M.
Martine’s _Death of Socrates_, which I saw in the window, but they would
neither let me have that copy nor get me another. The French are not ‘a
nation of shopkeepers.’ They had quite as lieve see you walk out of
their shops as come into them. While I was waiting for an answer, a
French servant in livery brought in four volumes of the _History of a
Foundling_, an improved translation, in which it was said the _morceaux_
omitted by M. de la Place were restored. I was pleased to see my old
acquaintance Tom Jones, with his French coat on. The poetry of M.
Alphonse Martine and of M. Casimir de la Vigne circulates in the
provinces and in Italy, through the merit of the authors and the favour
of the critics. L. H. tells me that the latter is a great Bonapartist,
and talks of ‘the tombs of the brave.’ He said I might form some idea of
M. Martine’s attempts to be great and _unfrenchified_ by the
frontispiece to one of his poems, in which a young gentleman in an
heroic attitude is pointing to the sea in a storm, with his other hand
round a pretty girl’s waist. I told H. this poet had lately married a
lady of fortune. He said, ‘That’s the girl.’ He also said very well, I
thought, that ‘the French seemed born to puzzle the Germans.’ Why are
there not salt-spoons in France? In England it is a piece of barbarism
to put your knife into a salt-cellar with another. But in France the
distinction between grossness and refinement is done away. Every thing
there is refined!



                              CHAPTER XIV


There was a Diligence next day for Turin over Mount Cenis, which went
only twice a week (stopping at night) and I was glad to secure (as I
thought) two places in the interior at seventy francs a seat, for 240
miles. The fare from Paris to Lyons, a distance of 360 miles, was only
fifty francs each, which is four times as cheap; but the difference was
accounted for to me, from there being no other conveyance, which was an
arbitrary reason, and from the number and expense of horses necessary to
drag a heavy double coach over mountainous roads. Besides, it was a
Royal Messagerie, and I was given to understand that Messrs. Bonnafoux
paid the King of Sardinia a thousand crowns a year for permission to run
a Diligence through his territories. The knave of a waiter (I found) had
cheated me; and that from Chambery there was only one place in the
interior and one in the _coupé_, which turned out to be a cabriolet, a
place in front with a leathern apron and curtains, which in winter time,
and in travelling over snowy mountains and through icy valleys, was not
a situation ‘devoutly to be wished.’ I had no other resource, however,
having paid my four pounds in advance at the over-pressing instances of
the _Garçon_, but to call him a _coquin_, (which being a Milanese was
not quite safe) to throw out broad hints (_à l’Anglais_) of a collusion
between him and the Office, and to arrange as well as I could with the
_Conducteur_, that I and my fellow-traveller should not be separated. I
would advise all English people travelling abroad to take their own
places at coach-offices, and not to trust to waiters, who will make a
point of tricking them, both as a principle and pastime; and further to
procure letters of recommendation (in case of disagreeable accidents on
the road) for it was a knowledge of this kind, namely, that I had a
letter of introduction to one of the Professors of the College at Lyons,
that procured me even the trifling concession above-mentioned, through
the influence which the landlady of the Hotel had with the _Conducteur_:
otherwise, instead of being stuck in the cabriolet, I might have mounted
on the imperial, and any signs of vexation or impatience I might have
exhibited, would have been construed into ebullitions of the national
character, and a want of _bienseance_ in Monsieur l’Anglois. The French,
and foreigners in general, (as far as I have seen) are civil, polite,
easy-tempered, obliging; but the art of keeping up plausible appearances
stands them in lieu of downright honesty. They think they have a right
to cheat you if they can (a compliment, a civil bow, a shrug, is worth
the money!) and the instant you find out the imposition or begin to
complain, they turn away from you as a disagreeable or wrong-headed
person, and you can get no redress but by main force. It is not the
original transgressor, but he who declares he is aggrieved, that is
considered as guilty of a breach of good manners, and a disturber of the
social compact. I think one is more irritated at the frequent
impositions that are practised on one abroad, because the novelty of the
scene, one’s ignorance of the ways of the world, and the momentary
excitement of the spirits and of the flush of hope, have a tendency to
renew in one’s mind the unsuspecting simplicity and credulity of youth;
and the petty tricks and shuffling behaviour we meet with on the road
are a greater baulk to our warm, sanguine, buoyant, travelling impulses.

Annoyed at the unfair way in which we had been treated, and at the idea
of being left to the mercy of the _Conducteur_, whose ‘honest, sonsie,
bawsont face’ had, however, no more of the fox in it than implied an eye
to his own interest, and might be turned to our own advantage, we took
our seats numerically in the Royal Diligence of Italy, at seven in the
evening (January 20) and for some time suffered the extreme penalties of
a French stage-coach—not indeed ‘the icy fang and season’s difference,’
but a very purgatory of heat, closeness, confinement, and bad smells.
Nothing can surpass it but the section of a slave-ship, or the
Black-hole of Calcutta. Mr. Theodore Hook or Mr. Croker should take an
airing in this way on the Continent, in order to give them a notion of,
and I should think, a distaste for the blessings of the Middle Passage.
Not only were the six places in the interior all taken, and all full,
but they had suspended a wicker basket (like a hen-coop) from the top of
the coach, stuffed with fur-caps, hats, overalls, and different parcels,
so as to make it impossible to move one way or other, and to stop every
remaining breath of air. A _negociant_ at my right-hand corner, who was
inclined to piece out a lengthened recital with a _parce que_ and a _de
sorte que_ at every word, having got upon ticklish ground, without
seeing his audience, was cut short in the flower of his oratory, by
asserting that Barcelona and St. Sebastian’s in Spain were contiguous to
each other. ‘They were at opposite sides of the country,’ exclaimed in
the same breath a French soldier and a Spaniard, who sat on the other
side of the coach, and whom he was regaling with the gallant adventures
of a friend of his in the Peninsula, and not finding the usual
excuse—‘_C’est égal_‘—applicable to a blunder in geography, was
contented to fall into the rear of the discourse for the rest of the
journey. At midnight we found that we had gone only nine miles in five
hours, as we had been climbing a gradual ascent from the time we set
out, which was our first essay in mountain-scenery, and gave us some
idea of the scale of the country we were beginning to traverse. The heat
became less insupportable as the noise and darkness subsided; and as the
morning dawned, we were anxious to remove that veil of uncertainty and
prejudice which the obscurity of night throws over a number of
passengers whom accident has huddled together in a stage-coach. I think
one seldom finds one’s-self set down in a party of this kind without a
strong feeling of repugnance and distaste, and one seldom quits it at
last without some degree of regret. It was the case in the present
instance. At day-break, the pleasant farms, the thatched cottages, and
sloping valleys of Savoy attracted our notice, and I was struck with the
resemblance to England (to some parts of Devonshire and Somersetshire in
particular) a discovery which I imparted to my fellow-travellers with a
more lively enthusiasm than it was received. An Englishman thinks he has
only to communicate his feelings to others to meet with sympathy, and is
not a little disconcerted if (after this amazing act of condescension)
he is at all repulsed. How should we laugh at a Frenchman who expected
us to be delighted with his finding out a likeness of some part of
England to France? We English are a nation of egotists, say what we
will; and so much so, that we expect others to swallow the bait of our
self-love.

At Pont Beau-Voisin, the frontier town of the King of Sardinia’s
dominions, we stopped to breakfast, and to have our passports and
luggage examined at the Barrier and Custom-house. I breakfasted with the
Spaniard, who invited himself to our tea-party, and complimented Madame
(in broken English) on the excellence of her performance. We agreed
between ourselves that the Spaniards and English were very much superior
to the French. I found he had a taste for the Fine Arts, and I spoke of
Murillo and Velasquez as two excellent Spanish painters. ‘Here was
sympathy.’ I also spoke of Don Quixote—‘Here was more sympathy.’ What a
thing it is to have produced a work that makes friends of all the world
that have read it, and that all the world have read! Mention but Don
Quixote, and who is there that does not own him for a friend,
countryman, and brother? There is no French work, at the name of which
(as at a talisman) the scales of national prejudice so completely fall
off; nay more, I must confess there is no English one. We were summoned
from our tea and patriotic effusions to attend the _Douane_. It was
striking to have to pass and repass the piquets of soldiers stationed as
a guard on bridges across narrow mountain-streams that a child might
leap over. After some slight dalliance with our great-coat pockets, and
significant gestures as if we might or might not have things of value
about us that we should not, we proceeded to the Custom-house. I had two
trunks. One contained books. When it was unlocked, it was as if the lid
of Pandora’s box flew open. There could not have been a more sudden
start or expression of surprise, had it been filled with cartridge-paper
or gun-powder. Books were the corrosive sublimate that eat out despotism
and priestcraft—the artillery that battered down castle and
dungeon-walls—the ferrets that ferreted out abuses—the lynx-eyed
guardians that tore off disguises—the scales that weighed right and
wrong—the thumping make-weight thrown into the balance that made force
and fraud, the sword and the cowl, kick the beam—the dread of knaves,
the scoff of fools—the balm and the consolation of the human mind—the
salt of the earth—the future rulers of the world! A box full of them was
a contempt of the constituted Authorities; and the names of mine were
taken down with great care and secrecy—Lord Bacon’s ‘Advancement of
Learning,’ Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost,’ De Stutt-Tracey’s ‘Ideologie,’
(which Bonaparte said ruined his Russian expedition,) Mignet’s ‘French
Revolution,’ (which wants a chapter on the English Government,) ‘Sayings
and Doings,’ with pencil notes in the margin, ‘Irving’s Orations,’ the
same, an ‘Edinburgh Review,’ some ‘Morning Chronicles,’ ‘The Literary
Examiner,’ a collection of Poetry, a Volume bound in crimson velvet, and
the Paris edition of ‘Table-talk.’ Here was some questionable matter
enough—but no notice was taken. My box was afterwards corded and
_leaded_ with equal gravity and politeness, and it was not till I
arrived at Turin that I found it was a prisoner of state, and would be
forwarded to me anywhere I chose to mention, out of his Sardinian
Majesty’s dominions. I was startled to find myself within the smooth
polished grasp of legitimate power, without suspecting it; and was glad
to recover my trunk at Florence, with no other inconvenience than the
expense of its carriage across the country.[36]

It was noon as we returned to the inn, and we first caught a full view
of the Alps over a plashy meadow, some feathery trees, and the tops of
the houses of the village in which we were. It was a magnificent sight,
and in truth a new sensation. Their summits were bright with snow and
with the midday sun; they did not seem to stand upon the earth, but to
prop the sky; they were at a considerable distance from us, and yet
appeared just over our heads. The surprise seemed to take away our
breath, and to lift us from our feet. It was drinking the empyrean. As
we could not long retain possession of our two places in the interior, I
proposed to our guide to exchange them for the cabriolet; and, after
some little chaffering and candid representations of the outside
passengers of the cold we should have to encounter, we were installed
there to our great satisfaction, and the no less contentment of those
whom we succeeded. Indeed I had no idea that we should be steeped in
these icy valleys at three o’clock in the morning, or I might have
hesitated. The view was cheering, the clear air refreshing, and I
thought we should set off each morning about seven or eight. But it is
part of the _sçavoir vivre_ in France, and one of the methods of adding
to the _agrémens_ of travelling, to set out three hours before day-break
in the depth of winter, and stop two hours about noon, in order to
arrive early in the evening. With all the disadvantages of preposterous
hours and of intense cold pouring into the cabriolet like water the two
first mornings, I cannot say I repented of my bargain. We had come a
thousand miles to see the Alps for one thing, and we _did_ see them in
perfection, which we could not have done inside. The ascent for some way
was striking and full of novelty; but on turning a corner of the road we
entered upon a narrow defile or rocky ledge, overlooking a steep valley
under our feet, with a headlong turbid stream dashing down it, and
spreading itself out into a more tranquil river below, a dark wood of
innumerable pine-trees covering the side of the valley opposite, with
broken crags, morasses, and green plots of cultivated ground, orchards,
and quiet homesteads, on which the sun glanced its farewell rays through
the openings of the mountains. On our left, a precipice of dark brown
rocks of various shapes rose abruptly at our side, or hung threatening
over the road, into which some of their huge fragments, loosened by the
winter’s flaw, had fallen, and which men and mules were employed in
removing—(the thundering crash had hardly yet subsided, as you looked up
and saw the fleecy clouds sailing among the shattered cliffs, while
another giant-mass seemed ready to quit its station in the sky)—and as
the road wound along to the other extremity of this noble pass, between
the beetling rocks and dark sloping pine-forests, frowning defiance at
each other, you caught the azure sky, the snowy ridges of the mountains,
and the peaked tops of the Grand Chartreuse, waving to the right in
solitary state and air-clad brightness.—It was a scene dazzling,
enchanting, and that stamped the long-cherished dreams of the
imagination upon the senses. Between those four crystal peaks stood the
ancient monastery of that name, hid from the sight, revealed to thought,
half-way between earth and heaven, enshrined in its cerulean atmosphere,
lifting the soul to its native home, and purifying it from mortal
grossness. I cannot wonder at the pilgrimages that are made to it, its
calm repose, its vows monastic. Life must there seem a noiseless
dream;—Death a near translation to the skies! Winter was even an
advantage to this scene. The black forests, the dark sides of the rocks
gave additional and inconceivable brightness to the glittering summits
of the lofty mountains, and received a deeper tone and a more solemn
gloom from them; while in the open spaces the unvaried sheets of snow
fatigue the eye, which requires the contrast of the green tints or
luxuriant foliage of summer or of spring. This was more particularly
perceptible as the day closed, when the golden sunset streamed in vain
over frozen valleys that imbibed no richness from it, and repelled its
smile from their polished marble surface. But in the more gloomy and
desert regions, the difference is less remarkable between summer and
winter, except in the beginning of spring, when the summits of the hoary
rocks are covered with snow, and the cleft[s] in their sides are filled
with fragrant shrubs and flowers. I hope to see this miracle when I
return.

We came to Echelles, where we changed horses with great formality and
preparation, as if setting out on some formidable expedition. Six large
strong-boned horses with high haunches (used to ascend and descend
mountains) were put to, the rope-tackle was examined and repaired, and
our two postilions mounted and dismounted more than once, before they
seemed willing to set off, which they did at last at a hand-gallop, that
was continued for some miles. It is nothing to see English blood-horses
get over the ground with such prodigious fleetness and spirit, but it is
really curious to see the huge cart-horses, that they use for Diligences
abroad, lumbering along and making the miles disappear behind them with
their ponderous strength and persevering activity. The road for some way
rattled under their heavy hoofs, and the heavy wheels that they dragged
or whirled along at a thundering pace; the postilions cracked their
whips, and the one in front (a dark, swarthy, short-set fellow)
flourished his, shouted and hallooed, and turned back to vociferate his
instructions to his companion with the robust energy and wildness of
expression of a smuggler or a leader of banditti, carrying off a rich
booty from a troop of soldiers. There was something in the scenery to
favour this idea. Night was falling as we entered the superb tunnel cut
through the mountain at La Grotte (a work attributed to Victor-Emanuel,
with the same truth that Falstaff took to himself the merit of the death
of Hotspur), and its iron floor rang, the whips cracked, and the roof
echoed to the clear voice of our intrepid postilion as we dashed through
it. Our path then wound among romantic defiles, where huge masses of
snow and the gathering gloom threatened continually to bar our way; but
it seemed cleared by the lively shout of our guide, and the
carriage-wheels, clogged with ice, rolled after the heavy tramp of the
horses. In this manner we rode on through a country full of wild
grandeur and shadowy fears, till we had nearly reached the end of our
day’s journey, when we dismissed our two fore-horses and their rider, to
whom I presented a trifling _douceur_ ‘for the sake of his good voice
and cheerful countenance.’ The descent into Chambery was the most
dangerous part of the road, and our horses were nearly thrown on their
haunches several times. The road was narrow and slippery; there were a
number of market-carts returning from the town, and there was a
declivity on one side, which, though not a precipice, was quite
sufficient to have dashed us to pieces in a common-place way. We arrived
at Chambery in the dusk of the evening; and there is surely a charm in
the name, and in that of the Charmettes near it (where he who relished
all more sharply than his fellows, and made them feel for him as for
themselves, alone felt peace or hope), which even the Magdalen Muse of
Mr. Moore has not been able to _unsing_! We alighted at the inn fatigued
enough, and were delighted on being shewn to a room to find the floor of
wood, and English teacups and saucers. We were in Savoy.

We set out early the next morning, and it was the most trying part of
our whole journey. The wind cut like a scythe through the valleys, and a
cold, icy feeling struck from the sides of the snowy precipices that
surrounded us, so that we seemed enclosed in a huge well of mountains.
We got to St. Jean de Maurienne to breakfast about noon, where the only
point agreed upon appeared to be to have nothing ready to receive us.
This was the most tedious day of all; nor did we meet with any thing to
repay us for our uncomfortable setting out. We travelled through a scene
of desolation, were chilled in sunless valleys or dazzled by sunny
mountain-tops, passed frozen streams or gloomy cavities, that might be
transformed into the scene of some Gothic wizard’s spell, or reminded
one of some German novel. Let no one imagine that the crossing the Alps
is the work of a moment, or done by a single heroic effort—that they are
a huge but detached chain of hills, or like the dotted line we find in
the map. They are a sea or an entire kingdom of mountains. It took us
three days to traverse them in this, which is the most practicable
direction, and travelling at a good round pace. We passed on as far as
eye could see, and still we appeared to have made little way. Still we
were in the shadow of the same enormous mass of rock and snow, by the
side of the same creeping stream. Lofty mountains reared themselves in
front of us—horrid abysses were scooped out under our feet. Sometimes
the road wound along the side of a steep hill, overlooking some
village-spire or hamlet, and as we ascended it, it only gave us a view
of remoter scenes, ‘where Alps o’er Alps arise,’ tossing about their
billowy tops, and tumbling their unwieldy shapes in all directions—a
world of wonders!—Any one, who is much of an egotist, ought not to
travel through these districts; his vanity will not find its account in
them; it will be chilled, mortified, shrunk up: but they are a noble
treat to those who feel themselves raised in their own thoughts and in
the scale of being by the immensity of other things, and who can
aggrandise and piece out their personal insignificance by the grandeur
and eternal forms of nature! It gives one a vast idea of Buonaparte to
think of him in these situations. He alone (the Rob Roy of the scene)
seemed a match for the elements, and able to master ‘this fortress,
built by nature for herself.’ Neither impeded nor turned aside by
immoveable barriers, he smote the mountains with his iron glaive, and
made them malleable; cut roads through them; transported armies over
their ridgy steeps; and the rocks ‘nodded to him, and did him
courtesies!’

We arrived at St. Michelle at night-fall (after passing through beds of
ice and the infernal regions of cold), where we met with a truly
hospitable reception, with wood-floors in the English fashion, and where
they told us the King of England had stopped. This made no sort of
difference to me.

We breakfasted the next day (being Sunday) at Lans-le-Bourg, where I
observed my friend the Spaniard busy with his tables, taking down the
name of the place. The landlady was a little, round, fat, good-humoured
black-eyed Italian or Savoyard, _saying_ a number of good things to all
her guests, but sparing of them otherwise. We were now at the foot of
Mount Cenis, and after breakfast we set out on foot before the
Diligence, which was to follow us in half an hour. We passed a
melancholy-looking inn at the end of the town, professing to be kept by
an Englishwoman; but there appeared to be nobody about the house,
English, French, or Italian. The mistress of it (a young woman who had
married an Italian) had, in fact, died a short time before of pure
chagrin and disappointment in this solitary place, after having told her
tale of distress to every one, till it fairly wore her out. We had
leisure to look back to the town as we proceeded, and which, with its
church, stone-cottages, and slated roofs, shrunk into a miniature-model
of itself as we continued to advance farther and higher above it. Some
straggling cottages, some vineyards planted at a great height, and
another compact and well-built village, that seemed to defy the
extremity of the seasons, were seen in the direction of the valley that
we were pursuing. Else all around were shapeless, sightless piles of
hills covered with snow, with crags or pine-trees or a foot-path peeping
out, and in the appearance of which no alteration whatever was made by
our advancing or receding. We gained on the mountain by a broad, winding
road that continually doubles, and looks down upon the point from whence
you started half an hour before. Some snow had fallen in the morning,
but it was now fine, though cloudy. We found two of our
fellow-travellers following our example, and they soon after overtook
us. They were both French. We noticed some of the features of the
scenery; and a lofty hill opposite to us being scooped out into a bed of
snow, with two ridges or promontories projecting (something like an
arm-chair) on each side. ‘_Voilà!_’ said the younger and more volatile
of our companions, ‘_c’est un trône, et le nuage est la gloire!_‘—A
white cloud indeed encircled its misty top. I complimented him on the
happiness of his allusion, and said that Madame was pleased with the
exactness of the resemblance. He then turned to the valley, and said,
‘_C’est un berceau_.’ This is the height to which the imagination of a
Frenchman always soars, and it can soar no higher. Any thing that is not
cast in this obvious, common-place mould, that had been used a thousand
times before with applause, they think barbarous, and as they phrase it,
_originaire_. No farther notice was taken of the scenery, any more than
if we had been walking on the Boulevards at Paris, and my young
Frenchman talked of other things, laughed, sung, and smoked a cigar with
a gaiety and lightness of heart that I envied. ‘What has become,’ said
the elder of the Frenchmen, ‘of Monsieur l’Espagnol? He does not easily
quit his seat; he sits in one corner, never looks out, or if you point
to any object, takes no notice of it; and when you come to the end of
the stage, says—“What is the name of that place we passed by last?”
takes out his pocket-book, and makes a note of it. “That is droll.”’ And
what made it more so, it turned out that our Spanish friend was a
painter, travelling to Rome to study the Fine Arts! All the way as we
ascended, there were red posts placed at the edge of the road, ten or
twelve feet in height, to point out the direction of the road in case of
a heavy fall of snow, and with notches cut to shew the depth of the
drifts. There were also scattered stone-hovels, erected as stations for
the _Gens d’armes_, who were sometimes left here for several days
together after a severe snow-storm, without being approached by a single
human being. One of these stood near the top of the mountain, and as we
were tired of the walk (which had occupied two hours) and of the
uniformity of the view, we agreed to wait here for the Diligence to
overtake us. We were cordially welcomed in by a young peasant (a
soldier’s wife) with a complexion as fresh as the winds, and an
expression as pure as the mountain-snows. The floor of this rude
tenement consisted of the solid rock; and a three-legged table stood on
it, on which were placed three earthen bowls filled with sparkling wine,
heated on a stove with sugar. The woman stood by, and did the honours of
this cheerful repast with a rustic simplicity and a pastoral grace that
might have called forth the powers of Hemskirk and Raphael. I shall not
soon forget the rich ruby colour of the wine, as the sun shone upon it
through a low glazed window that looked out on the boundless wastes
around, nor its grateful spicy smell as we sat round it. I was
complaining of the trick that had been played by the waiter at Lyons in
the taking of our places, when I was told by the young Frenchman, that,
in case I returned to Lyons, I ought to go to the Hotel de l’Europe, or
to the Hotel du Nord, ‘in which latter case he should have the honour of
serving me.’ I thanked him for his information, and we set out to finish
the ascent of Mount Cenis, which we did in another half-hour’s march.
The _traiteur_ of the Hotel du Nord and I had got into a brisk
theatrical discussion on the comparative merits of Kean and Talma, he
asserting that there was something in French acting which an English
understanding could not appreciate; and I insisting loudly on bursts of
passion as the _forte_ of Talma, which was a language common to human
nature; that in his _Œdipus_, for instance, it was not a Frenchman or an
Englishman he had to represent—‘_Mais c’est un homme, c’est Œdipe_‘—when
our cautious Spaniard brushed by us, determined to shew he could descend
the mountain, if he would not ascend it on foot. His figure was
characteristic enough, his motions smart and lively, and his dress
composed of all the colours of the rainbow. He strutted on before us in
the snow, like a flamingo or some tropical bird of variegated plumage;
his dark purple cloak fluttered in the air, his Montero cap, set a
little on one side, was of fawn colour; his waistcoat a bright scarlet,
his coat a reddish brown, his trowsers a pea-green, and his boots a
perfect yellow. He saluted us with a national politeness as he passed,
and seemed bent on redeeming the sedentary sluggishness of his character
by one bold and desperate effort of locomotion.

The coach shortly after overtook us. We descended a long and steep
declivity, with the highest point of Mount Cenis on our left, and a lake
to the right, like a landing-place for geese. Between the two was a low,
white monastery, and the barrier where we had our passports inspected,
and then went forward with only two stout horses and one rider. The snow
on this side of the mountain was nearly gone. I supposed myself for some
time nearly on level ground, till we came in view of several black
chasms or steep ravines in the side of the mountain facing us, with
water oozing from it, and saw through some _galleries_, that is, massy
stone-pillars knit together by thick rails of strong timber, guarding
the road-side, a perpendicular precipice below, and other galleries
beyond, diminished in a fairy perspective, and descending ‘with cautious
haste and giddy cunning,’ and with innumerable windings and
re-duplications to an interminable depth and distance from the height
where we were. The men and horses with carts, that were labouring up the
path in the hollow below, shewed like crows or flies. The road we had to
pass was often immediately under that we were passing, and cut from the
side of what was all but a precipice out of the solid rock by the broad,
firm master-hand that traced and executed this mighty work. The share
that art has in the scene is as appalling as the scene itself—the strong
security against danger as sublime as the danger itself. Near the
turning of one of the first galleries is a beautiful waterfall, which at
this time was frozen into a sheet of green pendant ice—a magical
transformation. Long after we continued to descend, now faster and now
slower, and came at length to a small village at the bottom of a
sweeping line of road, where the houses seemed like dove-cotes with the
mountain’s back reared like a wall behind them, and which I thought the
termination of our journey. But here the wonder and the greatness began:
for, advancing through a grove of slender trees to another point of the
road, we caught a new view of the lofty mountain to our left. It stood
in front of us, with its head in the skies, covered with snow, and its
bare sides stretching far away into a valley that yawned at its feet,
and over which we seemed suspended in mid air. The height, the
magnitude, the immovableness of the objects, the wild contrast, the deep
tones, the dance and play of the landscape from the change of our
direction and the interposition of other striking objects, the continued
recurrence of the same huge masses, like giants following us with unseen
strides, stunned the sense like a blow, and yet gave the imagination
strength to contend with a force that mocked it. Here immeasurable
columns of reddish granite shelved from the mountain’s sides; here they
were covered and stained with furze and other shrubs; here a chalky
cliff shewed a fir-grove climbing its tall sides, and that itself looked
at a distance like a huge, branching pine-tree; beyond was a dark,
projecting knoll, or hilly promontory, that threatened to bound the
perspective—but, on drawing nearer to it, the cloudy vapour that
shrouded it (as it were) retired, and opened another vista beyond, that,
in its own unfathomed depth, and in the gradual obscurity of twilight,
resembled the uncertain gloom of the back-ground of some fine picture.
At the bottom of this valley crept a sluggish stream, and a monastery or
low castle stood upon its banks. The effect was altogether grander than
I had any conception of. It was not the idea of height or elevation that
was obtruded upon the mind and staggered it, but we seemed to be
descending into the bowels of the earth—its foundations seemed to be
laid bare to the centre; and abyss after abyss, a vast, shadowy,
interminable space, opened to receive us. We saw the building up and
frame-work of the world—its limbs, its ponderous masses, and mighty
proportions, raised stage upon stage, and we might be said to have
passed into an unknown sphere, and beyond mortal limits. As we rode down
our winding, circuitous path, our baggage, (which had been taken off)
moved on before us; a grey horse that had got loose from the stable
followed it, and as we whirled round the different turnings in this
rapid, mechanical flight, at the same rate and the same distance from
each other, there seemed something like witchcraft in the scene and in
our progress through it. The moon had risen, and threw its gleams across
the fading twilight; the snowy tops of the mountains were blended with
the clouds and stars; their sides were shrouded in mysterious gloom, and
it was not till we entered Susa, with its fine old drawbridge and
castellated walls, that we found ourselves on _terra firma_, or breathed
common air again. At the inn at Susa, we first perceived the difference
of Italian manners; and the next day arrived at Turin, after passing
over thirty miles of the straightest, flattest, and dullest road in the
world. Here we stopped two days to recruit our strength and look about
us.



                               CHAPTER XV


My arrival at Turin was the first and only moment of intoxication I have
found in Italy. It is a city of palaces. After a change of dress (which,
at the end of a long journey, is a great luxury) I walked out, and
traversing several clean, spacious streets, came to a promenade outside
the town, from which I saw the chain of Alps we had left behind us,
rising like a range of marble pillars in the evening sky. Monte Viso and
Mount Cenis resembled two pointed cones of ice, shooting up above all
the rest. I could distinguish the broad and rapid Po, winding along at
the other extremity of the walk, through vineyards and meadow grounds.
The trees had on that deep sad foliage, which takes a mellower tinge
from being prolonged into the midst of winter, and which I had only seen
in pictures. A Monk was walking in a solitary grove at a little distance
from the common path. The air was soft and balmy, and I felt transported
to another climate—another earth—another sky. The winter was suddenly
changed to spring. It was as if I had to begin my life anew. Several
young Italian women were walking on the terrace, in English dresses, and
with graceful downcast looks, in which you might fancy that you read the
soul of the Decameron. It was a fine, serious grace, equally remote from
French levity and English sullenness, but it was the last I saw of it. I
have run the gauntlet of vulgar shapes and horrid faces ever since. The
women in Italy (so far as I have seen hitherto) are detestably ugly.
They are not even dark and swarthy, but a mixture of brown and red,
coarse, marked with the small pox, with pug-features, awkward, ill-made,
fierce, dirty, lazy, neither attempting nor hoping to please. Italian
beauty (if there is, as I am credibly informed, such a thing) is
retired, conventual, denied to the common gaze. It was and it remains a
dream to me, a vision of the brain! I returned to the inn (the _Pension
Suisse_) in high spirits, and made a most luxuriant dinner. We had a
wild duck equal to what we had in Paris, and the grapes were the finest
I ever tasted. Afterwards we went to the Opera, and saw a _ballet of
action_ (out-heroding Herod) with all the extravagance of incessant
dumb-show and noise, the glittering of armour, the burning of castles,
the clattering of horses on and off the stage, and heroines like furies
in hysterics. Nothing at Bartholomew Fair was ever in worse taste,
noisier, or finer. It was as if a whole people had buried their
understandings, their imaginations, and their hearts in their senses;
and as if the latter were so jaded and worn out, that they required to
be inflamed, dazzled, and urged almost to a kind of frenzy-fever, to
feel any thing. The house was crowded to excess, and dark, all but the
stage, which shed a dim, ghastly light on the gilt boxes and the
audience. Milton might easily have taken his idea of Pandemonium from
the inside of an Italian Theatre, its heat, its gorgeousness, and its
gloom. We were at the back of the pit, in which there was only standing
room, and leaned against the first row of boxes, full of the Piedmontese
Nobility, who talked fast and loud in their harsh guttural dialect, in
spite of the repeated admonitions of ‘a gentle usher, Authority by
name,’ who every five seconds hissed some lady of quality and high
breeding whose voice was heard with an _éclat_ above all the rest. No
notice whatever was taken of the acting or the singing (which was any
thing but Italian, unless Italian at present means a bad imitation of
the French) till a comic dance attracted all eyes, and drew forth bursts
of enthusiastic approbation. I do not know the performers’ names, but a
short, squat fellow (a kind of _pollard_ of the green-room) dressed in a
brown linsey-woolsey doublet and hose, with round head, round shoulders,
short arms and short legs, made love to a fine _die-away_ lady, dressed
up in the hoops, lappets and furbelows of the last age, and stumped,
nodded, pulled and tugged at his mistress with laudable perseverance,
and in determined opposition to the awkward, mawkish graces of an Adonis
of a rival, with flowing locks, pink ribbons, yellow kerseymere
breeches, and an insipid expression of the utmost distress. It was an
admirable grotesque and fantastic piece of pantomime humour. The little
fellow who played the Clown, certainly entered into the part with
infinite adroitness and spirit. He merited the _teres et rotundus_ of
the poet. He bounded over the stage like a foot-ball, rolled himself up
like a hedge-hog, stuck his arms in his sides like fins, rolled his eyes
in his head like bullets—and the involuntary plaudits of the audience
witnessed the success of his efforts at once to electrify and _stultify_
them! The only annoyance I found at Turin was the number of beggars who
are stuck against the walls like fixtures, and expose their diseased,
distorted limbs, with no more remorse or feeling than if they did not
belong to them, deafening you with one wearisome cry the whole day long.

We were fortunate enough to find a voiture going from Geneva to
Florence, with an English lady and her niece—I bargained for the two
remaining places for ten guineas, and the journey turned out pleasantly,
I believe, to all parties; I am sure it did so to us. We were to be
eight days on the road, and to stop two days to rest, once at Parma, and
once at Bologna, to see the pictures. Having made this arrangement, I
was proceeding over the bridge towards the Observatory that commands a
view of the town and the whole surrounding country, and had quite
forgotten that I had such a thing as a passport to take with me. I
found, however, I had no fewer than four signatures to procure, besides
the six that were already tacked to my passport, before I could proceed,
and which I had some difficulty in obtaining in time to set out on the
following morning. The hurry I was thrown into by this circumstance
prevented me from seeing some fine Rembrandts, Spagnolettos and
Caraccis, which I was told are to be found in the Palace of Prince
Carignani and elsewhere. I received this piece of information from my
friend the Spaniard, who called on me to inquire my proposed route, and
to ‘testify,’ as he said, ‘his respect for the English character.’ Shall
I own it? I who flout, rail at, and contemn the English, was more
pleased with this compliment paid to me in my national character, than
with any I ever received on the score of personal civility. My
fellow-traveller was for Genoa and Milan; I for Florence: but we were to
meet at Rome.

The next morning was clear and frosty, and the sun shone bright into the
windows of the voiture, as we left Turin, and proceeded for some miles
at a gentle pace along the banks of the Po. The road was level and
excellent, and we met a number of market people with mules and yokes of
oxen. There were some hills crowned with villas; some bits of
traditional Italian scenery now and then; but in general you would not
know but that you were in England, except from the greater clearness and
lightness of the air. We breakfasted at the first town we came to, in
two separate English groups, and I could not help being struck with the
manner of our reception at an Italian inn, which had an air of
indifference, insolence, and hollow swaggering about it, as much as to
say, ‘Well, what do you think of us Italians? Whatever you think, we
care very little about the matter!’ The French are a politer people than
the Italians—the English are honester; but I may as well postpone these
comparisons till my return. The room smoked, and the waiter insisted on
having the windows and the door open, in spite of my remonstrances to
the contrary. He flung in and out of the room as if he had a great
opinion of himself, and wished to express it by a _braggadocio_ air. The
partridges, coffee, cheese and grapes, on which we breakfasted _à la
fourchette_, were, however, excellent. I said so, but the acknowledgment
seemed to be considered as superfluous by our attendant, who received
five francs for his master, and one for himself, with an air of
condescending patronage. In consequence of something being said about
our passports, he relaxed in the solemnity of his deportment, and
observed that ‘he had been once near being engaged as valet to an
English gentleman, at Ostend; that he had but three hours to procure his
passport, but while he was getting it, the ship sailed, and he lost his
situation.’ Such was my first impression of Italian inns and waiters,
and I have seen nothing since materially to alter it. They receive you
with a mixture of familiarity and fierceness, and instead of expecting
any great civility from them, they excite that sort of uncomfortable
sensation as to the footing you are upon, that you are glad to get away
without meeting with some affront. There is either a fawning sleekness,
which looks like design, or an insolence, which looks as if they had you
in their power. In Switzerland and Savoy you are waited on by women; in
Italy by men. I cannot say I like the exchange. From Turin to Florence,
only one girl entered the room, and she (not to mend the matter) was a
very pretty one.—I was told at the office of Messrs. Bonnafoux at Turin,
that travelling to Rome by a vetturino was highly dangerous, and that
their Diligence was guarded by four carabineers, to defend it from the
banditti. I saw none, nor the appearance of any thing that looked like a
robber, except a bare-foot friar, who suddenly sprang out of a hedge by
the road-side, with a somewhat wild and haggard appearance, which a
little startled me. Instead of finding a thief concealed behind each
bush, or a Salvator Rosa face scowling from a ruined hovel, or peeping
from a jutting crag at every turn, there is an excellent turnpike-road
all the way, three-fourths perfectly level, skirted with hedges,
corn-fields, orchards and vineyards, populous with hamlets and villages,
with labourers at work in the fields, and with crowds of peasants in
gay, picturesque attire, and with healthy, cheerful, open, but manly
countenances, passing along, either to or from the different
market-towns. It was Carnival time; and as we travelled on, we were
struck with the variety of rich dresses, red, yellow, and green, the
high-plaited head-dresses of the women, some in the shape of helmets,
with pins stuck in them like skewers, with gold crosses at their bosoms,
and large muffs on their hands, who poured from the principal towns
along the high-road, or turned off towards some village-spire in the
distance, chequering the landscape with their gaily-tinted groups. They
often turned back and laughed as we drove by them, or passed
thoughtfully on without noticing us, but assuredly showed no signs of an
intention to rob or murder us. Even in the Apennines, though the road is
rugged and desolate, it is lined with farm-houses and towns at small
distances; and there is but one house all the way that is stained by the
recollection of a tragic catastrophe. How it may be farther south, I
cannot say; but so far, the reports to alarm strangers are (to the best
of my observation and conjecture) totally unfounded.

We had left the Alps behind us, the white tops of which we still saw
scarcely distinguishable from ridges of rolling clouds, and that seemed
to follow us like a formidable enemy, and almost enclose us in a
semicircle; and we had the Apennines in front, that, gradually emerging
from the horizon, opposed their undulating barrier to our future
progress, with shadowy shapes of danger and Covigliaijo lurking in the
midst of them. All the space between these two, for at least 150 miles
(I should suppose) is one level cultivated plain, one continuous garden.
This became more remarkably the case, as we entered the territories of
Maria-Louisa (the little States of Parma and Placentia) when, for two
whole days, we literally travelled through an uninterrupted succession
of corn-fields, vineyards and orchards, all in the highest state of
cultivation, with the hedges neatly clipped into a kind of trellis-work,
and the vines hanging in festoons from tree to tree, or clinging ‘with
marriageable arms’ round the branches of each regularly planted and
friendly support. It was more like passing through a number of
orchard-plots or garden-grounds in the neighbourhood of some great city
(such as London) than making a journey through a wide and extensive
tract of country. Not a common came in sight, nor a single foot of waste
or indifferent ground. It became tedious at last from the richness, the
neatness, and the uniformity; for the whole was worked up to an ideal
model, and so exactly a counterpart of itself, that it was like looking
out of a window at the same identical spot, instead of passing on to new
objects every instant. We were saturated even with beauty and comfort,
and were disposed to repeat the wish—

             ‘To-morrow to fresh fields and pastures new.’

A white square villa, or better sort of farm-house, sometimes stared on
us from the end of a long, strait avenue of poplars, standing in
ostentatious, unadorned nakedness, and in a stiff, meagre, and very
singular taste. What is the cause of the predilection of the Italians
for straight lines and unsheltered walls? Is it for the sake of security
or vanity? The desire of seeing everything or of being seen by every
one? The only thing that broke the uniformity of the scene, or gave an
appearance of wretchedness or neglect to the country, was the number of
dry beds of the torrents of melted snow and ice that came down from the
mountains in the breaking up of the winter, and that stretched their
wide, comfortless, unprofitable length across these valleys in their
progress to the Adriatic. Some of them were half a mile in breadth, and
had stately bridges over them, with innumerable arches—(the work, it
seems, of Maria Louisa) some of which we crossed over, others we rode
under. We approached the first of them by moonlight, and the effect of
the long, white, glimmering, sepulchral arches was as ghastly then as it
is dreary in the day-time. There is something almost preternatural in
the sensation they excite, particularly when your nerves have been
agitated and harassed during several days’ journey, and you are disposed
to startle at everything in a questionable shape. You do not know what
to make of them. They seem like the skeletons of bridges over the dry
bones and dusty relics of rivers. It is as if some mighty concussion of
the earth had swept away the water, and left the bridge standing in
stiffened horror over it. It is a new species of desolation, as flat,
dull, disheartening, and hopeless as can be imagined. Mr. Crabbe should
travel post to Italy on purpose to describe it, and to add it to his
list of prosaic horrors. While here, he might also try his hand upon an
Italian vintage, and if he does not squeeze the juice and spirit out of
it, and leave nothing but the husk and stalks, I am much mistaken. As we
groped our way under the stony ribs of the first of these structures
that we came to, one of the arches within which the moonlight fell,
presented a momentary appearance of a woman in a white dress and hood,
stooping to gather stones. I wish I had the petrific pencil of the
ingenious artist above-named, that I might imbody this flitting shadow
in a permanent form.

It was late on the fourth day (Saturday) before we reached Parma. Our
two black, glossy, easy-going horses were tired of the sameness or
length of the way; and our guide appeared to have forgotten it, for we
entered the capital of the Archduchy without his being aware of it. We
went to the Peacock Inn, where we were shewn into a very fine but faded
apartment, and where we stopped the whole of the next day. Here, for the
first time on our journey, we found a carpet, which, however, stuck to
the tiled floor with dirt and age. There was a lofty bed, with a crimson
silk canopy, a marble table, looking-glasses of all sizes and in every
direction,[37] and excellent coffee, fruit, game, bread and wine at a
moderate rate—that is to say, our supper the first night, our breakfast,
dinner, and coffee the next day, and coffee the following morning, with
lodging and fire, came to twenty-three francs. It would have cost more
than double in England in the same circumstances. We had an exhilarating
view from our window of the street and great square. It was full of
noise and bustle. The people were standing in lounging attitudes by
themselves, or talking loud in groups, and with great animation. The
expression of character seemed to be natural and unaffected. Every one
appeared to follow the bent of his own humour and feelings (good or bad)
and I did not perceive any of that smirking grimace and varnish of
affectation and self-complacency, which glitters in the face and manners
of every Frenchman, and makes them so many enemies. If an individual is
inordinately delighted with himself, do not others laugh at and take a
dislike to him? Must it not be equally so with a nation enamoured of
itself?—The women that I saw did not answer to my expectations. They had
high shoulders, thick waists, and shambling feet, or that _crapaudeux_
shape, which is odious to see or think of. The men looked better, and I
saw little difference between them and the English, except a greater
degree of fire and spirit. The priests had many of them (both here and
at Turin) fine faces, with a jovial expression of good humour and good
living, or of subtle thought and painful watching, studious to keep the
good things that enriched the veins and pampered the pride of the
brotherhood. Here we saw the whole market-place kneel down as the host
passed by. Being Carnival time, high mass was celebrated at the
principal churches, and _Moses in Egypt_ was given at the Opera in the
evening. The day before, as we entered Parma in the dusk, we saw a
procession of flambeaux at a distance, which denoted a funeral. The
processions are often joined by persons of the highest quality in
disguise, who make a practice of performing penance, or expiating some
offence by attending the obsequies of the dead. This custom may be
ridiculed as superstitious by an excess of Protestant zeal; but the
moralist will hardly blame what shews a sense of human infirmity, and
owns something ‘serious in mortality;’ and is besides freed from the
suspicion of ostentation or hypocrisy. Lord Glenallan, in ‘The
Antiquary,’ has been censured on the same principle, as an excrescence
of morbid and superannuated superstition. _Honi soit qui mal y pense._
When human nature is no longer liable to such misfortunes, our sympathy
with them will then be superfluous—we may dry up our tears, and stifle
our sighs. In the mean time, they who enlarge our sympathy with others,
or deepen it for ourselves from lofty, imaginary sources, are the true
teachers of morality, and benefactors of mankind, were they twenty times
tools and Tories. It is not the shutting up of hospitals, but the
opening of the human heart, that will lead to the regeneration of the
world[38]!

It was at Parma I first noticed the women looking out of the windows
(not one or two stragglers, but two or three from every house) where
they hang like signs or pictures, stretching their necks out, or
confined, like children by iron bars, often with cushions to lean upon,
_scaldalettos_ dangling from their hands (another vile custom). This
seems to shew a prodigious predominance of the _organ of sight_, or a
want of something to do or to think of. In France, the passion of the
women is not to see, but to talk. In Hogarth, you perceive some symptoms
of the same prurience of the optic nerve, and willingness to take in
knowledge at the entrance of the eyes. It certainly has a great look of
ignorance, indolence, and vulgarity. In summer time, perhaps, the
practice might be natural—in winter, the habit is quite unaccountable. I
thought, at first, it might be one of the abuses of the Carnival; but
the Carnival is over, and the windows are still lined with eyes and
heads—that do not like the trouble of putting on a cap.

We were told we could see her Majesty at mass, (so her dutiful subjects
call the Archduchess) and we went to see the daughter of a sovereign,
the self-devoted consort of one who only lost himself by taking upon him
a degrading equality with Emperors and Kings. We had a Cicerone with us,
who led us, without ceremony, to a place in the chapel, where we could
command a full view of Maria Louisa, and which we made use of without
much reserve. She knelt, or stood, in the middle of a small gallery,
with attendants, male and female, on each side of her. We saw her
distinctly for several minutes. She has full fair features, not
handsome, but with a mild, unassuming expression, tinged with
thoughtfulness. She appears about forty; she seemed to cast a wistful
look at us, being strangers and English people—

                 ‘Methought she looked at us—
         So every one believes, that sees a Duchess!’—OLD PLAY.

There are some not very pleasant rumours circulated of her. She must
have had something of the heroine of the Cid about her. She married the
man who had conquered her father. She is said to have leaned on the Duke
of Wellington’s arm. After that, she might do whatever she pleased.
Perhaps these stories are only circulated to degrade her; or, perhaps, a
scheme may have been laid to degrade her in reality, by the persons
nearest to her, and most interested in, but most jealous of, her honour!
We were invited to see the cradle of the little Napoleon, which I
declined; and we then went to see the new gallery which the Archduchess
has built for her pictures, in which there is a bust of herself, by
Canova. Here I saw a number of pictures, and among others the Correggios
and the celebrated St. Jerome, which I had seen at Paris. I must have
been out of tune; for my disappointment and my consequent mortification
were extreme. I had never thought Correggio a God; but I had attributed
this to my own inexperience and want of taste, and I hoped by this time
to have ripened into that full idolatry of him expressed by Mengs and
others. Instead of which, his pictures (they stood on the ground without
frames, and in a bad light) appeared to be comparatively mean, feeble,
and affected. There is the master-hand, no doubt, but tremulous with
artificial airs—beauty and grace carried to a pitch of quaintness and
conceit—the expression of joy or woe, but lost in a doting contemplation
of its own ecstasy or agony, and after being raised to the height of
truth and nature, hurried over the brink of refinement into effeminacy,
by a craving after impossibilities, and a wanton dalliance with the
_ideal_. Correggio has painted the wreathed smile of sweetness, but he
does not stop till he has contorted it into affectation; he has
expressed the utmost distress and despondency of soul, but it is the
weakness of suffering without the strength. His pictures are so perfect
and delicate, that ‘the sense aches at them;’ and in his efforts after
refinement, he has worked himself up into a state of languid, nervous
irritability, which is reflected back upon the spectator. These remarks
appeared to me applicable in their full force to the St. Jerome, the
Taking down from the Cross, and the Martyrdom of St. Placide, in which
there is an executioner with his back turned, in a _chiaro-scuro_ of the
most marvellous clearness and beauty. In all these there is a want of
manly firmness and simplicity. He might be supposed to have touched, at
some period of his progress, on the highest point of excellence, and
then to have spoiled all by a wish to go farther, without knowing how or
why. Perhaps modesty, or an ignorance of what others had done, or of
what the art could do, was at the foundation of this, and prevented him
from knowing where to stop. Perhaps he had too refined and tender a
susceptibility, or ideas of sanctity and sweetness beyond the power of
his art to express; and in the attempt to reconcile the mechanical and
_ideal_, failed from an excess of feeling! I saw nothing else to please
me, and I was sorry I had come so far to have my faith in great names
and immortal works misgive me. I was ready to exclaim, ‘Oh painting! I
thought thee a substance, and I find thee a shadow!’ There was, however,
a _Crowning of the Virgin_, a fresco (by Correggio) from the Church of
St. Paul, which was full of majesty, sweetness, and grace; and in this,
and the heads of boys and fawns, in the _Chase of Diana_, there is a
freedom and breadth of execution, owing to the mode in which they were
painted, and which makes them seem pure emanations of the mind, without
anything overdone, finical, or little. The cupola of St. Paul’s, painted
by Correggio in fresco, is quite destroyed, or the figures flutter in
idle fragments from the walls. Most of the other pictures in this church
were in a tawdry, meretricious style. I was beginning to think that
painting was not calculated for churches, coloured surfaces not agreeing
with solid pillars and masses of architecture, and also that Italian art
was less severe, and more a puppet-show business than I had thought it.
I was not a little tired of the painted shrines and paltry images of the
Virgin at every hundred yards as we rode along. But if my thoughts were
veering to this cheerless, attenuated speculation of nothingness and
vanity, they were called back by the sight of the Farnese Theatre—the
noblest and most striking monument I have seen of the golden age of
Italy. It was built by one of the Farnese family about the fifteenth or
sixteenth century, and would hold eight thousand spectators. It is cold,
empty, silent as the receptacles of the dead. The walls, roofs, rafters,
and even seats, remain perfect; but the tide of population and of
wealth, the pomp and pride of patronage and power, seemed to have turned
another way, and to have left it a deserted pile, that would, long ere
this, have mouldered into ruin and decay, but that its original strength
and vast proportions would not suffer it—a lasting proof of the
magnificence of a former age, and of the degeneracy of this! The streets
of Parma are beautiful, airy, clean, spacious; the churches elegant; and
the walls around it picturesque and delightful. The walls and ramparts,
with the gardens and vineyards close to them, have a most romantic
effect; and we saw, on a flight of steps near one of the barriers, a
group of men, women, and children, that for expression, composition, and
colouring rivalled any thing in painting. We here also observed the
extreme clearness and brilliancy of the southern atmosphere: the line of
hills in the western horizon was distinguished from the sky by a tint so
fine that it was barely perceptible.

Bologna is even superior to Parma. If its streets are less stately, its
public buildings are more picturesque and varied; and its long arcades,
its porticos, and silent walks are a perpetual feast to the eye and the
imagination. At Parma (as well as Turin) you see a whole street at once,
and have a magical and imposing effect produced once for all. At Bologna
you meet with a number of surprises; new beauties unfold themselves, a
perspective is gradually prolonged, or branches off by some retired and
casual opening, winding its heedless way—the _rus in urbe_—where leisure
might be supposed to dwell with learning. Here is the Falling Tower, and
the Neptune of John of Bologna, in the great square. Going along, we met
Professor Mezzofanti, who is said to understand thirty-eight languages,
English among the rest. He was pointed out to us as a prodigious
curiosity by our guide, (Signor Gatti) who has this pleasantry at his
tongue’s end, that ‘there is one Raphael to paint, one Mezzofanti to
understand languages, and one Signor Gatti to explain everything they
wish to know to strangers.’ We went under the guidance of this
accomplished person, and in company of our fellow-travellers, to the
Academy, and to the collection of the Marquis Zampieri. In the last
there is not a single picture worth seeing, except some old and curious
ones of Giotto and Ghirlandaio. One cannot look at these performances
(imperfect as they are, with nothing but the high endeavour, the fixed
purpose stamped on them, like the attempts of a deformed person at
grace) with sufficient veneration, when one considers what they must
have cost their authors, or what they have enabled others to do. If
Giotto could have seen the works of Raphael or Correggio, would he not
have laughed or wept? Yet Raphael and Correggio should have bowed the
head to him, for without those first rude beginners and dumb creators of
the art, they themselves would never have been!—What amused us here was
a sort of wild _Meg Merrilies_ of a woman, in a grey coarse dress, and
with grey matted hair, that sprang out of a dungeon of a porter’s lodge,
and seizing upon Madame ——, dragged her by the arm up the staircase,
with unrestrained familiarity and delight. We thought it was some one
who presumed on old acquaintance, and was overjoyed at seeing Madame ——
a second time. It was the mere spirit of good fellowship, and the excess
of high animal spirits. No woman in England would dream of such an
extravagance, who was not mad or drunk. She afterwards followed us about
the rooms; and though she rather slunk behind, being somewhat abashed by
our evident wish to shake her off, she still seemed to watch for an
opportunity to dart upon some one, like an animal whose fondness you
cannot get rid of by repeated repulses.[39] There is a childishness and
want of self-control about the Italians, which has an appearance of
folly or craziness. We passed a group of women on the road, and though
there was something odd in their dress and manner, it was not for some
time that we discovered that they were insane persons, walking out under
the charge of keepers, from a greater degree of vacant vivacity, or
thoughtful abstraction than usual.

To return. The Collection of Pictures in the Academy is worthy of Italy
and of Bologna. It is chiefly of the Bolognese school; or in that fine,
sombre, shadowy tone that seems reflected from sacred subjects or from
legendary lore, that corresponds with crucifixions and martyrdoms, that
points to skyey glories or hovers round conventual gloom. Here is the
St. Cecilia of Raphael (of which the engraving conveys a faithful idea),
several Caraccis, Domenichino’s St. Teresa, and his St. Peter Martyr, (a
respectable, not a formidable rival of Titian’s) a Sampson, by Guido (an
ill-chosen subject, finely coloured) and the Five Patron-Saints of
Bologna, by the same, a very large, finely-painted and impressive
picture, occupying the end of the Gallery. Four out of five of the
Saints are admirable old Monkish heads (even their very cowls seem to
think): the Dead Christ above has a fine monumental effect; and the
whole picture, compared with this master’s general style, is like ‘the
cathedral’s gloom and choir,’ compared with sunny smiles and the
shepherd’s pipe upon the mountains. I left this Gallery, once more
reconciled to my favourite art. Guido also gains upon me, because I
continually see fine pictures of his. ‘By their works ye shall know
them,’ is a fair rule for judging of painters or men.

There is a side pavement at Bologna, Modena, and most of the other towns
in Italy, so that you do not walk, as in Paris, in continual dread of
being run over. The shops have a neat appearance, and are well supplied
with the ordinary necessaries of life, fruit, poultry, bread, onions or
garlick, cheese and sausages. The butchers’ shops look much as they do
in England. There is a technical description of the chief towns in
Italy, which those who learn the Italian Grammar are told to get by
heart—_Genoa la superba_, _Bologna la dotta_, _Ravenna l’antica_,
_Firense la bella_, _Roma la santa_. Some of these I have seen, and
others not; and those that I have not seen seem to me the finest. Does
not this list convey as good an idea of these places as one can well
have? It selects some one distinct feature of them, and that the best.
Words may be said, after all, to be the finest things in the world.
Things themselves are but a lower species of words, exhibiting the
grossnesses and details of matter. Yet, if there be any country
answering to the description or idea of it, it is Italy; and to this
theory, I must add, the Alps are also a proud exception.



                              CHAPTER XVI


We left Bologna on our way to Florence in the afternoon, that we might
cross the Apennines the following day. High Mass had been celebrated at
Bologna; it was a kind of gala day, and the road was lined with flocks
of country-people returning to their homes. At the first village we came
to among the hills, we saw, talking to her companions by the road-side,
the only very handsome Italian we have yet seen. It was not the true
Italian face neither, dark and oval, but more like the face of an
English peasant, with heightened grace and animation, with sparkling
eyes, white teeth, a complexion breathing health,

                     ——‘And when she spake,
         Betwixt the pearls and rubies softly brake
         A silver sound, which heavenly music seem’d to make.’

Our voiture was ascending a hill; and as she walked by the side of it
with elastic step, and a bloom like the suffusion of a rosy cloud, the
sight of her was doubly welcome, in this land of dingy complexions,
squat features, scowling eye-brows and round shoulders.

We slept at ——, nine miles from Bologna, and set off early the next
morning, that we might have the whole day before us. The moon, which had
lighted on us on our way the preceding evening, still hung over the
western horizon, its yellow orb nigh dropping behind the snowy peaks of
the highest Apennines, while the sun was rising with dazzling splendour
behind a craggy steep that overhung the frozen road we were passing
over. The white tops of the Apennines, covered with hoar-frost gleamed
in the misty morning. There was a delightful freshness and novelty in
the scene. The Apennines have not the vastness nor the unity of effect
of the Alps; but are broken up into a number of abrupt projecting
points, that crossing one another, and presenting new combinations as
the traveller shifts his position, produce, though a less sublime and
imposing, a more varied and picturesque effect. A brook brawled down the
precipice on the road-side, a pine-tree or mountain-ash hung over it,
and shewed the valley below in a more distant, airy perspective; on the
point of a rock half-way down was perched some village-spire or ruined
battlement, while hamlets and farm-houses were sheltered in the bosom of
the vale far below: a pine-forest rose on the sides of the mountain
above, or a bleak tract of brown heath or dark morass was contrasted
with the clear pearly tints of the snowy ridges in the higher distance,
above which some still loftier peak saluted the sky, tinged with a rosy
light.—Such were nearly the features of the landscape all round, and for
several miles; and though we constantly ascended and descended a very
winding road, and caught an object now in contact with one part of the
scene, now giving relief to another, at one time at a considerable
distance beneath our feet, and soon after soaring as high above our
heads, yet the elements of beauty or of wildness being the same, the
_coup d’œil_, though constantly changing, was as often repeated, and we
at length grew tired of a scenery that still seemed another and the
same. One of our pleasantest employments was to remark the teams of oxen
and carts that we had lately passed, winding down a declivity in our
rear, or suspended on the edge of a precipice, that on the spot we had
mistaken for level ground. We had some difficulty too with our driver,
who had talked gallantly over-night of hiring a couple of oxen to draw
us up the mountain; but when it _came to the push_, his heart failed
him, and his Swiss economy prevailed. In addition to his habitual
closeness, the windfall of the ten guineas, which was beyond his
expectations, had whetted his appetite for gain, and he appeared
determined to make a good thing of his present journey. He pretended to
bargain with several of the owners, but from his beating them down to
the lowest fraction, nothing ever came of it, and when from the thawing
of the ice in the sun, the inconvenience became serious, so that we were
several times obliged to get out and walk, to enable the horses to
proceed with the carriage, he said it was too late. The country now grew
wilder, and the day gloomy. It was three o’clock before we stopped at
Pietra Mala to have our luggage examined on entering the Tuscan States;
and here we resolved to breakfast, instead of proceeding four miles
farther to Covigliaio, where, though we did not choose to pass the
night, we had proposed to regale our waking imaginations with a
thrilling recollection of the superstitious terrors of the spot, at ease
and in safety. Our reception at Pietra Mala was frightful enough; the
rooms were cold and empty, and we were met with a vacant stare or with
sullen frowns, in lieu of any better welcome. I have since thought that
these were probably the consequence of the contempt and ill-humour shewn
by other English travellers at the desolateness of the place, and the
apparent want of accommodation; for, as the fire of brushwood was
lighted, and the eggs, bread, and coffee were brought in by degrees, and
we expressed our satisfaction in them, the cloud on the brow of our
reluctant entertainers vanished, and melted into thankful smiles. There
was still an air of mystery, of bustle, and inattention about the house;
persons of both sexes, and of every age, passed and repassed through our
sitting room to an inner chamber with looks of anxiety and importance,
and we learned at length that the mistress of the inn had been, half an
hour before, brought to bed of a fine boy!

We had now to mount the longest and steepest ascent of the Apennines;
and Jaques, who began to be alarmed at the accounts of the state of the
road, and at the increasing gloom of the weather, by a great effort of
magnanimity had a yoke of oxen put to, and afterwards another horse, to
drag us up the worst part; but as soon as he could find an excuse he
dismissed both, and we crawled and stumbled on as before. The hills were
covered with a dense cloud of sleet and vapour driven before the blast,
that wrapped us round, and hung like a blanket or (if the reader
pleases) a dark curtain over the more distant range of mountains. On our
right were high ledges of frowning rocks, ‘cloud-clapt,’ and the summits
impervious to the sight—on our farthest left, an opening was made which
showed a milder sky, evening clouds pillowed on rocks, and a chain of
lofty peaks basking in the rays of the setting sun; between, and in the
valley below, there was nothing to be seen but mist and crag and grim
desolation with the lowering symptoms of the impending storm. We felt
uncomfortable, for the increased violence of the wind or thickening of
the fog would have presented serious obstacles to our farther progress,
which became every moment more necessary as the evening closed in—as it
was, we only saw a few yards of the road distinctly before us, which
cleared as we advanced forward; and at the side there was sometimes a
precipice, beyond which we could distinguish nothing but mist, so that
we seemed to be travelling along the edge of the world. The feeling was
more striking than agreeable. Our horses were blinded by the mist, which
drove furiously against them, and were nearly exhausted with continued
exertion. At length, when we had arrived near the very top of the
mountain, we had to cross a few yards of very slippery ice, which became
a matter of considerable doubt and difficulty.—The horses could hardly
keep their feet in straining to move forward, and if one of them had
fallen and been hurt, the accident might have detained us on the middle
of the mountain, without any aid near, or made it so late that the
descent on the other side would have been dangerous. Luckily, a
desperate effort succeeded, and we gained the summit of the hill without
accident. We had still some miles to go, and we descended rapidly down
on the other side, congratulating ourselves that we had daylight to
distinguish the road from the abyss that often skirted it. About
half-way down we emerged, to our great delight, from the mist (or
_brouillard_, as it is called) that had hitherto enveloped us, and the
valley opened at our feet in dim but welcome perspective. We proceeded
more leisurely on to La Maschere, having escaped the dangers threatened
us from precipices and robbers, and drove into a spacious covered
court-yard belonging to the inn, where we were safely housed like a
flock of sheep folded for the night. The inn at La Maschere is, like
many of the inns in Italy, a set of wide dilapidated halls, without
furniture, but with quantities of old and bad pictures, portraits or
histories. The people (the attendants here were women) were obliging and
good-humoured, though we could procure neither eggs nor milk with our
coffee, but were compelled to have it _black_. We were put into a
sitting-room with three beds in it without curtains, as they had no
other with a fire-place disengaged, and which, with the coverlids like
horse-cloths, and the strong smell of the leaves of Indian corn with
which they were stuffed, brought to one’s mind the idea of a
three-stalled stable. We were refreshed, however, for we slept securely;
and we entered upon the last stage betimes the following day, less
exhausted than we had been by the first. We had left the unqualified
desolation and unbroken irregularity of the Apennines behind us; but we
were still occasionally treated with a rocky cliff, a pine-grove, a
mountain-torrent; while there was no end of sloping hills with old ruins
or modern villas upon them, of farm-houses built in the Tuscan taste, of
gliding streams with bridges over them, of meadow-grounds, and thick
plantations of olives and cypresses by the road side.

After being gratified for some hours with the cultivated beauty of the
scene (rendered more striking by contrast with our late perils), we came
to the brow of the hill overlooking Florence, which lay under us, a
scene of enchantment, a city planted in a garden, and resembling a rich
and varied suburb. The whole presented a brilliant amphitheatre of hill
and vale, of buildings, groves, and terraces. The circling heights were
crowned with sparkling villas; the varying landscape, above or below,
waved in an endless succession of olive-grounds. The olive is not unlike
the common willow in shape or colour, and being still in leaf, gave to
the middle of winter the appearance of a grey summer. In the midst, the
Duomo and other churches raised their heads; vineyards and olive-grounds
climbed the hills opposite till they joined a snowy ridge of Apennines
rising above the top of Fesole; one plantation or row of trees after
another fringed the ground, like rich lace; though you saw it not, there
flowed the Arno; every thing was on the noblest scale, yet finished in
the minutest part—the perfection of nature and of art, populous,
splendid, full of life, yet simple, airy, embowered. Florence in itself
is inferior to Bologna, and some other towns; but the view of it and of
the immediate neighbourhood is superior to any I have seen. It is,
indeed, quite delicious, and presents an endless variety of enchanting
walks. It is not merely the number or the exquisiteness or admirable
combination of the objects, their forms or colour, but every spot is
rich in associations at once the most classical and romantic. From my
friend L. H.’s house at Moiano, you see at one view the village of
Setiniano, belonging to Michael Angelo’s family, the house in which
Machiavel lived, and that where Boccaccio wrote, two ruined castles, in
which the rival families of the Gerardeschi and the —— carried on the
most deadly strife, and which seem as though they might still rear their
mouldering heads against each other; and not far from this the _Valley
of Ladies_ (the scene of _The Decameron_), and Fesole, with the
mountains of Perugia beyond. With a view like this, one may think one’s
sight ‘enriched,’ in Burns’s phrase. On the ascent towards Fesole is the
house where Galileo lived, and where he was imprisoned after his release
from the Inquisition, at the time Milton saw him.[40] In the town itself
are Michael Angelo’s house, the Baptistery, the gates of which he
thought worthy to be the gates of Paradise, the Duomo, older than St.
Peter’s, the ancient Palace of the Medici family, the Palace Pitti, and
here also stands the statue that ‘enchants the world.’ The view along
the Arno is certainly delightful, though somewhat confined, and the
bridges over it grotesque and old, but beautiful.

The streets of Florence are paved entirely with flag-stones, and it has
an odd effect at first to see the horses and carriages drive over them.
You get out of their way, however, more easily than in Paris, from not
having the slipperiness of the stones to contend with. The streets get
dirty after a slight shower, and the next day you have clouds of dust
again. Many of the narrower streets are like lofty paved courts, cut
through a solid quarry of stone. In general, the public buildings are
old, and striking chiefly from their massiness and the quaintness of the
style and ornaments. Florence is like a town that has survived itself.
It is distinguished by the remains of early and rude grandeur; it is
left where it was three hundred years ago. Its history does not seem
brought down to the present period. On entering it, you may imagine
yourself enclosed in a besieged town; if you turn down any of its
inferior streets, you feel as if you might meet the plague still lurking
there. Even the walks out of the town are mostly between high
stone-walls, which are a bad substitute for hedges. The best and most
fashionable is that along the river-side; and the gay dresses and
glittering equipages passing under the tall cedar-trees, and with the
purple hills in the distance for a back-ground, produce a delightful
effect, particularly when seen from the opposite side of the river. The
carriages in Florence are numerous and splendid, and rival those in
London. Lord Burghersh’s, with its six horses and tall footmen in fine
liveries, is only distinguishable from the rest by the little child in a
blue velvet hat and coat, looking out at the window. The Corso on
Sundays, and on other high days and holidays, is filled with a double
row of open carriages, like the ring in Hyde-Park, moving slowly in
opposite directions, in which you see the flower of the Florentine
nobility. I see no difference between them and the English, except that
they are darker and graver. It was Carnival-time when we came, and the
town presented something of the same scene that London does at
Bartholomew-Fair. The streets were crowded with people, half of them
masked. But what soon took off from the gaiety of the motley assemblage
was, that you found that the masks were all the same. There was great
observance of the season, and great good-will to be pleased, but a
dearth of wit and invention. Not merely the uniformity of the masks grew
tiresome, but the seeing an inflexible pasteboard countenance moving
about upon a living body (and without any thing quaint or extravagant in
the actions of the person to justify a resort to so grotesque a
disguise) shocked by its unmeaning incongruity. May-day in London is a
favourable version of the Carnival here. The finery of the
chimney-sweepers is an agreeable and intelligible contrast to their
usual squalidness. Their three days’ license has spirit, noise, and
mirth in it; whereas the dull eccentricity and mechanical antics of the
Carnival are drawled out till they are merged without any violent effort
in the solemn farce of Lent. It had been a fine season this year, and it
is said that the difference between a good season and a bad one to the
trades-people is so great, that it pays the rent of their houses. No one
is allowed to wear a mask, after Lent commences, and the priests never
mask. There is no need that they should. There is no ringing of bells
here as with us (triple bob-majors have not sent their cheering sound
into the heart of Italy); but during the whole ten days or fortnight
that the Carnival continues, there is a noise and jangling of bells,
such as is made by the idle boys in a country town on our Shrove
Tuesday. We could not tell exactly what to make of the striking of the
clocks at first: at eight they struck two; at twelve six. We thought
they were put back to prevent the note of time, or were thrown into
confusion to accord with the license of the occasion. A day or two
cleared up the mystery, and we found that the clocks here (at least
those in our immediate neighbourhood) counted the hours by sixes,
instead of going on to twelve—which method, when you are acquainted with
it, saves time and patience in telling the hour. I have only heard of
two masks that seemed to have any point or humour in them; and one of
these was not a mask, but a person who went about with his face
uncovered, but keeping it, in spite of every thing he saw or heard, in
the same unmoved position as if it were a mask. The other was a person
so oddly disguised, that you did not know what to make of him, whether
he were man or woman, beast or bird, and who, pretending to be equally
at a loss himself, went about asking every one, if they could tell him
what he was? A Neapolitan nobleman who was formerly in England (Count
Acetto), carried the liberty of masking too far. He went to the English
Ambassador’s in the disguise of a monk, carrying a bundle of wood at his
back, with a woman’s legs peeping out, and written on a large label,
‘Provision for the Convent.’ The clergy, it is said, interfered, and he
has been exiled to Lucca. Lord Burghersh remonstrated loudly at this
step, as a violation of the dignity and privileges of Ambassadors. The
offence, whatever it was, was committed at his house, and the English
Ambassador’s house is supposed to be in England—the _absentees_ here
were alarmed, for at this rate strangers might be sent out of the town
at an hour’s notice for a jest. The Count called in person on the Grand
Duke, who shook him kindly by the hand—the Countess Rinuccini demanded
an interview with the Grand Duchess—but the clergy must be respected,
and the Count has been sent away. There has been a good deal of talk and
bustle about it—ask the opinion of a dry Scotchman, who judges of every
thing by precedent, and he will tell you, ‘It is just like our _Alien
Bill_.’ It is a rule here that a priest is never brought upon the stage.
How do they contrive to act our _Romeo and Juliet_? Molière’s _Tartuffe_
is not a priest, but merely a saint. When this play was forbidden to be
acted a second time by the Archbishop of Paris, and the audience loudly
demanded the reason of its being withdrawn, Molière came forward and
said, ‘_Monsieur l’Archevêque ne veut pas qu’il soit joué?_’ This was a
hundred and fifty years ago. With so much wit and sense in the world one
wonders that there are any Tartuffes left in it; but for the last
hundred and fifty years, it must be confessed, they have had but an
uneasy life of it.

Lent is not kept here very strictly. The streets, however, have rather a
‘fishy fume’ in consequence of it; and, generally speaking, the use of
garlick, tobacco, cloves and oil gives a medicated taint to the air. The
number of pilgrims to Rome, at this season, is diminished from 80 or
90,000 a century ago, to a few hundreds at present. We passed two on the
road, with their staff and scrip and motley attire. I did not look at
them with any particle of respect. The impression was, that they were
either knaves or fools. The farther they come on this errand, the more
you have a right to suspect their motives, not that I by any means
suppose these are always bad—but those who signalise their zeal by such
long marches obtain not only absolution for the past, but extraordinary
indulgence for the future, so that if a person meditate any baseness or
mischief, a pilgrimage to Rome is his high road to it. The Popish
religion is a convenient cloak for crime, an embroidered robe for
virtue. It makes the essence of good and ill to depend on rewards and
punishments, and places these in the hands of the priests, for the
honour of God and the welfare of the church. Their path to Heaven is a
kind of gallery directly over the path to Hell; or, rather, it is the
same road, only that at the end of it you kneel down, lift up your hands
and eyes, and say you have gone wrong, and you are admitted into the
right-hand gate, instead of the left-hand one. Hell is said, in the
strong language of controversial divinity, to be ‘paved with good
intentions.’ Heaven, according to some fanatical creeds, is ‘paved with
mock-professions.’ Devotees and proselytes are passed on like wretched
paupers, with false certificates of merit, by hypocrites and bigots, who
consider submission to their opinions and power as more than equivalent
to a conformity to the dictates of reason or the will of God. All this
is charged with being a great piece of cant and imposture: it is not
more so than human nature itself. Popery is said to be a _make-believe_
religion: man is a _make-believe_ animal—he is never so truly himself as
when he is acting a part; he is ever at war with himself—his theory with
his practice—what he would be (and therefore pretends to be) with what
he is; and Popery is an admirable receipt to reconcile his higher and
his lower nature in a beautiful _equivoque_ or _double-entendre_ of
forms and mysteries,—the palpableness of sense with the dim abstractions
of faith, the indulgence of passion with the atonement of confession and
abject repentance when the fit is over, the debasement of the actual
with the elevation of the ideal part of man’s nature, the Pagan with the
Christian religion; to substitute lip-service, genuflections, adoration
of images, counting of beads, repeating of _Aves_ for useful works or
pure intentions, and to get rid at once of all moral obligation, of all
self-control and self-respect, by the proxy of maudlin superstition, by
a slavish submission to priests and saints, by prostrating ourselves
before them, and entreating them to take our sins and weaknesses upon
them, and supply us with a saving grace (at the expence of a routine of
empty forms and words) out of the abundance of their merits and imputed
righteousness. This religion suits the pride and weakness of man’s
intellect, the indolence of his will, the cowardliness of his fears, the
vanity of his hopes, his disposition to reap the profits of a good thing
and leave the trouble to others, the magnificence of his pretensions
with the meanness of his performance, the pampering of his passions, the
stifling of his remorse, the making sure of this world and the next, the
saving of his soul and the comforting of his body. It is adapted equally
to kings and people—to those who love power or dread it—who look up to
others as Gods, or who would trample them under their feet as
reptiles—to the devotees of show and sound, or the visionary and gloomy
recluse—to the hypocrite and bigot—to saints or sinners—to fools or
knaves—to men, women, and children. In short, its success is owing to
this, that it is a mixture of bitter sweets—that it is a remedy that
soothes the disease it affects to cure—that it is not an antidote, but a
vent for the peccant humours, the follies and vices of mankind, with a
salvo in favour of appearances, a reserve of loftier aspirations
(whenever it is convenient to resort to them), and a formal recognition
of certain general principles, as a courtesy of speech, or a compromise
between the understanding and the passions! _Omne tulit punctum._ There
is nothing to be said against it, but that it is contrary to reason and
common sense; and even were they to prevail over it, some other
absurdity would start up in its stead, not less mischievous but less
amusing; for man cannot exist long without having scope given to his
propensity to the marvellous and contradictory. Methodism with us is
only a bastard kind of Popery, with which the rabble are intoxicated;
and to which even the mistresses of Kings might resort (but for its
vulgarity) to repair faded charms with divine graces, to exchange the
sighs of passion for the tears of a no less luxurious repentance, and to
exert one more act of power by making proselytes of their royal
paramours!

The Popish calendar is but a transposition of the Pagan Mythology. The
images, shrines, and pictures of the Virgin Mary, that we meet at the
corner of every street or turning of a road, are not of modern date, but
coeval with the old Greek and Roman superstitions. There were the same
shrines and images formerly dedicated to Flora, or Ceres, or Pomona, and
the flowers and the urn still remain. The oaths of the common people are
to this day more Heathen than Catholic. They swear ‘By the countenance
of Bacchus’—‘By the heart of Diana.’ A knavish innkeeper, if you
complain of the badness of his wine, swears ‘_Per Bacco e per Dio_,’ ‘By
Bacchus and by God, that it is good!’ I wonder when the change in the
forms of image-worship took place in the old Roman States, and what
effect it had. I used formerly to wonder how or when the people in the
mountains of Cumberland and Westmoreland, and who live in solitudes to
which the town of Keswick is _the polite world_, and its lake ‘the
Leman-Lake,’ first passed from Popery to Protestantism, what difference
it made in them at the time, or has done to the present day? The answer
to this question would go a good way to shew how little the common
people know of or care for any theory of religion, considered merely as
such. Mr. Southey is on the spot, and might do something towards a
solution of the difficulty!

Customs come round. I was surprised to find, at the Hotel of the _Four
Nations_, where we stopped the two first days, that we could have a
pudding for dinner (a thing that is not to be had in all France); and I
concluded this was a luxury which the Italians had been compelled to
adopt from the influx of the English, and the loudness of their demands
for comfort. I understand it is more probable that this dish is
indigenous rather than naturalized; and that we got it from them in the
time of Queen Elizabeth, when our intercourse with Italy was more
frequent than it was with France. We might have remained at the _Four
Nations_; for eighteen francs a day, living in a very sumptuous manner;
but we have removed to apartments fitted up in the English fashion, for
ten piastres (two guineas) a month, and where the whole of our expenses
for boiled and roast, with English cups and saucers and steamed
potatoes, does not come to thirty shillings a week. We have every
English comfort with clearer air and a finer country. It was exceedingly
cold when we first came, and we felt it the more from impatience and
disappointment. From the thinness of the air there was a feeling of
nakedness about you; you seemed as if placed in an empty receiver. Not a
particle of warmth or feeling was left in your whole body: it was just
as if the spirit of cold had penetrated every part; one might be said to
be _vitrified_. It is now milder (Feb. 23), and like April weather in
England. There is a balmy lightness and vernal freshness in the air.
Might I once more see the coming on of Spring as erst in the spring-time
of my life, it would be here! I cannot speak to the subject of manners
in this place, except as to outward appearances, which are the same as
in a country town in England. Judging by the fashionable test on this
subject, they must be very bad and desperate indeed; for none of that
stream of prostitution flows down the streets, that in the British
metropolis is supposed to purify the morality of private families, and
to carry off every taint of grossness or licentiousness from the female
heart. Cecisbeism still prevails here, less in the upper, more in the
lower classes; and may serve as a subject for the English to vent their
spleen and outrageous love of virtue upon.

Fesole, that makes so striking a point of view near Florence, was one of
the twelve old Tuscan cities that existed before the time of the Romans,
and afterwards in a state of hostility to them. It is supposed to have
been originally founded by a Greek colony that came over with Cecrops,
and others go back to the time of Japhet or to Hesiod’s theogony.
Florence was not founded till long after. It is said to have occupied
the three conically-shaped hills which stand about three miles from
Florence. Here was fought the last great battle between Catiline and the
Senate; and here the Romans besieged and starved to death an army of the
Goths. It is a place of the highest antiquity and renown, but it does
not bear the stamp of anything extraordinary upon its face. You stand
upon a bleak, rocky hill, without suspecting it to have been the centre
of a thronged population, the seat of battles and of mighty events in
eldest times. So you pass through cities and stately palaces, and cannot
be persuaded that, one day, no trace of them will be left. Italy is not
favourable to the look of age or of length of time. The ravages of the
climate are less fatal; the oldest places seem rather deserted than
mouldering into ruin, and the youth and beauty of surrounding objects
mixes itself up even with the traces of devastation and decay. The
monuments of antiquity appear to enjoy a green old age in the midst of
the smiling productions of modern civilization. The gloom of the seasons
does not at any rate add its weight to the gloom and antiquity. It was
in Italy, I believe, that Milton had the spirit and buoyancy of
imagination to write his Latin sonnet on the Platonic idea of the
archetype of the world, where he describes the shadowy cave in which
‘dwelt Eternity’ (_otiosa eternitas_), and ridicules the apprehension
that Nature could ever grow old, or ‘shake her starry head with palsy.’
It has been well observed, that there is more of the germ of Paradise
Lost in the author’s early Latin poems, than in his early English ones,
which are in a strain rather playful and tender, than stately or
sublime. It is said that several of Milton’s Poems, which he wrote at
this period, are preserved in manuscript in the libraries in Florence;
but it is probable that if so, they are no more than duplicates of those
already known, which he gave to friends. His reputation here was high,
and delightful to think of; and a volume was dedicated to him by
Malatesta, a poet of the day, and a friend of Redi—‘To the ingenuous and
learned young Englishman, John Milton.’ When one thinks of the poor
figure which our countrymen often make abroad, and also of the supposed
reserved habits and puritanical sourness of our great English Epic Poet,
one is a little in pain for his reception among foreigners and surprised
at his success, for which, perhaps, his other accomplishments (as his
skill in music) and his personal advantages, may, in some measure,
account. There is another consideration to be added, which is, that
Milton did not labour under the disadvantage of addressing foreigners in
their native tongue, but conversed with them on equal terms in Latin.
That was surely the polite and enviable age of letters, when the learned
spoke a common and well-known tongue, instead of petty, huckstering,
Gothic dialects of different nations! Now, every one who is not a
Frenchman, or who does not gabble French, is no better than a stammerer
or a changeling out of his own country. I do not complain of this as a
very great grievance; but it certainly prevents those far-famed meetings
between learned men of different nations, which are recorded in history,
as of Sir Thomas More with Erasmus, and of Milton with the philosophers
and poets of Italy.

             ‘Sweet is the dialect of Arno’s vale:
             Though half consumed, I gladly turn to hear.’

So Dante makes one of his heroes exclaim. It is pleasant to hear or
speak one’s native tongue when abroad; but possibly the language of that
higher and adopted country, which was familiar to the scholar of former
times, sounded even sweeter to the ear of friendship or of genius.



                              CHAPTER XVII


The first thing you do when you get to a town abroad is to go to the
Post-office in expectation of letters, which you are sure not to receive
exactly in proportion as you are anxious to have them. Friends at a
distance have you at a disadvantage; and they let you know it, if they
will let you know nothing else. There is in this a love of power or of
contradiction, and at the same time a want of imagination. They cannot
change places with you, or suppose how you can be so much at a loss
about what is so obvious to them. It seems putting them to unnecessary
trouble to transmit a self-evident truth (which it is upon the spot) a
thousand miles (where it becomes a discovery). You have this comfort,
however, under the delay of letters, that they have no bad news to send
you, or you would hear of it in an instant.

When you are disappointed of your letters at the post-office at
Florence, you turn round, and find yourself in the square of the Grand
Duke, with the old Palace opposite to you, and a number of colossal
statues, bleached in the open air, in front of it. They seem a species
of huge stone-masonry. What is your surprise to learn, that they are the
Hercules of Bandinello, and the David of Michael Angelo! Not far from
these, is the Perseus of Benvenuto Cellini, which he makes such a _fuss_
about in his Life.[41] It is of bronze. After a great deal of cabal,
before he was employed on this work, and great hostility and
disagreeable obstacles thrown in his way in the progress of it, he at
length finished the mould, and prepared to cast the figure. He found
that the copper which he had at first thrown in did not work kindly.
After one or two visits to the furnace, he grew impatient, and seizing
on all the lead, iron, and brass he could lay his hands on in the house,
threw it _pell-mell_, and in a fit of desperation, into the melting
mass, and retired to wait the result. After passing an hour in the
greatest agitation, he returned; and inspecting the cast, to his extreme
joy discovered it to be smooth and perfect, without a flaw in any part,
except a dint in the heel. He then sat down to enjoy his triumph over
his enemies, and to devour a cold chicken (which he had provided for his
supper) with vast composure and relish. It is a pity that a work
produced under such auspicious circumstances does not altogether answer
the romantic expectations formed of it. There is something petty and
forced about it; and it smells of the goldsmith’s and jeweller’s shop. I
would rather see the large silver vase, richly embossed by him with
groups of flowers and figures, which was ordered by the Pope and placed
under his table for the Cardinals and other guests to throw their bones
into, instead of throwing them on the floor for the dogs to pick up, as
had hitherto been the custom—a fine proof of the mingled barbarism and
refinement of those days.[42] Benvenuto was a character and a genius,
and more of a character than of a genius; for, after all, the greatest
geniuses are ‘men of no mark or likelihood.’ Their strongest impulses
are not personal, but pass out of themselves into the universe; nor do
they waste their energies upon their private whims and perverse
peculiarities. In Bandinello one does not look for much; he was never
much esteemed, and is made a butt of by Benvenuto Cellini. But what
shall we say to a _commonplace_ or barbarous piece of work by Michael
Angelo? The David is as if a large mass of solid marble fell upon one’s
head, to crush one’s faith in great names. It looks like an awkward
overgrown actor at one of our minor theatres, without his clothes: the
head is too big for the body, and it has a helpless expression of
distress. The Bacchus in the Gallery, by the same artist, is no better.
It is _potbellied_, lank, and with a sickly, mawkish aspect. Both these
statues were, it is true, done when he was very young; and the latter,
when finished, he buried underground, and had it dug up as an antique,
and when it was pronounced by the _virtuosi_ of the day to be superior
to any thing in modern art, he produced the arm (which he had broken
off), and claimed it as his own, to the confusion of his adversaries.
Such is the story; and under the safeguard of this tradition, it has
passed, criticism-proof. There are two pictures here attributed to this
great artist; one in the Gallery, and another in the Palace Pitti, of
_The Fates_, which are three meagre, dry, mean-looking old women. I
shall not return to this subject till I get to the Vatican, and then I
hope to tell a different story. Nothing more casts one down than to find
an utter disproportion between the reality and one’s previous
conceptions in a case of this kind, when one has been brooding all one’s
life over an idea of greatness. If one could sneak off with one’s
disappointment in one’s pocket, and say nothing about it, or whisper it
to the reeds, or bury it in a hole, or throw it into the river (Arno),
where no one would fish it up, it would not signify; but to be obliged
to note it in one’s common-place book, and publish it to all the world,
‘tis villainous! It is well one can turn from disagreeable thoughts like
these to a landscape of Titian’s (the Holy Family at the Pitti Palace).
A green bank in the fore-ground presents a pastoral scene of sheep and
cattle reposing; then you have the deep green of the middle distance,
then the blue-topped hills, and the golden sky beyond, with the red
branches of an autumn wood rising into it; and in the faces of the
bending group you see the tints of the evening sky reflected, and the
freshness of the landscape breathed on their features. The depth and
harmony of colouring in natural objects, refined in passing through the
painter’s mind, mellowed by the hand of time, has acquired the softness
and shadowy brilliancy of a dream, and while you gaze at it, you seem to
be entranced! But to take things somewhat more in order.—

One of the striking things in the Gallery at Florence (given to the City
by one of the Medici Family) is the Collection of Antique Busts. The
Statues of Gods are the poetry of the art of that period. The busts of
men and women handed down to us are the history of the species. You see
the busts of Vitellius (whose throat seems bursting with ‘the jowl’ and
a dish of lampreys), Galba, Trajan, Augustus, Julia, Faustina,
Messalina; and you ask, were there real beings like these existing two
thousand years ago? It is an extension of the idea of humanity; and
‘even in death there is animation too.’ History is vague and shadowy,
but sculpture gives life and body to it; the names and letters in
time-worn books start up real people in marble, and you no longer doubt
their identity with the present race. Nature produced forms then as
perfect as she does now.—Forsyth and others have endeavoured to
invalidate the authenticity of these busts, and to shew that few of them
can be traced with certainty to the persons whose names they bear. That
with me is not the question. The interesting point is not to know _who_
they were, but _that_ they were. There is no doubt that they are busts
of people living two thousand years ago, and that is all that my moral
demands. As to individual character, it would be as well sometimes to
find it involved in obscurity; for some of the persons are better
looking than for the truth of physiognomy they ought to be. Nero is as
handsome a gentleman as his eulogists could wish him to be. The truth
is, that what pleases me in these busts and others of the same kind that
I have seen is, that they very much resemble English people of sense and
education in the present day, only with more regular features. They are
grave, thoughtful, unaffected. There is not a face among them that you
could mistake for a French face. These fine old heads, in short, confirm
one in the idea of general humanity: French faces stagger one’s faith in
the species!

There are two long galleries enriched with busts and statues of the most
interesting description, with a series of productions of the early
Florentine school, the Flying Mercury of John of Bologna, &c.; and in a
room near the centre (called the Tribune) stands the Venus of Medici,
with some other statues and pictures not unworthy to do her homage. I do
not know what to say of the Venus, nor is it necessary to say much where
all the world have already formed an opinion for themselves; yet,
perhaps, this opinion, which seems the most universal, is the least so,
and the opinion of all the world means that of no one individual in it.
The end of criticism, however, is rather to direct attention to objects
of taste, than to dictate to it. Besides, one has seen the Venus so
often and in so many shapes, that custom has blinded one equally to its
merits or defects. Instead of giving an opinion, one is disposed to turn
round and ask, ‘What do _you_ think of it?’ It is like a passage in the
‘Elegant Extracts,’ which one has read and admired, till one does not
know what to make of it, or how to affix any ideas to the words: beauty
and sweetness end in an unmeaning commonplace! If I might,
notwithstanding, hazard a hypercriticism, I should say, that it is a
little too much like an exquisite marble doll. I should conjecture (for
it is only conjecture where familiarity has neutralized the capacity of
judging) that there is a want of sentiment, of character, a balance of
pretensions as well as of attitude, a good deal of insipidity, and an
over-gentility. There is no expression of mental refinement, nor much of
voluptuous blandishment. There is great softness, sweetness, symmetry,
and timid grace—a faultless tameness, a negative perfection. The Apollo
Belvidere is positively bad, a theatrical coxcomb, and ill-made; I mean
compared with the Theseus. The great objection to the Venus is, that the
form has not the true feminine proportions; it is not sufficiently large
in the lower limbs, but tapers too much to a point, so that it wants
firmness and a sort of indolent repose (the proper attribute of woman),
and seems as if the least thing would overset it. In a word, the Venus
is a very beautiful toy, but not the Goddess of Love, or even of Beauty.
It is not the statue Pygmalion fell in love with; nor did any man ever
wish or fancy his mistress to be like it. There is something beyond it,
both in imagination and in nature. Neither have we a firm faith in the
identity of the Goddess; it is a nice point, whether any such form ever
existed. Now let us say what we will of the _ideal_, it ought, when
embodied to the senses, to bear the stamp of the most absolute reality,
for it is only an image taken from nature, with every thing omitted that
might contradict or disturb its uniformity. The Venus is not a poetical
and abstract personification of certain qualities; but an individual
model, that has been altered and tampered with. It would have had a
better effect if executed in ivory, with gold sandals and bracelets,
like that of Phidias (mentioned by Pliny), to define its pretensions as
belonging to the class of ornamental art; for it neither carries the
mind into the regions of ancient mythology, nor of ancient poetry, nor
rises to an equality of style with modern poetry or painting. Raphael
has figures of far greater grace, both mental and bodily. The Apollo of
Medicis, which is in the same room, is a very delightful specimen of
Grecian art; but it has the fault of being of that equivocal size (I
believe called _small-life_) which looks like diminutive nature, not
nature diminished.

Raphael’s Fornarina (which is also in this highly-embellished cabinet of
art) faces the Venus, and is a downright, point-blank contrast to it.
Assuredly no charge can be brought against it of _mimmini-piminee_
affectation or shrinking delicacy. It is robust, full to bursting,
coarse, luxurious, hardened, but wrought up to an infinite degree of
exactness and beauty in the details. It is the perfection of vulgarity
and refinement together. The Fornarina is a bouncing, buxom, sullen,
saucy baker’s daughter—but painted, idolized, immortalized by Raphael!
Nothing can be more homely and repulsive than the original; you see her
bosom swelling like the dough rising in the oven; the tightness of her
skin puts you in mind of Trim’s story of the sausage-maker’s
wife—nothing can be much more enchanting than the picture—than the care
and delight with which the artist has seized the lurking glances of the
eye, curved the corners of the mouth, smoothed the forehead, dimpled the
chin, rounded the neck, till by innumerable delicate touches, and the
‘labour of love,’ he has converted a coarse, rude mass into a miracle of
art. Raphael, in the height of his devotion, and as it were to insinuate
that nothing could be too fine for this idol of his fancy (as Rousseau
prided himself in writing the letters of Julia on the finest paper with
gilt edges) has painted the chain on the Fornarina’s neck with actual
gold-leaf. Titian would never have thought of such a thing; he could not
have been guilty of such a solecism in painting, as to introduce a solid
substance without shadow. Highly as Raphael has laboured this portrait,
it still shows his inferiority to Titian in the imitative part of
painting. The colour on the cheeks of the Fornarina seems laid on the
skin; in the girl by Titian at the Pitti Palace, it is seen through it.
The one appears tanned by the sun; the other to have been out in the
air, or is like a flower ‘just washed in the dew.’ Again, the surface of
the flesh in Raphael is so smooth, that you are tempted to touch it: in
Titian, it retires from the touch into a shadowy recess. There is here a
duplicate (varied) of his _Mistress at her Toilette_ (to be seen in the
Louvre), dressed in a loose night-robe, and with the bosom nearly bare.
It is very carefully finished, and is a rich study of colouring,
expression, and natural grace. Of the Titian Venus (with her gouvernante
and chest of clothes in the background) I cannot say much. It is very
like the common print. The Endymion by Guercino has a divine character
of pensive softness, and youthful, manly grace, and the impression made
by the picture answers to that made by the fable—an excellent thing in
history! It is one of the finest pictures in Florence. I should never
have done if I were to go into the details. I can only mention a few of
the principal. Near the Fornarina is the Young St. John in the
Wilderness, by Raphael; it is very dark, very hard, and very fine, like
an admirable carving in wood. He has here also two Holy Families, full
of playful sweetness and mild repose. There are also two by Correggio of
the same subject, and a fine and bold study of the Head of a Boy. There
is a spirit of joy and laughing grace contained in this head, as the
juice of wine is in the grape. Correggio had a prodigious raciness and
gusto, when he did not fritter them away by false refinement and a sort
of fastidious hypercriticism upon himself. His sketches, I suspect, are
better than his finished works. One of the Holy Families here is the
very acme of the _affettuoso_ and Della Cruscan style of painting. The
figure of the Madonna is like a studiously-involved period or turn upon
words: the infant Christ on the ground is a diminutive appellation, a
prettiness, a fairy-fancy. Certainly, it bears no proportion to the
Mother, whose hands are bent back over it with admiration and delight,
till grace becomes a _cramp_, and her eye-lids droop and quiver over the
fluttering object of her ‘strange child-worship,’ almost as if they were
moved by metallic tractors. The other Madonna is perfectly free from any
taint of affectation. It is a plain rustic beauty, innocent,
interesting, simple, without one contortion of body or of mind. It is
sweetly painted. The Child is also a pure study after nature: the blood
is tingling in his veins, and his face has an admirable expression of
careless infantine impatience. The old Man at the side is a
master-piece, with all this painter’s knowledge of foreshortening,
_chiaro-scuro_, the management of drapery, &c. Herodias’s Daughter, by
Luini, is an elaborate and successful imitation of Leonardo da Vinci.
The Medusa’s Head of the latter is hardly, I think, so fine as Barry’s
description of it. It has not quite the watery languor—the dim
obscurity. The eyes of the female are too much like the eyes of the
snakes, red, crusted, and edgy. I shall only notice one picture more in
this collection—the Last Judgment, by Bronzino. It has vast merit in the
drawing and expression, but its most remarkable quality is the amazing
relief without any perceivable shadow, and the utmost clearness with the
smallest possible variety of tint. It looks like a Mosaic painting. The
specimens of the Dutch and other foreign schools here are upon a small
scale, and of inferior value.

The Palace Pitti was begun by one of the Strozzi, who boasted that he
would build a palace with a court-yard in it, in which another palace
might dance. He had nearly ruined himself by the expense, when one of
the Medici took it off his hands and completed it. It is at present the
residence of the Grand Duke. The view within over the court-yard to the
terrace and mount above is superb. Here is the Venus of Canova, an
elegant sylph-like figure; but Canova was more to be admired for
delicacy of finishing, than for expression or conception of general
form. At the Gallery there is one room full of extraordinary pictures
and statues: at the Palace Pitti there are six or seven covered with
some of the finest portraits and history-pieces in the world, and the
walls are dark with beauty, and breathe an air of the highest art from
them. It is one of the richest and most original Collections I have
seen. It is not so remarkable for variety of style or subject as for a
noble opulence and aristocratic pride, having to boast names in the
highest ranks of art, and many of their best works. The Palace Pitti
formerly figured in the Catalogue of the Louvre, which it had
contributed to enrich with many of its most gorgeous jewels, which have
been brought back to their original situation, and which now shine here,
though not with unreflected lustre, nor in solitary state. Among these,
for instance, is Titian’s Hippolito di Medici (which the late Mr. Opie
pronounced the finest portrait in the world), with the spirit and
breadth of history, and with the richness, finish, and glossiness of an
enamel picture. I remember the first time I ever saw it, it stood on an
easel which I had to pass, with the back to me, and as I turned and saw
it with the boar-spear in its hand, and its keen glance bent upon me, it
seemed ‘a thing of life,’ with supernatural force and grandeur. The
famous music-piece by Giorgioni was at one time in the Louvre, and is
not a whit inferior to Titian. The head turned round of the man playing
on the harpsichord, for air, expression, and a true gusto of colouring,
may challenge competition all the world through. There goes a tradition
that these are the portraits of Luther and Calvin. Giorgioni died at the
age of thirty-four, heart-broken, it is said, because one of his
scholars had robbed him of his mistress—possibly the very beauty whose
picture is introduced here. Leo X., by Raphael, that fine, stern,
globular head, on which ‘deliberation sits and public care,’ is in the
same room with the Cardinal Bentivoglio, one of Vandyke’s happiest and
most _spiritual_ heads—a fine group of portraits by Rubens, of himself,
his brother, Grotius and Justus Lipsius, all in one frame—an admirable
Holy Family, in this master’s very best manner, by Julio Romano—and the
Madonna della Seggia of Raphael—all of these were formerly in the
Louvre. The last is painted on wood, and worn, so as to have a crayon
look. But for the grouping, the unconscious look of intelligence in the
children, and the rounding and fleshiness of the forms of their limbs,
this is one of the artist’s most unrivalled works. There are also
several by Andrea del Sarto, conceived and finished with the highest
taste and truth of feeling; a Nymph and Satyr by Giorgioni, of great
gusto; Hercules and Antæus, by Schiavoni (an admirable study of bold
drawing and poetical colouring), an unfinished sketch by Guido, several
by Cigoli and Fra. Bartolomeo; a girl in a flowered dress, by Titian (of
which Mr. Northcote possesses a beautiful copy by Sir Joshua); another
portrait of a Man in front view and a Holy Family, by the same; and one
or two fine pieces by Rubens and Rembrandt. There is a Parmegiano here,
in which is to be seen the origin of Mr. Fuseli’s style, a child in its
mother’s lap, with its head rolling away from its body, the mother’s
face looking down upon it with green and red cheeks tapering to a point,
and a thigh of an angel, which you cannot well piece to an urn which he
carries in his hand, and which seems like a huge scale of the
‘shard-borne beetle.’—The grotesque and discontinuous are, in fact,
carried to their height. Here is also the Conspiracy of Catiline, by
Salvator Rosa, which looks more like a Cato-street Conspiracy than any
thing else, or a bargain struck in a blacksmith’s shop; and a
Battle-piece by the same artist, with the round haunches and flowing
tail of a white horse repeated, and some fierce faces, hid by the smoke
and their helmets, of which you can make neither head nor tail. Salvator
was a great landscape-painter; but both he and Lady Morgan have been
guilty of a great piece of _egotism_ in supposing that he was any thing
more. These are the chief failures, but in general out of heaps of
pictures there is scarce one that is not of the highest interest both in
itself, and from collateral circumstances. Those who come in search of
high Italian art will here find it in perfection; and if they do not
feel this, they may turn back at once. The pictures in the Pitti Palace
are finely preserved, and have that deep, mellow tone of age upon them
which is to the eyes of a connoisseur in painting as the rust of medals
or the crust on wine is to connoisseurs and judges of a different stamp.



                             CHAPTER XVIII


The road between Florence and Rome by Sienna is not very interesting,
though it presents a number of reflections to those who are well
acquainted with the changes that have taken place in the history and
agriculture of these districts. Shortly after you leave Florence, the
way becomes dreary and barren or unhealthy. Towards the close of the
first day’s journey, however, we had a splendid view of the country we
were to travel, which lay stretched out beneath our feet to an immense
distance, as we descended into the little town of Pozzo Borgo. Deep
valleys sloped on each side of us, from which the smoke of cottages
occasionally curled: the branches of an overhanging birch-tree or a
neighbouring ruin gave relief to the grey, misty landscape, which was
streaked by dark pine-forests, and speckled by the passing clouds; and
in the extreme distance rose a range of hills glittering in the evening
sun, and scarcely distinguishable from the ridge of clouds that hovered
near them. We did not reach these hills (on the top of one of which
stands the fort of Radicofani) till the end of two days’ journey, making
a distance of between fifty and sixty miles, so that their miniature
size and fairy splendour, as they crowned the far-off horizon, may be
easily guessed. We did not find the accommodation on the road quite so
bad as we had expected. The chief want is of milk, which is to be had
only in the morning; but we remedied this defect by a taking a bottle of
it with us. The weather was cold enough (in the middle of March) to
freeze it. The economy of life is here reduced to a very great
simplicity, absolute necessaries from day to day and from hand to mouth;
and nothing is allowed for the chapter of accidents, or the irregular
intrusion of strangers. The mechanism of English inns is accounted for
by the certainty of the arrival of customers, with full pockets and
empty stomachs. There every road is a thoroughfare; here a traveller is
a curiosity, and we did not meet ten carriages on our journey, a
distance of a hundred and ninety-three miles, and which it took us six
days to accomplish. I may add that we paid only seven louis for our two
places in the Voiture (which, besides, we had entirely to ourselves) our
expences on the road included. This is cheap enough.

Sienna is a fine old town, but more like a receptacle of the dead than
the residence of the living. ‘IT WAS,’ might be written over the
entrance to this, as to most of the towns in Italy. The magnificence of
the buildings corresponds but ill with the squalidness of the
inhabitants; there seems no reason for crowding the streets so close
together when there are so few people in them. There is at present no
enemy without to huddle them together within the walls, whatever might
have been the case in former times: for miles you do not meet a human
being, or discern the traces of a human dwelling. The view through the
noble arch of the gate as you leave Sienna is at once exquisitely
romantic and picturesque: otherwise, the country presents a most
deplorable aspect for a length of way. Nature seems to have here taken
it upon her to play the part of a cinder-wench, and to have thrown up
her incessant heaps of clay and ashes, without either dignity or grace.
At a distance to the right and left, you see the stately remains of the
ancient Etruscan cities, cresting the heights and built for defence; and
here and there, perched on the top of a cliff, the ruinous haunt of some
bandit chief (the scourge of later days), that might be compared in
imagination to some dragon, old and blind, still watching for its
long-lost prey, and sharing the desolation it has made. There are two of
these near the wretched inn of La Scala, where we stopped the third
morning, rising in lonely horror from the very point of two hills,
facing each other and only divided by a brook, that baffle description,
and require the artist’s boldest pencil. Aided by the surrounding gloom,
and shrouded by the driving mist (as they were when we passed), they
throw the mind back into a trance of former times, and the cry of
midnight revelry, of midnight murder is heard from the crumbling walls.
The romantic bridge and hamlet under them begins the ascent of
Radicofani. The extensive ruin at the top meets your view and disappears
repeatedly during the long, winding, toilsome ascent. Over a tremendous
valley to the left, we saw the distant hills of Perugia, covered with
snow and blackened with clouds, and a heavy sleet was falling around us.
We started, on being told that the post-house stood directly on the
other side of the fort (at a height of 2400 feet above the level of the
sea), and that we were to pass the night there. It was like being lodged
in a cloud: it seemed the very rocking-cradle of storms and tempests. As
we wound round the road at the foot of it, we were relieved from our
apprehensions. It was a fortress built by stubborn violence for itself,
that might be said to scowl defiance on the world below, and to promise
security and shelter to those within its reach. Huge heaps of round
stones, gnarled like iron, and that looked as if they would break the
feet that trusted themselves among them, were rolled into the space
between the heights and the road-side. The middle or principal turret,
which rose between the other two, was thrown into momentary perspective
by the mist; a fragment of an outer wall stood beneath, half covered
with ivy; close to it was an old chapel-spire built of red brick, and a
small hamlet crouched beneath the ramparts. It reminded me, by its
preternatural strength and sullen aspect, of the castle of Giant Despair
in _The Pilgrim’s Progress_. The dark and stern spirit of former times
might be conceived to have entrenched itself here as in its last hold;
to have looked out and laughed at precipices and storms, and the puny
assaults of hostile bands, and resting on its red right arm, to have
wasted away through inaction and disuse in its unapproachable solitude
and barbarous desolation. Never did I see any thing so rugged and so
stately, apparently so formidable in a former period, so forlorn in
this. It was a majestic shadow of the mighty past, suspended in another
region, belonging to another age. I might take leave of it in the words
of old Burnet, whose Latin glows among these cold hills, _Vale augusta
sedes, digna rege; vale augusta rupes, semper mihi memoranda!_—We drove
into the inn-yard, which resembled a barrack (so do most of the inns on
the road), with its bed-rooms like hospital-wards, and its large
apartments for assemblages of armed men, now empty, gloomy, and
unfurnished; but where we found a hospitable welcome, and by the aid of
a double fee to the waiters every thing very comfortable. The first
object was to procure milk for our tea (of which last article we had
brought some very good from the shop of Signor Pippini, at Florence[43])
and the next thing was to lay in a stock for the remaining half of our
journey. We were not sorry to pass a night at the height of 2400 feet
above the level of the sea, and immediately under this famous fortress.
The winds ‘howled through the vacant guard-rooms and deserted lobbies’
of our hostelry, and the snow descended in a heavy fall, and covered the
valleys; but Radicofani looked the same, as we saw it through the
coach-windows the next morning, old, grey, deserted, gloomy, as if it
had survived ‘a thousand storms, a thousand winters’—the peasant still
crawled along its trenches, the traveller stopped to gaze at its
battlements—but neither spear nor battle-axe would glitter there again,
nor banner be spread, nor the clash of arms be heard in the round of
ever-rolling years—it looked back to other times as we looked back upon
it, and stood towering in its decay, and nodding to an eternal repose!
The road in this, as in other parts of Italy, is evidently calculated,
and was originally constructed, for the march of an army. Instead of
creeping along the valleys, it passes along the ridges of hills to
prevent surprise, or watch the movements of an enemy, and thus generally
commands an extensive view of the country, such as it is. It was long
before winding slowly into the valley, we lost sight of our last night’s
station.

Aquapendente is situated on the brow of a hill, over a running stream,
as its name indicates, and the ascent to it is up the side of a steep
rugged ravine, with overhanging rocks and shrubs. The mixture of
wildness and luxuriance answered to my idea of Italian scenery, but I
had seen little of it hitherto. The town is old, dirty, and
disagreeable; and we were driven to an inn in one of the bye-streets,
where there was but one sitting-room, which was occupied by an English
family, who were going to leave it immediately, but who, I suppose, on
hearing that some one else was waiting for it, claimed the right of
keeping it as long as they pleased. The assertion of an abstract right
is the idea uppermost in the minds of all English people. Unfortunately,
when its attainment is worth any thing, their spirit of contradiction
makes them ready to relinquish it; or when it costs them any thing,
their spirit of self-interest deters them from the pursuit! After
waiting some time, we at last breakfasted in a sort of kitchen or
outhouse upstairs, where we had very excellent but homely fare, and
where we were amused with the furniture—a dove-house, a kid,
half-skinned, hanging on the walls; a loose heap of macaroni and
vegetables in one corner, plenty of smoke, a Madonna carved and painted,
and a map of Constantinople. The pigeons on the floor were busy with
their murmuring plaints, and often fluttered their wings as if to fly.
So, thought I, the nations of the earth clap their wings, and strive in
vain to be free! The landlady was a woman about forty, diminutive and
sickly, but with one of those pale, mild, penetrating faces which one
seldom sees out of Italy. She was the mother of two buxom daughters, as
coarse and hard as any thing of the kind one might meet with in
Herefordshire or Gloucestershire! The road from Aquapendente is of a
deep heavy soil, over which the horses with difficulty dragged the
carriage, The view on one side was bounded by two fine conical hills
clothed to the very top with thick woods of beech and fir; and our route
lay for miles over an undulating ground covered with the wild broom
(growing to the size of a large shrub), among which herds of
slate-coloured oxen were seen browzing luxuriously. The broom floated
above them, their covering and their food, with its flexible silken
branches of light green, and presented an eastern scene, extensive, soft
and wild. We passed, I think, but one habitation between Aquapendente
and San Lorenzo, and met but one human being, which was a _Gen d’Armes_!
I asked our Vetturino if this dreary aspect of the country was the
effect of nature or of art. He pulled a handful of earth from the
hedge-side, and shewed a rich black loam, capable of every improvement.
I asked in whose dominions we were, and received for answer, ‘In the
Pope’s.’ San Lorenzo is a town built on the summit of a hill, in
consequence of the ravages of the _malaria_ in the old town, situated in
the valley below. It looks like a large alms-house, or else like a town
that has run away from the plague and itself, and stops suddenly on the
brow of a hill to see if the Devil is following it. The ruins below are
the most ghastly I ever saw. The scattered fragments of walls and houses
are crumbling away like rotten bones, and there are holes in the walls
and subterraneous passages, in which disease, like an ugly witch, seems
to lurk and to forbid your entrance. Further on, and winding round the
edge of the lake, you come to Bolsena. The unwholesome nature of the air
from the water may be judged of from the colour of the tops of the
houses, the moss on which is as yellow as the jaundice, and the grass
and corn-fields on its borders are of a tawny green. The road between
this and Monte-Fiascone, which you see on an eminence before you, lies
through a range of gloomy defiles, and is deformed by the blackened
corses of huge oak-trees, that strew the road-side, the unsightly relics
of fine old woods that were cut down and half-burnt a few years ago as
the haunts of bands of robbers. They plant morals in this country by
rooting up trees! While the country is worth seeing, it is not safe to
travel; but picturesque beauty must, of course, give place to the
police. I thought, when I first saw these cadaverous trunks lying by the
side of the lake, that they were the useless remains of cargoes of
timber that we had purchased of the Holy See to fight its battles, and
maintain the cause of social order in every part of the world! Let no
English traveller stop at Monte-Fiascone (I mean at the inn outside the
town), unless he would be starved and smoke-dried, but pass on to
Viterbo, which is a handsome town, with the best inn on the road. You
pass one night more on the road in this mode of travelling (which
resembles walking a minuet, rather than striking up a country dance) at
Ronciglione; and the next day from Baccano, you see rising up, in a
flat, hazy plain, the dome of St. Peter’s. You proceed for some miles
along a gradual descent without any object of much interest, pass the
Tiber and the gate _Del Popolo_, and you are in Rome. When there, go any
where but to Franks’s Hotel, and get a lodging, if possible, on the Via
Gregoriana, which overlooks the town, and where you can feast the eye
and indulge in sentiment, without being poisoned by bad air. The house
of Salvator Rosa is at present let out in lodgings. I have now lived
twice in houses occupied by celebrated men, once in a house that had
belonged to Milton, and now in this, and find to my mortification that
imagination, is entirely a _thing imaginary_, and has nothing to do with
matter of fact, history, or the senses. To see an object of thought or
fancy is just as impossible as to feel a sound or hear a smell.



                              CHAPTER XIX


‘As London is to the meanest country town, so is Rome to every other
city in the world.’

So said an old friend of mine, and I believed him till I saw it. This is
not the Rome I expected to see. No one from being in it would know he
was in the place that had been twice mistress of the world. I do not
understand how Nicolas Poussin could tell, taking up a handful of earth,
that it was ‘a part of the ETERNAL CITY.’ In Oxford an air of learning
breathes from the very walls: halls and colleges meet your eye in every
direction; you cannot for a moment forget where you are. In London there
is a look of wealth and populousness which is to be found nowhere else.
In Rome you are for the most part lost in a mass of tawdry, fulsome
_common-places_. It is not the contrast of pig-styes and palaces that I
complain of, the distinction between the old and new; what I object to
is the want of any such striking contrast, but an almost uninterrupted
succession of narrow, vulgar-looking streets, where the smell of garlick
prevails over the odour of antiquity, with the dingy, melancholy flat
fronts of modern-built houses, that seem in search of an owner. A
dunghill, an outhouse, the weeds growing under an imperial arch offend
me not; but what has a green-grocer’s stall, a stupid English china
warehouse, a putrid _trattoria_, a barber’s sign, an old clothes or old
picture shop or a Gothic palace, with two or three lacqueys in modern
liveries lounging at the gate, to do with ancient Rome? No! this is not
the wall that Romulus leaped over: this is not the Capitol where Julius
Cæsar fell: instead of standing on seven hills, it is situated in a low
valley: the golden Tiber is a muddy stream: St. Peter’s is not equal to
St. Paul’s: the Vatican falls short of the Louvre, as it was in my time;
but I thought that here were works immoveable, immortal, inimitable on
earth, and lifting the soul half way to heaven. I find them not, or only
what I had seen before in different ways: the Stanzas of Raphael are
faded, or no better than the prints; and the mind of Michael Angelo’s
figures, of which no traces are to be found in the copies, is equally
absent from the walls of the Sistine Chapel. Rome is great only in
ruins: the Coliseum, the Pantheon, the Arch of Constantine fully
answered my expectations; and an air breathes round her stately avenues,
serene, blissful, like the mingled breath of spring and winter, betwixt
life and death, betwixt hope and despair. The country about Rome is
cheerless and barren. There is little verdure, nor are any trees
planted, on account of their bad effects on the air. Happy climate! in
which shade and sunshine are alike fatal. The Jews (I may add while I
think of it) are shut up here in a quarter by themselves. I see no
reason for it. It is a distinction not worth the making. There was a
talk (it being _Anno Santo_) of shutting them up for the whole of the
present year. A soldier stands at the gate, to tell you that this is the
Jews’ quarter, and to take any thing you choose to give him for this
piece of Christian information. A Catholic church stands outside their
prison, with a Crucifixion painted on it as a frontispiece, where they
are obliged to hear a sermon in behalf of the truth of the Christian
religion every Good Friday. On the same day they used to make them run
races in the Corso, for the amusement of the rabble (high and low)—now
they are compelled to provide horses for the same purpose. Owing to the
politeness of the age, they no longer burn them as of yore, and that is
something. Religious zeal, like all other things, grows old and feeble.
They treat the Jews in this manner at Rome (as a local courtesy to St.
Peter), and yet they compliment _us_ on our increasing liberality to the
Irish Catholics. The Protestant chapel here stands outside the walls,
while there is a British monument to the memory of the Stuarts, inside
of St. Peter’s; the tombs in the English burying-ground were destroyed
and defaced not long ago; yet this did not prevent the Prince Regent
from exchanging portraits with the Pope and his Ministers!—‘Oh!
liberalism—lovely liberalism!’ as Mr. Blackwood would say.

From the window of the house where I lodge, I have a view of the whole
city at once: nay, I can see St. Peter’s as I lie in bed of a morning.
The town is an immense mass of solid stone-buildings, streets, palaces,
and churches; but it has not the beauty of the environs of Florence, nor
the splendid background of Turin, nor does it present any highly
picturesque or commanding points of view like Edinburgh. The pleasantest
walks I know are round the Via Sistina, and along the Via di
Quattro-Fontane—they overlook Rome from the North-East on to the
churches of Santa Maria Maggiore, and of St. John Lateran, towards the
gate leading to Naples. As we loiter on, our attention was caught by an
open greensward to the left, with foot-paths, and a ruined wall and
gardens on each side. A carriage stood in the road just by, and a
gentleman and lady, with a little child, had got out of it to walk. A
soldier and a girl were seen talking together further on, and a herd of
cattle were feeding at their leisure on the yielding turf. The day was
close and dry—not a breath stirred. All was calm and silent. It had been
cold when we set out, but here the air was soft—of an Elysian
temperature, as if the winds did not dare to visit the sanctuaries of
the dead too roughly. The daisy sprung beneath our feet—the fruit-trees
blossomed within the nodding arches. On one side were seen the hills of
Albano, on the other the Claudian gate; and close by was Nero’s Golden
House, where there were seventy thousand statues and pillars, of marble
and of silver, and where senates kneeled, and myriads shouted in honour
of a frail mortal, as of a God. Come here, oh man! and worship thine own
spirit, that can hoard up, as in a shrine, the treasures of two thousand
years, and can create out of the memory of fallen splendours and
departed grandeur a solitude deeper than that of desert wildernesses,
and pour from the out-goings of thine own thoughts a thunder louder than
that of maddening multitudes! No place was ever so still as this; for
none was ever the scene of such pomp and triumph! Not far from this are
the Baths of Titus; the grass and the poppy (the flower of oblivion)
grow over them, and in the vaults below they shew you (by the help of a
torch) paintings on the ceiling eighteen hundred years old, birds, and
animals, a figure of a slave, a nymph and a huntsman, fresh and
elegantly foreshortened, and also the place where the Laocoon was
discovered. A few paces off is the Coliseum, or Amphitheatre of Titus,
the noblest ruin in Rome. It is circular, built of red stone and brick,
with arched windows, and the gillyflower and fennel growing on its walls
to the very top: one side is nearly perfect. As you pass under it, it
seems to raise itself above you, and mingle with the sky in its majestic
simplicity, as if earth were a thing too gross for it; it stands almost
unconscious of decay, and may still stand for ages—though Mr. Hobhouse
has written Annotations upon it! There is a hypocritical inscription on
it, to say that it has been kept in repair by the Popes, in order to
preserve the memory of the martyrs that suffered here in cruel combats
with wild beasts. As I have alluded to this subject, I will add that I
think the finest stanza in Lord Byron is that where he describes the
_Dying Gladiator_, who falls and does not hear the shout of barbarous
triumph echoing from these very walls:—

         ‘He hears it not; his thoughts are far away,
         Where his rude hut beside the Danube lay;
         There are his young barbarians, all at play,
         They and their Dacian mother; he their sire
         Is doom’d to make a Roman holiday.
         When will ye rise, ye Goths? awake and glut your ire!’
                                             CHILDE HAROLD.

The temple of Vesta is on the Tiber. It is not unlike an hour-glass—or a
toad-stool; it is small, but exceedingly beautiful, and has a look of
great antiquity. The Pantheon is also as fine as possible. It has the
most perfect unity of effect. It was hardly a proper receptacle for the
Gods of the Heathens, for it has a simplicity and grandeur like the
vaulted cope of Heaven. Compared with these admired remains of former
times I must say that the more modern churches and palaces in Rome are
poor, flashy, upstart looking things. Even the dome of St. Peter’s is
for the most part hid by the front, and the Vatican has no business by
its side. The sculptures there are also indifferent, and the mosaics,
except two—the Transfiguration and St. Jerome, ill chosen. I was lucky
enough to see the Pope here on Easter Sunday. He seems a harmless,
infirm, fretful old man. I confess I should feel little ambition to be
at the head of a procession, at which the ignorant stare, the better
informed smile. I was also lucky enough to see St. Peter’s illuminated
to the very top (a project of Michael Angelo’s) in the evening. It was
finest at first, as the kindled lights blended with the fading twilight.
It seemed doubtful whether it were an artificial illumination, the work
of carpenters and torch-bearers, or the reflection of an invisible sun.
One half of the cross shone with the richest gold, and rows of lamps
gave light as from a sky. At length a shower of fairy lights burst out
at a signal in all directions, and covered the whole building. It looked
better at a distance than when we went nearer it. It continued blazing
all night. What an effect it must have upon the country round! Now and
then a life or so is lost in lighting up the huge fabric, but what is
this to the glory of the church and the salvation of souls, to which it
no doubt tends? I can easily conceive some of the wild groups that I saw
in the streets the following day to have been led by delight and wonder
from their mountain-haunts, or even from the bandits’ cave, to worship
at this new starry glory, rising from the earth. The whole of the
immense space before St. Peter’s was in the afternoon crowded with
people to see the Pope give his benediction. The rich dresses of the
country people, the strong features and orderly behaviour of all, gave
this assemblage a decided superiority over any thing of the kind I had
seen in England. I did not hear the _Miserere_ which is chaunted by the
Priests, and sung by a single voice (I understand like an angel’s) in a
dim religious light in the Sistine Chapel; nor did I see the exhibition
of the relics, at which I was told all the beauty of Rome was present.
It is something even to miss such things. After all, St. Peter’s does
not seem to me the chief boast or most imposing display of the Catholic
religion. Old Melrose Abbey, battered to pieces and in ruins, as it is,
impresses me much more than the collective pride and pomp of Michael
Angelo’s great work. Popery is here at home, and may strut and swell and
deck itself out as it pleases, on the spot and for the occasion. It is
the pageant of an hour. But to stretch out its arm fifteen hundred
miles, to create a voice in the wilderness, to have left its monuments
standing by the Teviot-side, or to send the midnight hymn through the
shades of Vallombrosa, or to make it echo among Alpine solitudes, that
is faith, and that is power. The rest is a puppet-shew! I am no admirer
of Pontificals, but I am a slave to the picturesque. The Priests talking
together in St. Peter’s, or the common people kneeling at the altars,
make groups that shame all art. The inhabitants of the city have
something French about them—something of the cook’s and the milliner’s
shop—something pert, gross, and cunning; but the Roman peasants redeem
the credit of their golden sky. The young women that come here from
Gensano and Albano, and that are known by their scarlet boddices and
white head-dresses and handsome good-humoured faces, are the finest
specimens I have ever seen of human nature. They are like creatures that
have breathed the air of Heaven, till the sun has ripened them into
perfect beauty, health, and goodness. They are universally admired in
Rome. The English women that you see, though pretty, are pieces of dough
to them. Little troops and whole families, men, women, and children,
from the Campagna and neighbouring districts of Rome, throng the streets
during Easter and Lent, who come to visit the shrine of some favourite
Saint, repeating their _Aves_ aloud, and telling their beads with all
the earnestness imaginable. Popery is no farce to them. They surely
think St. Peter’s is the way to Heaven. You even see priests counting
their beads, and looking grave. If they can contrive to get possession
of this world for themselves, and give the laity the reversion of the
next, were it only in imagination, something is to be said for the
exchange. I only hate half-way houses in religion or politics, that take
from us all the benefits of ignorance and superstition, and give us none
of the advantages of liberty or philosophy in return. Thus I hate
Princes who usurp the thrones of others, and would almost give them
back, sooner than allow the rights of the people. Once more, how does
that monument to the Stuarts happen to be stuck up in the side-aisle of
St. Peter’s? I would ask the person who placed it there, how many
Georges there have been since James III.? His ancestor makes but an
ambiguous figure beside the posthumous group—

             ‘So sit two Kings of Brentford on one throne!’

The only thing unpleasant in the motley assemblage of persons at Rome,
is the number of pilgrims with their greasy oil-skin cloaks. They are a
dirty, disgusting set, with a look of sturdy hypocrisy about them. The
Pope (_pro formâ_) washes their feet; the Nuns, when they come, have
even a less delicate office to perform. Religion, in the depth of its
humility, ought not to forget decorum. But I am a traveller, and not a
reformer.

The picture-galleries in Rome disappointed me quite. I was told there
were a dozen at least, equal to the Louvre; there is not one. I shall
not dwell long upon them, for they gave me little pleasure. At the
Ruspigliosi Palace (near the Monte Cavallo, where are the famous
Colossal groups, said to be by Phidias and Praxiteles, of one of which
we have a cast in Hyde Park) are the Aurora and the Andromeda, by Guido.
The first is a most splendid composition (like the Daughter of the Dawn)
but painted in fresco; and the artist has, in my mind, failed through
want of practice in the grace and colouring of most of the figures. They
are a clumsy, gloomy-looking set, and not like Guido’s females. The
Andromeda has all the charm and sweetness of his pencil, in its pearly
tones, its graceful timid action, and its lovely expression of
gentleness and terror. The face, every part of the figure, has a beauty
and softness not to be described. This one figure is worth all the other
group, and the Apollo, the horses and the azure sea to boot. People talk
of the insipidity of Guido. Oh! let me drink long, repeated, relishing
draughts of such insipidity! If delicacy, beauty, and grace are
insipidity, I too profess myself an idolizer of insipidity: I will
venture one assertion, which is, that no other painter has expressed the
female character so well, so truly, so entirely in its fragile, lovely
essence, neither Raphael, nor Titian, nor Correggio; and, after these,
it is needless to mention any more. Raphael’s women are Saints; Titian’s
are courtesans; Correggio’s an affected mixture of both; Guido’s are the
true heroines of romance, the brides of the fancy, such as ‘youthful
poets dream of when they love,’ or as a Clarissa, a Julia de Roubigne,
or a Miss Milner would turn out to be! They are not only angels, but
young ladies into the bargain, which is more than can be said for any of
the others, and yet it is something to say. Vandyke sometimes gave this
effect in portrait, but his historical figures are fanciful and
sprawling. Under the Andromeda is a portrait by Nicholas Poussin of
himself (a duplicate of that in the Louvre), and an infant Cupid or
Bacchus, by the same artist, finely coloured, and executed in the manner
of Titian. There is in another room an unmeaning picture, by Annibal
Caracci, of Samson pulling down the temple of the Philistines, and also
a fine dead Christ by him; add to these a Diana and Endymion by
Guercino, in which the real sentiment of the story is thrown into the
landscape and figures. The Ruspigliosi Pavilion, containing these and
some inferior pictures, is situated near the remains of Constantine’s
Bath in a small raised garden or terrace, in which the early violets and
hyacinths blossom amidst broken cisterns and defaced statues. It is a
pretty picture; art decays, but nature still survives through all
changes. At the Doria Palace, there is nothing remarkable but the two
Claudes, and these are much injured in colour. The trees are black, and
the water looks like lead. There are several Garofolos, which are held
in esteem here (not unjustly) and one fine head by Titian. The Velasquez
(Innocent X.), so much esteemed by Sir Joshua, is a spirited sketch. The
Borghese Palace has three fine pictures, and only three—the Diana and
Actæon of Domenichino; the Taking down from the Cross, by Raphael; and
Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love. This last picture has a peculiar and
inexpressible charm about it. It is something between portrait and
allegory, a mixture of history and landscape, simple and yet quaint,
fantastical yet without meaning to be so, but as if a sudden thought had
struck the painter, and he could not help attempting to execute it out
of curiosity, and finishing it from the delight it gave him. It is full
of sweetness and solemnity. The Diana of Domenichino is just the reverse
of it. Every thing here is arranged methodically, and is the effect of
study and forethought. Domenichino was a painter of sense, feeling, and
taste; but his pencil was meagre, and his imagination dispirited and
impoverished. In Titian, the execution surpassed the design, and the
force of his hand and eye, as he went on, enriched the most indifferent
outline: in Domenichino, the filling up fell short of the conception and
of his own wishes. He was a man of great modesty and merit; and when
others expressed an admiration of his talents, they were obliged to
reckon up a number of his _chef-d’œuvres_ to convince him that they were
in earnest. He could hardly believe that any one else thought much of
his works, when he thought so little of them himself. Raphael’s Taking
down from the Cross is in his early manner, and the outlines of the
limbs are like the edges of plates of tin; but it has what was
inseparable from his productions, first and last, pregnant expression
and careful drawing. I ought to mention that there is, by the same
master-hand, a splendid portrait of Cæsar Borgia, which is an addition
to my list. The complexion is a strange mixture of orange and purple.
The hair of his sister, Lucretia Borgia (the friend and mistress of
Cardinal Bembo) is still preserved in Italy, and a lock of it was in the
possession of Lord Byron. I lately saw it in company with that of Milton
and of Bonaparte, looking calm, golden, beautiful, a smiling trophy from
the grave! The number and progressive improvement of Raphael’s works in
Italy is striking. It might teach our holiday artists that to do well is
to do much. Excellence springs up behind us, not before us; and is the
result of what we have done, not of what we intend to do. Many artists
(especially those abroad, who are distracted with a variety of styles
and models) never advance beyond the contemplation of some great work,
and think to lay in an unexampled store of accomplishments, before they
commence any undertaking. That is where they ought to end; to begin with
it is too much. It is as if the foundation-stone should form the cupola
of St. Peter’s. Great works are the result of much labour and of many
failures, and not of pompous pretensions and fastidious delicacy.

The Corsini pictures are another large and very indifferent collection.
All I can recollect worth mentioning are, a very sweet and silvery-toned
Herodias, by Guido; a fine landscape, by Gaspar Poussin; an excellent
sketch from Ariosto of the Giant Orgagna; and the Plague of Milan by a
modern artist, a work of great invention and judgment, and in which the
details of the subject are so managed as to affect, and not to shock.
The Campidoglio collection is better. There is a large and admirable
Guercino, an airy and richly-coloured Guido, some capital little
Garofolos, a beautiful copy of a Repose of Titian’s by Pietro da
Cortona, several Giorgiones, and a number of antique busts of the most
interesting description. Here is the bronze She-Wolf that suckled
Romulus and Remus, and the Geese that cackled in the Capitol. I find
nothing so delightful as these old Roman heads of Senators, Warriors,
Philosophers. They have all the freshness of truth and nature. They shew
something substantial in mortality. They are the only things that do not
crush and overturn our sense of personal identity; and are a fine relief
to the mouldering relics of antiquity, and to the momentary littleness
of modern things! The little Farnese contains the Galatea and the Cupid
and Psyche. If any thing could have raised my idea of Raphael higher, it
would have been some of these frescoes. I would mention the group of the
Graces in particular; they are true Goddesses. The fine flowing outline
of the limbs, the variety of attitudes, the unconscious grace, the
charming unaffected glow of the expression, are inimitable. Raphael
never perhaps escaped so completely from the trammels of his first
manner, as in this noble series of designs. The Galatea has been injured
in colour by the stoves which the Germans, who were quartered there,
lighted in the apartment. In the same room is the famous chalk head,
said to have been sketched upon the wall by Michael Angelo. The story is
probably a fabrication; the head is as coarse and mechanical as any
thing can be. Raphael’s Loggia in the corridors of the Vatican (the
subjects of what is called his Bible) appear to me divine in form,
relief, conception—above all, the figure of Eve at the forbidden tree;
his Stanzas there appear to me divine, more particularly the Heliodorus,
the School of Athens, and the Miracle of Bolseno, with all the truth and
force of character of Titian’s portraits (I see nothing, however, of his
colouring) and his own purity, sweetness, and lofty invention, added to
them. His oil pictures there are divine. The Transfiguration is a
wonderful collection of fine heads and figures: their fault is, that
they are too detached and bare, but it is not true that it embraces two
distinct points of time. The event below is going on in the Gospel
account, at the same time with the miracle of the Transfiguration above.
But I almost prefer to this the Foligno picture: the child with the
casket below is of all things the most Raphaelesque, for the sweetness
of expression, and the rich pulpy texture of the flesh; and perhaps I
prefer even to this the Crowning of the Virgin, with that pure dignified
figure of the Madonna sitting in the clouds, and that wonderous
emanation of sentiment in the crowd below, near the vase of flowers, all
whose faces are bathed in one feeling of ecstatic devotion, as the
stream of inspiration flows over them. There is a singular effect of
colouring in the lower part of this picture, as if it were painted on
slate, and from this cold chilly ground the glow of sentiment comes out
perhaps the more strong and effectual. In the same suite of apartments
(accessible to students and copyists) are the Death of St. Jerome, by
Domenichino; and the Vision of St. Romuald, by Andrea Sacchi, the last
of the Italian painters. Five nobler or more impressive pictures are not
in the world. A single figure of St. Michelle (as a pilgrim among the
Alps) is a pure rich offering of the pencil to legendary devotion, and
remarkable for the simplicity of the colouring, sweetness of the
expression, and the gloomy splendour of the background. There are no
others equally good. The Vatican contains numberless fine statues and
other remains of antiquity, elegant and curious. The Apollo I do not
admire, but the Laocoon appears to me admirable, for the workmanship,
for the muscular contortions of the father’s figure, and the divine
expression of the sentiment of pain and terror in the children. They
are, however, rather small than young. Canova’s figures here seem to me
the work of an accomplished sculptor, but not of a great man. Michael
Angelo’s figures of Day and Night, at the Chapel of St. Lorenzo at
Florence, are those of a great man; whether of a perfect sculptor or
not, I will not pretend to say. The neck of the Night is curved like the
horse’s, the limbs have the involution of serpents. These two figures
and his transporting the Pantheon to the top of St. Peter’s, have
settled my wavering idea of this mighty genius, which his David and
early works at Florence had staggered. His Adam receiving life from his
Creator, in the Sistine Chapel, for boldness and freedom, is more like
the Elgin Theseus than any other figure I have seen. The Jeremiah in the
same ceiling droops and bows the head like a willow-tree surcharged with
showers. Whether there are any faces worthy of these noble figures I
have not been near enough to see. Those near the bottom of the Last
Judgment are hideous, vulgar caricatures of demons and cardinals, and
the whole is a mass of extravagance and confusion. I shall endeavour to
get a nearer view of the Prophets and Sybils in the Capella Sistina. And
if I can discover an expression and character of thought in them equal
to their grandeur of form, I shall not be slow to acknowledge it.
Michael Angelo is one of those names that cannot be shaken without
pulling down Fame itself. The Vatican is rich in pictures, statuary,
tapestry, gardens, and in the views from it; but its immense size is
divided into too many long and narrow compartments, and it wants the
unity of effect and imposing gravity of the Louvre.



                               CHAPTER XX


There are two things that an Englishman understands, hard words and hard
blows. Nothing short of this (generally speaking) excites his attention
or interests him in the least. His neighbours have the benefit of the
one in war time, and his own countrymen of the other in time of peace.
The French express themselves astonished at the feats which our Jack
Tars have so often performed. A fellow in that class of life in England
will strike his hand through a deal board—first, to shew his strength,
which he is proud of; secondly, to give him a sensation, which he is in
want of; lastly to prove his powers of endurance, which he also makes a
boast of. So qualified, a controversy with a cannon-ball is not much out
of his way: a thirty-two pounder is rather an _ugly customer_, but it
presents him with a tangible idea (a thing he is always in search
of)—and, should it take off his head or carry away one of his limbs, he
does not feel the want of the one or care for that of the other.
Naturally obtuse, his feelings become hardened by custom; or if there
are any qualms of repugnance or dismay left, a volley of oaths, a few
coarse jests, and a double allowance of grog soon turn the affair into a
pastime. Stung with wounds, stunned with bruises, bleeding and mangled,
an English sailor never finds himself so much alive as when he is flung
half dead into the cockpit; for he then perceives the extreme
consciousness of his existence in his conflict with external matter, in
the violence of his will, and his obstinate contempt for suffering. He
feels his personal identity on the side of the disagreeable and
repulsive; and it is better to feel it so than to be a stock or a stone,
which is his ordinary state. Pain puts life into him; action, soul:
otherwise, he is a mere log. The English are not like a nation of women.
They are not thin-skinned, nervous, or effeminate, but dull and morbid:
they look danger and difficulty in the face, and shake hands with death
as with a brother. They do not hold up their heads, but they will turn
their backs on no man: they delight in doing and in bearing more than
others: what every one else shrinks from through aversion to labour or
pain, they are attracted to, and go through with, and so far (and so far
only) they are a great people. At least, it cannot be denied that they
are a _pugnacious_ set. Their heads are so full of this, that if a
Frenchman speaks of SCRIBE, the celebrated farce-writer, a young
Englishman present will suppose he means Cribb the boxer; and ten
thousand people assembled at a prize-fight will witness an exhibition of
pugilism with the same breathless attention and delight as the audience
at the _Théatre Français_ listen to the dialogue of Racine or Molière.
Assuredly, _we_ do not pay the same attention to Shakspeare: but at a
boxing-match every Englishman feels his power to give and take blows
increased by sympathy, as at a French theatre every spectator fancies
that the actors on the stage talk, laugh, and make love as he would. A
metaphysician might say, that the English perceive objects chiefly by
their mere material qualities of solidity, inertness, and
impenetrability, or by their own muscular resistance to them; that they
do not care about the colour, taste, smell, the sense of luxury or
pleasure:—they require the heavy, hard, and tangible only, something for
them to grapple with and resist, to try their strength and their
unimpressibility upon. They do not like to smell to a rose, or to taste
of made-dishes, or to listen to soft music, or to look at fine pictures,
or to make or hear fine speeches, or to enjoy themselves or amuse
others; but they will knock any man down who tells them so, and their
sole delight is to be as uncomfortable and disagreeable as possible. To
them the greatest labour is to be pleased: they hate to have nothing to
find fault with: to expect them to smile or to converse on equal terms,
is the heaviest tax you can levy on their want of animal spirits or
intellectual resources. A drop of pleasure is the most difficult thing
to extract from their hard, dry, mechanical, husky frame; a civil word
or look is the last thing they can part with. Hence the
_matter-of-factness_ of their understandings, their tenaciousness of
reason or prejudice, their slowness to distinguish, their backwardness
to yield, their mechanical improvements, their industry, their courage,
their blunt honesty, their dislike to the frivolous and florid, their
love of liberty out of hatred to oppression, and their love of virtue
from their antipathy to vice. Hence also their philosophy, from their
distrust of appearances and unwillingness to be imposed upon; and even
their poetry has its probable source in the same repining, discontented
humour, which flings them from cross-grained realities into the region
of lofty and eager imaginations.[44]—A French gentleman, a man of sense
and wit, expressed his wonder that all the English did not go and live
in the South of France, where they would have a beautiful country, a
fine climate, and every comfort almost for nothing. He did not perceive
that they would go back in shoals from this scene of fancied contentment
to their fogs and sea-coal fires, and that no Englishman can live
without something to complain of. Some persons are sorry to see our
countrymen abroad cheated, laughed at, quarrelling at all the inns they
stop at:—while they are in _hot-water_, while they think themselves
ill-used and have but the spirit to resent it, they are happy. As long
as they can swear, they are excused from being complimentary: if they
have to fight, they need not think: while they are provoked beyond
measure, they are released from the dreadful obligation of being
pleased. Leave them to themselves, and they are dull: introduce them
into company, and they are worse. It is the incapacity of enjoyment that
makes them sullen and ridiculous; the mortification they feel at not
having their own way in everything, and at seeing others delighted
without asking their leave, that makes them haughty and distant. An
Englishman is silent abroad from having nothing to say; and he looks
stupid, because he is so. It is kind words and graceful acts that
afflict his soul—an appearance of happiness, which he suspects to be
insincere because he cannot enter into it, and a flow of animal spirits
which dejects him the more from making him feel the want of it in
himself; pictures that he does not understand, music that he does not
feel, love that he cannot make, suns that shine out of England, and
smiles more radiant than they! Do not stifle him with roses: do not kill
him with kindness: leave him some pretext to grumble, to fret, and
torment himself. Point at him as he drives an English mail-coach about
the streets of Paris or of Rome, to relieve his despair of _éclat_ by
affording him a pretence to horsewhip some one. Be disagreeable, surly,
lying, knavish, impertinent out of compassion; insult, rob him, and he
will thank you; take any thing from him (nay even his life) sooner than
his opinion of himself and his prejudices against others, his moody
dissatisfaction and his contempt for every one who is not in as ill a
humour as he is.

John Bull is certainly a singular animal. It is the being the beast he
is that has made a man of him. If he do not take care what he is about,
the same ungoverned humour will be his ruin. He must have something to
butt at; and it matters little to him whether it be friend or foe,
provided only he can _run-a-muck_. He must have a grievance to solace
him, a bugbear of some sort or other to keep himself in breath:
otherwise, he droops and hangs the head—he is no longer John Bull, but
John Ox, according to a happy allusion of the Poet-Laureate’s. This
necessity of John’s to be repulsive (right or wrong) has been lately
turned against himself, to the detriment of others, and his proper cost.
Formerly, the Pope, the Devil, the Inquisition, and the Bourbons, served
the turn, with all of whom he is at present sworn friends, unless Mr.
Canning should throw out a _tub to a whale_ in South America: then
Bonaparte took the lead for awhile in John’s panic-struck brain; and
latterly, the Whigs and the _Examiner_ newspaper have borne the bell
before all other topics of abuse and obloquy. Formerly, liberty was the
word with John,—now it has become a bye-word. Whoever is not determined
to make a slave and a drudge of him, he defies, he sets at, he tosses in
the air, he tramples under foot; and after having mangled and crushed
whom he pleases, stands stupid and melancholy (_fænum in cornu_) over
the lifeless remains of his victim. When his fury is over, he repents of
what he has done—too late. In his tame fit, and having made a clear
stage of all who would or could direct him right, he is led gently by
the nose by Mr. Croker; and the ‘Stout Gentleman’ gets upon his back,
making a monster of him. Why is there a tablet stuck up in St. Peter’s
at Rome, to the memory of the three last of the Stuarts? Is it a _baisés
mains_ to the Pope, or a compromise with legitimacy? Is the dread of
usurpation become so strong, that a reigning family are half-ready to
acknowledge themselves usurpers, in favour of those who are not likely
to come back to assert their claim, and to countenance the principles
that may keep them on a throne, in lieu of the paradoxes that placed
them there? It is a handsome way of paying for a kingdom with an
epitaph, and of satisfying the pretensions of the living and the dead.
But we did not expel the slavish and tyrannical Stuarts from our soil by
the volcanic eruption of 1688, to send a whining Jesuitical recantation
and _writ of error_ after them to the other world a hundred years
afterwards. But it may be said that the inscription is merely a tribute
of respect to misfortune. What! from that quarter? No! it is a
‘lily-livered,’ polished, courtly, pious monument to the fears that have
so long beset the hearts of Monarchs, to the pale apparitions of Kings
dethroned or beheaded in time past or to come (from that sad example) to
the crimson flush of victory, which has put out the light of truth, and
to the reviving hope of that deathless night of ignorance and
superstition, when they shall once more reign as Gods upon the earth,
and make of their enemies their footstool! Foreigners cannot comprehend
this bear-garden work of ours at all: they ‘perceive a fury, but nothing
wherefore.’ They cannot reconcile the violence of our wills with the
dulness of our apprehensions, nor account for the fuss we make about
nothing; our convulsions and throes without end or object, the pains we
take to defeat ourselves and others, and to undo all that we have ever
done, sooner than any one else should share the benefit of it. They
think it is strange, that out of mere perversity and contradiction we
would rather be slaves ourselves, than suffer others to be free; that we
_back_ out of our most heroic acts and disavow our favourite maxims (the
blood-stained devices in our national coat of arms) the moment we find
others disposed to assent to or imitate us, and that we would willingly
see the last hope of liberty and independence extinguished, sooner than
give the smallest credit to those who sacrifice every thing to keep the
spark alive, or abstain from joining in every species of scurrility,
insult, and calumny against them, if the word is once given by the
whippers-in of power. The English imagination is not _riante_: it
inclines to the gloomy and morbid with a heavy instinctive bias, and
when fear and interest are thrown into the scale, down it goes with a
vengeance that is not to be resisted, and from the effects of which it
is not easy to recover. The enemies of English liberty are aware of this
weakness in the public mind, and make a notable use of it.

             ‘But that two-handed engine at the door
             Stands ready to smite once and smite no more.’

_Give a dog an ill name, and hang him_—so says the proverb. The
courtiers say, ‘Give a _patriot_ an ill name, and ruin him’ alike with
Whig and Tory—with the last, because he hates you as a friend to
freedom; with the first, because he is afraid of being implicated in the
same obloquy with you. This is the reason why the Magdalen Muse of Mr.
Thomas Moore finds a taint in the _Liberal_; why Mr. Hobhouse visits
Pisa, to dissuade Lord Byron from connecting himself with any but
gentlemen-born, for the credit of the popular cause. Set about a false
report or insinuation, and the effect is instantaneous and universally
felt—prove that there is nothing in it, and you are just where you were.
Something wrong somewhere, in reality or imagination, in public or in
private, is necessary to the minds of the English people: bring a charge
against any one, and they hug you to their breasts: attempt to take it
from them, and they resist it as they would an attack upon their persons
or property: a nickname is to their moody, splenetic humour a freehold
estate, from which they will not be ejected by fair means or foul: they
conceive they have a _vested right_ in calumny. No matter how base the
lie, how senseless the jest, it _tells_—because the public appetite
greedily swallows whatever is nauseous and disgusting, and refuses,
through weakness or obstinacy, to disgorge it again. Therefore Mr.
Croker plies his dirty task—and is a Privy-councillor; Mr. Theodore Hook
calls Mr. Waithman ‘Lord Waithman’ once a week, and passes for a wit!

I had the good fortune to meet the other day at Paris with my old
fellow-student Dr. E——, after a lapse of thirty years; he is older than
I by a year or two, and makes it five-and-twenty. He had not been idle
since we parted. He sometimes looked in, after having paid La Place a
visit; and I told him it was almost as if he had called on a star in his
way. It is wonderful how friendship, that has long lain unused,
accumulates like money at compound interest. We had to settle a long
account, and to compare old times and new. He was naturally anxious to
learn the state of our politics and literature, and was not a little
mortified to hear that England, ‘whose boast it was to give out
reformation to the world,’ had changed her motto, and was now bent on
propping up the continental despotisms, and on lashing herself to them.
He was particularly mortified at the degraded state of our public
press—at the systematic organization of a corps of government-critics to
decry every liberal sentiment, and proscribe every liberal writer as an
enemy to the person of the reigning sovereign, only because he did not
avow the principles of the Stuarts. I had some difficulty in making him
understand the full lengths of the malice, the lying, the hypocrisy, the
sleek adulation, the meanness, equivocation, and skulking concealment,
of a _Quarterly Reviewer_,[45]

the reckless blackguardism of _Mr. Blackwood_, and the obtuse drivelling
profligacy of the _John Bull_. He said, ‘It is worse with you than with
us: here an author is obliged to sacrifice twenty mornings and twenty
pair of black silk-stockings, in paying his court to the Editors of
different journals, to ensure a hearing from the public; but with you,
it seems, he must give up his understanding and his character, to
establish a claim to taste or learning.’ He asked if the scandal could
not be disproved, and retorted on the heads of the aggressors: but I
said that these were persons of no character, or studiously screened by
their employers; and besides, the English imagination was a bird of
heavy wing, that, if once dragged through the kennel of Billingsgate
abuse, could not well raise itself out of it again. He could hardly
believe that under the Hanover dynasty (a dynasty founded to secure us
against tyranny) a theatrical licenser had struck the word ‘tyrant’ out
of Mr. Shee’s tragedy, as offensive to ears polite, or as if from this
time forward there could be supposed to be no such thing in _rerum
naturâ_; and that the common ejaculation, ‘Good God!’ was erased from
the same piece, as in a strain of too great levity in this age of cant.
I told him that public opinion in England was at present governed by
half a dozen miscreants, who undertook to bait, hoot, and worry every
man out of his country, or into an obscure grave, with lies and
nicknames, who was not prepared to take the political sacrament of the
day, and use his best endeavours (he and his friends) to banish the last
traces of freedom, truth, and honesty from the land. ‘To be direct and
honest is not safe.’ To be a Reformer, the friend of a Reformer, or the
friend’s friend of a Reformer, is as much as a man’s peace, reputation,
or even life is worth. Answer, if it is not so, pale shade of Keats, or
living mummy of William Gifford! Dr. E—— was unwilling to credit this
statement, but the proofs were too flagrant. He asked me what became of
that band of patriots that swarmed in _our_ younger days, that were so
glowing-hot, desperate, and noisy in the year 1794? I said I could not
tell; but referred him to our present Poet-Laureate for an account of
them!

                      ——‘Can these things be,
                  And overcome us like a summer-cloud,
                  Without a special wonder?’

I suspect it is peculiar to the English not to answer the letters of
their friends abroad. They know you are anxious to hear, and have a
surly, sullen pleasure in disappointing you. To oblige is a thing
abhorrent to their imaginations; to be uneasy at not hearing from home
just when one wishes, is a weakness which they cannot encourage. Any
thing like a responsibility attached to their writing is a kind of
restraint upon their free-will, an interference with their independence.
There is a sense of superiority in not letting you know what you wish to
know, and in keeping you in a state of helpless suspense. Besides, they
think you are angry at their not writing, and would make them _if you
could_; and they show their resentment of your impatience and
ingratitude by continuing not to write.—One thing truly edifying in the
accounts from England, is the number of murders and robberies with which
the newspapers abound. One would suppose that the repetition of the
details, week after week, and day after day, might stagger us a little
as to our superlative idea of the goodness, honesty, and industry of the
English people. No such thing: whereas one similar fact occurring once a
year abroad fills us with astonishment, and makes us ready to _dub_ the
Italians (without any further inquiry) a nation of assassins and
banditti. It is not safe to live or travel among them. Is it not
strange, that we should persist in drawing such wilful conclusions from
such groundless premises? A murder or a street-robbery in London is a
matter of course[46]: accumulate a score of these under the most
aggravated circumstances one upon the back of the other, in town and
country, in the course of a few weeks—they all go for nothing; they make
nothing against the English character in the abstract; the force of
prejudice is stronger than the weight of evidence. The process of the
mind is this; and absurd as it appears, is natural enough. We say (to
ourselves) we are English, _we_ are good people, and therefore the
English are good people. We carry a proxy in our bosoms for the national
character in general. Our own motives are ‘very stuff o’ the
conscience,’ and not like those of barbarous foreigners. Besides, we
know many excellent English people, and the mass of the population
cannot be affected in the scale of morality by the outrages of a few
ruffians, which instantly meet with the reward they merit from wholesome
and excellent laws. We are not to be moved from this position, that the
great body of the British public do not live by thieving and cutting the
throats of their neighbours, whatever the accounts in the newspapers
might lead us to suspect. The streets are lined with bakers’, butchers’,
and haberdashers’ shops, instead of night-cellars and gaming-houses; and
are crowded with decent, orderly, well-dressed people, instead of being
rendered impassable by gangs of swindlers and pickpockets. _The
exception does not make the rule._ Nothing can be more clear or proper;
and yet if a single Italian commit a murder or a robbery, we immediately
form an abstraction of this individual case, and because we are ignorant
of the real character of the people or state of manners in a million of
instances, take upon us, like true Englishmen, to fill up the blank,
which is left at the mercy of our horror-struck imaginations, with
bugbears and monsters of every description. We should extend to others
the toleration and the suspense of judgment we claim; and I am sure we
stand in need of it from those who read the important head of ‘ACCIDENTS
AND OFFENCES’ in our Journals. It is true an Italian baker, some time
ago, shut his wife up in an oven, where she was burnt to death; the heir
of a noble family stabbed an old woman to rob her of her money; a lady
of quality had her step-daughter chained to a bed of straw, and fed on
bread and water till she lost her senses. This translated into vulgar
English means that all the bakers’ wives in Italy are burnt by their
husbands at a slow fire; that all the young nobility are common bravoes;
that all the step-mothers exercise unheard-of and unrelenting cruelty on
the children of a former marriage. We only want a striking frontispiece
to make out a tragic volume. As the traveller advances into the country,
robbers and rumours of robbers fly before him with the horizon. In
Italy,

               ‘Man seldom is—but always to be _robbed_.’

At Turin, they told me it was not wise to travel by a vetturino to
Florence without arms. At Florence, I was told one could not walk out to
look at an old ruin in Rome, without expecting to see a Lazzaroni start
from behind some part of it with a pistol in his hand. ‘There’s no such
thing;’ but hatred has its phantoms as well as fear; and the English
traduce and indulge their prejudices against other nations in order to
have a pretence for maltreating them. This moral delicacy plays an
under-game to their political profligacy. I am at present kept from
proceeding forward to Naples by _imaginary_ bands of brigands that
infest the road the whole way. The fact is, that a gang of banditti, who
had committed a number of atrocities and who had their haunts in the
mountains near Sonino, were taken up about three years ago, to the
amount of two and thirty: four of them were executed at Rome, and their
wives still get their living in this city by sitting as models to
artists, on account of the handsomeness of their features and the
richness of their dresses. As to courtesans, from which one cannot
separate the name of Italy even in idea, I have seen but one person
answering to this description since I came, and I do not even know that
this was one. But I saw a girl in white (an unusual thing) standing at
some distance at the corner of one of the bye-streets in Rome; after
looking round her for a moment, she ran hastily up the street again, as
if in fear of being discovered, and a countryman who was passing with a
cart at the time, stopped to look and hiss after her. If the draymen in
London were to stop to gape and hoot at all the girls they see standing
at the corners of streets in a doubtful capacity, they would have enough
to do. But the tide of public prostitution that pours down all our
streets is considered by some moralists as a drain to carry off the
peccant humours of private life, and to keep the inmost recesses of the
female breast sweet and pure from blemish! If this is to be the test, we
have indeed nearly arrived at the idea of a perfect commonwealth.

_Cicisbeism_ is still kept up in Italy, though somewhat on the decline.
I have nothing to say in favour of that anomaly in vice and virtue. The
English women are particularly shocked at it, who are allowed to hate
their husbands, provided they do not like any body else. It is a kind of
_marriage within a marriage_; it begins with infidelity to end in
constancy; it is not a state of licensed dissipation, but is a real
chain of the affections, superadded to the first formal one, and that
often lasts for life. A gay captain in the Pope’s Guard is selected by a
lady as her _cavalier servente_ in the prime of life, and is seen
digging in the garden of the family in a grey jacket and white hairs
thirty years after. This does not look like a love of change. The
husband is of course always a _fixture_; not so the _cavalier servente_,
who is liable to be removed for a new favourite. In noble families the
lover must be noble; and he must be approved by the husband. A young
officer, who the other day volunteered this service to a beautiful
Marchioness without either of these titles, and was a sort of interloper
on the intended gallant, was sent to Volterra. Whatever is the height to
which this system has been carried, or the level to which it has sunk,
it does not appear to have extinguished jealousy in all its excess as a
part of the national character, as the following story will shew: it is
related by M. Beyle, in his charming little work, entitled _De l’Amour_,
as a companion to the famous one in Dante; and I shall give the whole
passage in his words, as placing the Italian character (in former as
well as latter times) in a striking point of view.

‘I allude,’ he says, ‘to those touching lines of Dante;—

      ‘Deh! quando tu sarai tornato al mondo,
      Ricordati di me, che son la Pia;
      Sienna mi fê: disfecemi Maremma:
      Salsi colui, che inannellata pria,
      Disposando, m’avea con la sua gemma.’—_Purgatorio_, _c._ 5.

‘The woman who speaks with so much reserve, had in secret undergone the
fate of Desdemona, and had it in her power, by a single word, to have
revealed her husband’s crime to the friends whom she had left upon
earth.

‘Nello della Pietra obtained in marriage the hand of Madonna Pia, sole
heiress of the Ptolomei, the richest and most noble family of Sienna.
Her beauty, which was the admiration of all Tuscany, gave rise to a
jealousy in the breast of her husband, that, envenomed by false reports
and by suspicions continually reviving, led to a frightful catastrophe.
It is not easy to determine at this day if his wife was altogether
innocent; but Dante has represented her as such. Her husband carried her
with him into the marshes of Volterra, celebrated then, as now, for the
pestiferous effects of the air. Never would he tell his unhappy wife the
reason of her banishment into so dangerous a place. His pride did not
deign to pronounce either complaint or accusation. He lived with her
alone, in a deserted tower, of which I have been to see the ruins on the
sea-shore; here he never broke his disdainful silence, never replied to
the questions of his youthful bride, never listened to her entreaties.
He waited unmoved by her for the air to produce its fatal effects. The
vapours of this unwholesome swamp were not long in tarnishing features
the most beautiful, they say, that in that age had appeared upon earth.
In a few months she died. Some chroniclers of these remote times report,
that Nello employed the dagger to hasten her end: she died in the
marshes in some horrible manner; but the mode of her death remained a
mystery, even to her contemporaries. Nello della Pietra survived to pass
the rest of his days in a silence which was never broken.

‘Nothing can be conceived more noble or more delicate than the manner in
which the ill-fated Pia addresses herself to Dante. She desires to be
recalled to the memory of the friends whom she had quitted so young: at
the same time, in telling her name and alluding to her husband, she does
not allow herself the smallest complaint against a cruelty unexampled,
but thenceforth irreparable; and merely intimates that he knows the
history of her death. This constancy in vengeance and in suffering is to
be met with, I believe, only among the people of the South. In Piedmont,
I found myself the involuntary witness of a fact almost similar; but I
was at the time ignorant of the details. I was ordered with
five-and-twenty dragoons into the woods that border the Sesia, to
prevent the contraband traffic. On my arrival in the evening at this
wild and solitary place, I distinguished among the trees the ruins of an
old castle: I went to it: to my great surprise, it was inhabited. I
there found a Nobleman of the country, of a very unpromising aspect; a
man six feet in height, and forty years of age: he allowed me a couple
of apartments with a very ill grace. Here I entertained myself by
getting up some pieces of music with my quarter-master: after the
expiration of some days, we discovered that our host kept guard over a
woman whom we called Camilla in jest: we were far from suspecting the
dreadful truth. She died at the end of six weeks. I had the melancholy
curiosity to see her in her coffin; I bribed a monk who had charge of
it, and towards midnight, under pretext of sprinkling the holy water, he
conducted me into the chapel. I there saw one of those fine faces, which
are beautiful even in the bosom of death: she had a large aquiline nose,
of which I never shall forget the noble and expressive outline. I
quitted this mournful spot; but five years after, a detachment of my
regiment accompanying the Emperor to his coronation as King of Italy, I
had the whole story recounted to me. I learned that the jealous husband,
the Count of ——, had one morning found, hanging to his wife’s bedside,
an English watch belonging to a young man in the little town where they
lived. The same day he took her to the ruined castle, in the midst of
the forests of the Sesia. Like Nello della Pietra, he uttered not a
single word. If she made him any request, he presented to her sternly
and in silence the English watch, which he had always about him. In this
manner he passed nearly three years with her. She at length fell a
victim to despair, in the flower of her age. Her husband attempted to
dispatch the owner of the watch with a stiletto, failed, fled to Genoa,
embarked there, and no tidings have been heard of him since. His
property was confiscated.’—_De l’Amour_, vol i. p. 131.

This story is interesting and well told. One such incident, or one page
in Dante or in Spenser is worth all the route between this and Paris,
and all the sights in all the post-roads in Europe. Oh Sienna! if I felt
charmed with thy narrow, tenantless streets, or looked delighted through
thy arched gateway over the subjected plain, it was that some
recollections of Madonna Pia hung upon the beatings of my spirit, and
converted a barren waste into the regions of romance!



                              CHAPTER XXI


We had some thoughts of taking a lodging at L’Ariccia, at the Caffé del
Piazza, for a month, but the deep sandy roads, the centinels posted
every half-mile on this, which is the route for Naples (which shewed
that it was not very safe to leave them), the loose, straggling woods
sloping down to the dreary marshes, and the story of Hippolitus painted
on the walls of the inn (who, it seems, was ‘native to the manner
here’), deterred us. L’Ariccia, besides being, after Cortona, the oldest
place in Italy, is also one step towards Naples, which I had a strong
desire to see—its brimming shores, its sky which glows like one entire
sun, Vesuvius, the mouth of Hell, and Sorrentum, like the Islands of the
Blest—yet here again the reports of robbers, exaggerated alike by
foreigners and natives, who wish to keep you where you are, the accounts
of hogs without hair, and children without clothes to their backs, the
vermin (animal as well as human), the gilded hams and legs of mutton
that Forsyth speaks of, gave me a distaste to the journey, and I turned
back to put an end to the question. I am fond of the sun, though I do
not like to see him and the assassin’s knife glaring over my head
together. As to the real amount of the danger of travelling this road,
as far as I can learn, it is this—there is at present a possibility but
no probability of your being robbed or kidnapped, if you go in the
day-time and by the common method of a Vetturino, stopping two nights on
the road. If you go alone, and with a determination to set time, place,
and circumstances at defiance, like a personified representation of John
Bull, maintaining the character of your countrymen for sturdiness and
independence of spirit, you stand a very good chance of being shot
through the head: the same thing might happen to you, if you refused
your money to an English footpad; but if you give it freely, like a
gentleman, and do not stand too nicely upon a punctilio, they let you
pass like one. If you have no money about you, you must up into the
mountain, and wait till you can get it. For myself, my remittances have
not been very regular even in walled towns; how I should fare in this
respect upon the forked mountain, I cannot tell, and certainly I have no
wish to try. A friend of mine said that he thought it _the only romantic
thing going_, this of being carried off by the banditti; that life was
become too tame and insipid without such accidents, and that it would
not be amiss to put one’s-self in the way of such an adventure, like
putting in for the grand prize in the lottery. Assuredly, one is not
likely to go to sleep in such circumstances: one person who was detained
in this manner, and threatened every hour with being despatched, went
mad in consequence. A French Artist was laid hold of by a gang of the
outlaws, as he was sketching in the neighbourhood of their haunts, about
a year ago; he did not think their mode of life at all agreeable. As he
had no money, they employed him in making sketches of their heads, with
which they were exceedingly delighted. Their vanity kept him continually
on the alert when they had a moment’s leisure; and, besides, he was
fatigued almost to death, for they made long marches of from forty to
fifty miles a day, and scarcely ever rested more than one night in the
same place. They travelled through bye-roads (in constant apprehension
of the military) in parties of five or six, and met at some common
rendezvous at night-fall. He was in no danger from them in the day-time;
but at night they sat up drinking and carousing, and when they were in
this state of excitement, he was in considerable jeopardy from their
violence or sportive freaks: they amused themselves with presenting
their loaded pieces at his breast, or threatened to dispatch him if he
did not promise to procure ransom. At last he effected his escape in one
of their drunken bouts. Their seizure of the Austrian officer last year
was singular enough: they crept for above a mile on their hands and
knees, from the foot of the mountain which was their place of retreat,
and carried off their prize in the same manner, so as to escape the
notice of the sentinels who were stationed at short distances on the
road side. Some years since a plan was laid to carry off Lucien
Buonaparte from his villa at Frascati, about eleven miles from Rome, on
the Albano side, where the same range of Apennines begins: he was
walking in his garden and saw them approaching through some trees, for
his glance is quick and furtive; he retired into the house, his valet
came out to meet them, who passed himself off for his master, they were
delighted with their sham-prize, and glad to take 4,000 crowns to
release him. Since then Lucien Buonaparte has lived in Rome. I remember
once meeting this celebrated character in the streets of Paris, walking
arm in arm with Maria Cosway, with whom I had drunk tea the evening
before. He was dressed in a light drab-coloured great-coat, and was then
a spirited, dashing-looking young man. I believe I am the only person in
England who ever read his CHARLEMAGNE. It is as clever a poem as can be
written by a man who is not a poet. It came out in two volumes quarto,
and several individuals were applied to by the publishers to translate
it; among others Sir Walter Scott, who gave for answer, ‘that as to
Mister Buonaparte’s poem, he should have nothing to do with it.’ Such
was the petty spite of this understrapper of greatness and of titles,
himself since titled, the scale of whose intellect can be equalled by
nothing but the pitifulness and rancour of his prejudices! The last
account I have heard of the exploits of Neapolitan banditti is, that
they had seized upon two out of three Englishmen, who had determined
upon passing through Calabria on their way to Sicily, and were
proceeding beyond Pæstum for this purpose. They were told by the
Commandant there, that this was running into the lion’s mouth, that
there were no patrols to protect them farther, and that they were sure
to be intercepted; but an Englishman’s will is his law—they went
forward—and succeeded in getting themselves into _the only remaining
romantic situation_. I have not heard whether they have yet got out of
it. The national propensity to contend with difficulty and to resist
obstacles is curious, perhaps praiseworthy. A young Englishman returned
the other day to Italy with a horse that he had brought with him for
more than two thousand miles on the other side of Grand Cairo; and poor
Bowdich gave up the ghost in a second attempt to penetrate to the source
of the Niger, the encouragement to persevere being in proportion to the
impossibility of success! I am myself somewhat effeminate, and would
rather ‘the primrose path of dalliance tread;’ or the height of my
ambition in this line would be to track the ancient route up the valley
of the Simplon, leaving the modern road (much as I admire the work and
the workman), and clambering up the ledges of rocks, and over broken
bridges, at the risk of a sprained ankle or a broken limb, to return to
a late, but excellent dinner at the post-house at Brigg!

What increases the alarm of robbers in the South of Italy, is the
reviving of old stories, like the multiplication of echoes, and shifting
their dates indefinitely, so as to excite the fears of the listener, or
answer the purposes of the speaker. About three years ago, a desperate
gang of ruffians infested the passes of the Abruzzi, and committed a
number of atrocities; but this gang, to the amount of about thirty, were
seized and broken up, their ringleaders beheaded in the Square di Popolo
at Rome, and their wives or mistresses now live there by sitting for
their pictures to English artists. The remainder figure as convicts in
striped yellow and brown dresses in the streets of Rome, and very
civilly pull off their hats to strangers as they pass. By the way, I
cannot help reprobating this practice of employing felons as common
labourers in places of public resort. Either you must be supposed to
keep up your feelings of dislike and indignation against them while thus
mixing with the throng and innocently employed, which is a disagreeable
and forced operation of the sense of justice; or if you retain no such
feelings towards these victims of the law, then why do they retain the
chains on their feet and ugly badges on their shoulders? If the thing is
to be treated seriously, it is painful: if lightly and good-humouredly,
it turns the whole affair into a farce or drama, with as little of the
useful as the pleasant in it. I know nothing of these people that I see
manacled and branded, but that they are labouring in a broiling sun for
my convenience; if one of them were to break loose, I should not care to
stop him. When we witness the punishments of individuals, we should know
their crimes; or at least their punishment and their delinquency should
not be mixed up indiscriminately with the ordinary gaieties and business
of human life. It is a chapter of the volume that should be read apart!
About six months ago, twenty-two brigands came down from the mountains
at Velletri, and carried off four young women from the village. A
Vetturino, who wished me to return with him to Florence, spoke of this
as having happened the week before. There is a band of about ninety
banditti scattered through the mountains near Naples. Some years ago
they were the terror of travellers: at present they are more occupied in
escaping from the police themselves. But by thus confounding dates and
names, all parts of the road are easily filled all the year round with
nothing but robbers and rumours of robbers. In short, any one I believe
can pass with proper precaution from Rome to Naples and back again, with
tolerable, if not with absolute security. If he can guard equally
against petty thieving and constant imposition for the rest of his
route, it will be well.

Before leaving Rome, we went to Tivoli, of which so much has been said.
The morning was bright and cloudless; but a thick mist rose from the
low, rank, marshy grounds of the Campagna, and enveloped a number of
curious objects to the right and left, till we approached the sulphurous
stream of Solfatara, which we could distinguish at some distance by its
noise and smell, and which crossing the road like a blue ugly snake,
infects the air in its hasty progress to the sea. The bituminous lake
from which it springs is about a mile distant, and has the remains of an
ancient temple on its borders. Farther on is a round brick tower, the
tomb of the Plautian family, and Adrian’s villa glimmers with its vernal
groves and nodding arches to the right. In Rome, around it nothing
strikes the eye, nothing rivets the attention but ruins, the fragments
of what has been; the past is like a _halo_ forever surrounding and
obscuring the present! Ruins should be seen in a desert, like those of
Palmyra, and a pilgrimage should be made to them; but who would take up
his abode among tombs? Or if there be a country and men in it, why have
they nothing to shew but the relics of antiquity, or why are the living
contented to crawl about like worms, or to hover like shadows in the
monuments of the dead? Every object he sees reminds the modern Roman
that he is nothing—the spirits of former times overshadow him, and dwarf
his pigmy efforts: every object he sees reminds the traveller that
greatness is its own grave. Glory cannot last; for when a thing is once
done, it need not be done again, and with the energy to act, a people
lose the privilege _to be_. They repose upon the achievements of their
ancestors; and because every thing has been done for them, sink into
torpor, and dwindle into the counterfeits of what they were. The Greeks
will not recover their freedom till they forget that they had ancestors,
for nothing _is_ twice because it _was_ once. The Americans will perhaps
lose theirs, when they begin fully to reap all the fruits of it; for the
energy necessary to acquire freedom, and the ease that follows the
enjoyment of it, are almost incompatible. If Italy should ever be any
thing again, it will be when the tokens of her former glory, pictures,
statues, triumphal arches are mouldered in the dust, and she has to
re-tread the gradual stages of civilization, from primeval barbarism to
the topmost round of luxury and refinement; or when some new light gives
her a new impulse; or when the last oppression (such as in all
probability impends over her) equally contrary to former independence,
to modern apathy, stinging her to the quick, once more kindles the fire
in her eye, and twines the deadly terrors on her brow. Then she might
have music in her streets, the dance beneath her vines, inhabitants in
her houses, business in her shops, passengers in her roads, commerce on
her shores, honesty in her dealings, openness in her looks, books for
the censorship, the love of right for the fear of power, and a
calculation of consequences from a knowledge of principles—and England,
like the waning moon, would grow pale in the rising dawn of liberty,
that she had in vain tried to tarnish and obscure! _Mais assez des
reflexions pour un voyageur._

Tivoli is an enchanting—a fairy spot. Its rocks, its grottos, its
temples, its waterfalls, and the rainbows reflected on them, answer to
the description, and make a perfect play upon the imagination. Every
object is light and fanciful, yet steeped in classic recollections. The
whole is a fine net-work—a rare assemblage of intricate and high-wrought
beauties. To do justice to the scene would require the pen of Mr. Moore,
minute and striking as it is, sportive yet romantic, displaying all the
fascinations of sense, and unfolding the mysteries of sentiment,

        ‘Where all is strength below, and all above is grace,’—

glittering like a sun-beam on the Sybil’s Temple at top, or darting on a
rapid antithesis to the dark grotto of the God beneath, loading the
prismatic spray with epithets, linking the meeting beauties on each side
the abrupt, yawning chasm by an alliteration, painting the flowers,
pointing the rocks, passing the narrow bridge on a dubious metaphor, and
blending the natural and artificial, the modern and the antique, the
simple and the quaint, the glimmer and the gloom in an exquisite
profusion of fluttering conceits. He would be able to describe it much
better, with its tiny cascades and jagged precipices, than his friend
Lord Byron has described the Fall of Terni, who makes it, without any
reason that I can find, tortuous, dark, and boiling like a witch’s
cauldron. On the contrary, it is simple and majestic in its character, a
clear mountain-stream that pours an uninterrupted, lengthened sheet of
water over a precipice of eight hundred feet, in perpendicular descent,
and gracefully winding its way to the channel beyond, while on one side
the stained rock rises bare and stately the whole height, and on the
other, the gradual green woods ascend, moistened by the ceaseless spray,
and lulled by the roar of the waterfall, as the ear enjoys the sound of
famous poet’s verse. If this noble and interesting object have a fault,
it is that it is too slender, straight, and accompanied with too few
wild or grotesque ornaments. It is the Doric, or at any rate the Ionic,
among water-falls. It has nothing of the texture of Lord Byron’s
terzains, twisted, zigzag, pent up and struggling for a vent, broken off
at the end of a line, or point of a rock, diving under ground, or out of
the reader’s comprehension, and pieced on to another stanza or shelving
rock.—Nature has

                            ‘Poured it out as plain
              As downright Shippen, or as old Montaigne.’

To say the truth, if Lord Byron had put it into _Don Juan_ instead of
_Childe Harold_, he might have compared the part which her ladyship has
chosen to perform on this occasion to an experienced waiter pouring a
bottle of ale into a tumbler at a tavern. It has somewhat of the same
continued, plump, right-lined descent. It is not frittered into little
parts, nor contrasted into quaintness, nor tortured into fury. All the
intricacy and contradiction that the noble Poet ascribes to it belong to
Tivoli; but then Tivoli has none of the grandeur or violence of the
description in _Childe Harold_. The poetry is fine, but not like.

As I have got so far on my way, I may as well jump the intermediate
space, and proceed with my statistics here, as there was nothing on the
road between this and Rome worth mentioning, except Narni (ten miles
from Terni), the approach to which overlooks a fine, bold, woody,
precipitous valley. We stopped at Terni for the express purpose of
visiting the Fall, which is four or five miles from it. The road is
excellent, and commands a succession of charming points of view. You
must pass the little village of Papinio, perched like a set of
pigeon-houses on the point of a rock about half-way up, which has been
battered almost in pieces by French, Austrians, and others at different
times, from a fort several hundred feet above it, and that looks
directly down upon the road. When you get to the top of the winding
ascent, and immediately before you turn off by a romantic little path to
the waterfall, you see the ranges of the Abruzzi and the frozen top of
the Pie de Lupo. Along this road the Austrian troops marched three years
ago to the support of good government and social order at Naples. The
prospect of the cold blue mountain-tops, and other prospects which the
sight of this road recalled, chilled me, and I hastened down the
side-path to lose, in the roar of the Velino tumbling from its rocky
height, and the wild freedom of nature, my recollection of tyranny and
tyrants. On a green bank far below, so as to be just discernible, a
shepherd-boy was sleeping under the shadow of a tree, surrounded by his
flock, enjoying peace and freedom, scarce knowing their names. That’s
something—we must wait for the rest!

We returned to the inn at Terni too late to proceed on our journey, and
were thrust, as a special favour, into a disagreeable apartment. We had
the satisfaction, however, to hear the united voices of the passengers
by two vetturinos, French and Italian men and women, lifted up against
the supper and wine as intolerably bad. The general complaint was, that
having paid so much for our fare, we were treated like beggars—_comme
des gueux_. This was true enough, and not altogether unreasonable. Let
no one who can help it, and who travels for pleasure, travel by a
vetturino. You are treated much in the same manner as if in England you
went by the caravan or the waggon. In fact, this mode of conveyance is
an imposition on innkeepers and the public. It is the result of a
combination among the vetturino owners, who bargain to provide you for a
certain sum, and then billet you upon the innkeepers for as little as
they can, who when thus obtruded upon them, under the guarantee of a
grasping stage-coach driver, consider you as common property or prey,
receive you with incivility, keep out of the way, will not deign you an
answer, stint you in the quantity of your provisions, poison you by the
quality, order you into their worst apartments, force other people into
the same room or even bed with you, keep you in a state of continual
irritation and annoyance all the time you are in the house, and send you
away jaded and dissatisfied with your reception, and terrified at the
idea of arriving at the next place of refreshment, for fear of meeting
with a renewal of the same contemptible mortifications and petty
insults. You have no remedy: if you complain to the Vetturino, he says
it is the fault of the innkeeper; if you remonstrate with the innkeeper,
he says he has orders from the Vetturino only to provide certain things.
It is of little use to try to bribe the waiters; they doubt your word,
and besides, do not like to forego the privilege of treating a vetturino
passenger as one. It is best, if you travel in this manner, to pay for
yourself; and then you may stand some chance of decent accommodation. I
was foolish enough to travel twice in this manner, and pay three
Napoleons a day, for which I might have gone post, and fared in the most
sumptuous manner. I ought to add, in justice, that when I have escaped
from the guardianship of Monsieur le Vetturino and have stopped at inns
on my own account, as was the case at Venice, Milan, and at Florence
twice, I have no reason to complain either of the treatment or the
expence. As to economy, it is in vain to look for it in travelling in
Italy or at an hotel; and if you succeed in procuring a private lodging
for a time, besides the everlasting trickery and cabal, you are likely
to come off with very meagre fare, unless you can eat Italian dishes. I
ought, however, to repeat what I believe I have said before, that the
bread, butter, milk, wine and poultry that you get here (even
ordinarily) are excellent, and that you may also obtain excellent tea
and coffee.

We proceeded next morning (in no very good humour) on our way to
Spoleto. The day was brilliant, and our road lay through steep and
narrow defiles for several hours. The sides of the hills on each side
were wild and woody; indeed, the whole ride was interesting, and the
last hill before we came to Spoleto, with a fine monastery embosomed in
its thick tufted trees, crowned our satisfaction with the journey.
Spoleto is a handsome town, delightfully situated, and has an appearance
(somewhat startling in Italy) as if life were not quite extinct in it.
It stands on the slope of a range of the Apennines, extending as far as
Foligno and Perugia, and ‘sees and is seen’ to a great distance. From
Perugia in particular (an interval of forty miles) you seem as if you
could put your hand upon it, so plain does it appear, owing to the
contrast between the white stone-houses, and the dark pine-groves by
which it is surrounded. The effect of this contrast is not always
pleasant. The single cottages or villas scattered in the neighbourhood
of towns in Italy, often look like dominos or dice spread on a dark
green cloth. We arrived at Foligno early in the evening, and as a
memorable exception to the rest of our route, found there an inn equally
clean and hospitable. From the windows of our room we could see the
young people of the town walking out in a fine open country, to breathe
the clear fresh air, and the priests sauntering in groups and enjoying
the _otium cum dignitate_. It was for some monks of Foligno that Raphael
painted his inimitable Madonna.

We turned off at Assizi to view the triple Franciscan church and
monastery. We saw the picture of Christ (shewn by some nuns), that used
to smile upon St. Francis at his devotions; and the little chapel in the
plain below, where he preached to his followers six hundred years ago,
over which a large church is at present built, like Popery surmounting
Christianity. The church on the top of the hill, built soon after his
death in honour of the saint, and where his heart reposes, is a
curiosity in its kind. First, two churches were raised, one on the top
of the other, and then a third was added below with some difficulty, by
means of excavations in the rock. The last boasts a modern and somewhat
finical mausoleum or shrine, and the two first are ornamented with
fresco paintings by Giotto and Ghirlandaio, which are most interesting
and valuable specimens of the early history of the art. I see nothing to
contemn in them—much to admire—fine heads, simple grouping, a knowledge
of drawing and foreshortening, and dignified attitudes and expressions,
some of which Raphael has not disdained to copy, though he has improved
upon them. St. Francis died about 1220, and this church was finished and
ornamented with these designs of the chief actions of his life, within
forty months afterwards; so that the pictures in question must be about
six hundred years old. We are not, however, to wonder at the maturity of
these productions of the pencil; the art did not arise out of barbarism
or nothing, but from a lofty preconception in the minds of those who
first practised it, and applied it to purposes of devotion. Even the
grace and majesty of Raphael were, I apprehend, but emanations of the
spirit of the Roman Catholic religion, and existed virtually in the
minds of his countrymen long before and after he transferred them, with
consummate skill, to the canvass. Not a Madonna scrawled on the walls
near Rome, not a baby-house figure of the Virgin, that is out of
character and costume, or that is not imbued with an expression of
resignation, benignity, and purity. We were shewn these different
objects by a young priest, who explained them to us with a gracefulness
of manner, and a mild eloquence, characteristic of his order. I forgot
to mention, in the proper place, that I was quite delighted with the
external deportment of the ecclesiastics in Rome. It was marked by a
perfect propriety, decorum, and humanity, from the highest to the
lowest. Not the slightest look or gesture to remind you that you were
foreigners or heretics—an example of civility that is far from being
superfluous, even in the capital of the Christian world. It may be said
that this is art, and a desire to gain upon the good opinion of
strangers. Be it so, but it must be allowed that it is calculated to
this end. Good manners have this advantage over good morals, that they
lie more upon the surface; and there is nothing, I own, that inclines me
to think so well of the understandings or dispositions of others, as a
thorough absence of all impertinence. I do not think _they_ can be the
worst people in the world who habitually pay most attention to the
feelings of others; nor those the best who are endeavouring every moment
to hurt them. At Perugia, while looking at some panels in a church
painted by Pietro Perugino, we met with a young Irish priest, who
claimed acquaintance with us as country-folks, and recommended our
staying six days, to see the ceremonies and finery attending the
translation of the deceased head of his order from the church where he
lay to his final resting-place. We were obliged by this proposal, but
declined it. It was curious to hear English spoken by the inmate of a
Benedictine Monastery,—to see the manners of an Italian priest engrafted
on the Irish accent—to think that distant countries are brought together
by agreement in religion—that the same country is rent asunder by
differences in it. Man is certainly an ideal being, whom the breath of
an opinion wafts from Indus to the Pole, and who is ready to sacrifice
the present world and every object in it for a reversion in the skies!
Perugia is situated on a lofty hill, and is in appearance the most solid
mass of building I ever beheld. It commands a most extensive view in all
directions, and the ascent to it is precipitous on every side.
Travelling this road from Rome to Florence is like an eagle’s
flight—from hill-top to hill-top, from towered city to city, and your
eye devours your way before you over hill or plain. We saw Cortona on
our right, looking over its wall of ancient renown, conscious of its
worth, not obtruding itself on superficial notice; and passed through
Arezzo, the reputed birth-place of Petrarch. All the way we were
followed (hard upon) by another Vetturino, with an English family, and
we had a scramble whenever we stopped for supper, beds, or milk. At
Incisa, the last stage before we arrived at Florence, an intimation was
conveyed that we should give up our apartments in the inn, and seek for
lodgings elsewhere. This modest proposition could come only from English
people, who have such an opinion of their dormant stock of pretended
good-nature, that they think all the world must in return be ready to
give up their own comforts to oblige them. We had two French gentlemen
in the coach with us, equally well-behaved and well-informed, and two
Italians in the cabriolet, as good-natured and ‘honest as the skin
between their brows.’ Near Perugia we passed the celebrated lake of
Thrasymene, near which Hannibal defeated the Roman consul Flaminius. It
struck me as not unlike Windermere in character and scenery, but I have
seen other lakes since, which have driven it out of my head. Florence
(the city of flowers) seemed to deserve its name as we entered it for
the second time more than it did the first. The weather had been cold
during part of our journey, but now it had changed to sultry heat. The
people looked exceedingly plain and hard-featured, after having passed
through the Roman States. They have the look of the Scotch people, only
fiercer and more ill-tempered.



                              CHAPTER XXII


I have already described the road between Florence and Bologna. I found
it much the same on returning; for barren rocks and mountains undergo
little alteration either in summer or winter. Indeed, of the two, I
prefer the effect in the most dreary season, for it is then most
complete and consistent with itself: on some kinds of scenery, as on
some characters, any attempt at the gay and pleasing sits ill, and is a
mere piece of affectation. There is so far a distinction between the
Apennines and Alps, that the latter are often covered with woods, and
with patches of the richest verdure, and are capable of all the gloom of
winter or the bloom of spring. The soil of the Apennines, on the
contrary, is as dry and _gritty_ as the rocks themselves, being nothing
but a collection of sand-heaps and ashes, and mocks at every idea that
is not of a repulsive and disagreeable kind. We stopped the first night
at Traversa, a miserable inn or almost hovel on the road side, in the
most desolate part of this track; and found amidst scenes, which the
imagination and the pen of travellers have peopled with ghastly phantoms
and the assassin’s midnight revelry, a kind but simple reception, and
the greatest sweetness of manners, prompted by the wish, but conscious
of being perhaps without the means to please. Courtesy in cities or
palaces goes for little, means little, for it may and must be put on; in
the cottage or on the mountain-side it is welcome to the heart, for it
comes from it. It then has its root in unsophisticated nature, without
the gloss of art, and shews us the original goodness of the soil or
germ, from which human affections and social intercourse in all their
ramifications spring. A little boy clung about its mother, wondering at
the strangers; but from the very thoughts of novelty and distance,
nestling more fondly in the bosom of home. What is the map of Europe,
what all the glories of it, what the possession of them, to that poor
little fellow’s dream, to his sidelong glance at that wide world of
fancy that circles his native rocks!

The second morning, we reached the last of the Apennines that overlook
Bologna, and saw stretched out beneath our feet a different scene, the
vast plain of Lombardy, and almost the whole of the North of Italy, like
a rich sea of boundless verdure, with towns and villas spotting it like
the sails of ships. A hazy inlet of the Adriatic appeared to the right
(probably the Gulph of Comachio). We strained our eyes in vain to catch
a doubtful view of the Alps, but they were still sunk below the horizon.
We presently descended into this plain (which formed a perfect contrast
to the country we had lately passed), and it answered fully to the
promise it had given us. We travelled for days, for weeks through it,
and found nothing but ripeness, plenty, and beauty. It may well be
called the Garden of Italy or of the World. The whole way from Bologna
to Venice, from Venice to Milan, it is literally so. But I
anticipate.—We went to our old inn at Bologna, which we liked better the
second time than the first; and had just time to snatch a glimpse of the
Guidos and Domenichinos at the Academy, which gleamed dark and beautiful
through the twilight. We set out early the next morning on our way to
Venice, turning off to Ferrara. It was a fine spring morning. The dew
was on the grass, and shone like diamonds in the sun. A refreshing
breeze fanned the light-green odorous branches of the trees, which
spread their shady screen on each side of the road, which lay before us
as straight as an arrow for miles. Venice was at the end of it; Padua,
Ferrara, midway. The prospect (both to the sense and to the imagination)
was exhilarating; and we enjoyed it for some hours, till we stopped to
breakfast at a smart-looking detached inn at a turning of the road,
called, I think, the _Albergo di Venezia_. This was one of the
pleasantest places we came to during the whole of our route. We were
shewn into a long saloon, into which the sun shone at one extremity, and
we looked out upon the green fields and trees at the other. There were
flowers in the room. An excellent breakfast of coffee, bread, butter,
eggs, and slices of Bologna sausages was served up with neatness and
attention. An elderly female, thin, without a cap, and with white
thread-stockings, watched at the door of a chamber not far from us, with
the patience of an eastern slave. The door opened, and a white robe was
handed out, which she aired carefully over a chaffing-dish with
mechanical indifference, and an infinite reduplication of the same
folds. It was our young landlady who was dressing for church within, and
who at length issued out, more remarkable for the correctness of her
costume than the beauty of her person. Some rustics below were playing
at a game, that from the incessant loud jarring noises of counting that
accompanied it, implied equally good lungs and nerves in the performers
and by-standers. At the tinkling of a village bell, all was in a moment
silent, and the entrance of a little chapel was crowded with old and
young, kneeling in postures of more or less earnest devotion. We walked
forward, delighted with the appearance of the country, and with the
simple manners of the inhabitants; nor could we have proceeded less than
four or five miles along an excellent footpath, but under a broiling
sun, before we saw any signs of our Vetturino, who was willing to take
this opportunity of easing his horses—a practice common with those sort
of gentry. Instead of a fellow-feeling with you, you find an instinctive
inclination in persons of this class all through Italy to cheat and
deceive you: the more easy or cordial you are with them, the greater is
their opinion of your folly and their own cunning, and the more are they
determined to repel or evade any advances to a fair understanding:
threaten, or treat them with indignity, and you have some check over
them; relax the reins a moment, and they are sure to play you some
scurvy trick.

At Ferrara we were put on short allowance, and as we found remonstrance
vain, we submitted in silence. We were the more mortified at this
treatment, as we had begun to hope for better things; but Mr. Henry
Waister, our Commissary on the occasion, was determined to make a good
thing of his three Napoleons a-day; he had strained a point in procuring
us a tolerable supper and breakfast at the two last stages, which must
serve for some time to come; and as he would not pay for our dinner, the
landlord would not let us have one, and there the matter rested. We
walked out in the evening, and found Ferrara enchanting. Of all the
places I have seen in Italy, it is the one by far I should most covet to
live in. It is the _ideal_ of an Italian city, once great, now a shadow
of itself. Whichever way you turn, you are struck with picturesque
beauty and faded splendours, but with nothing squalid, mean, or vulgar.
The grass grows in the well-paved streets. You look down long avenues of
buildings, or of garden walls, with summer-houses or fruit-trees
projecting over them, and airy palaces with dark portraits gleaming
through the grated windows—you turn, and a chapel bounds your view one
way, a broken arch another, at the end of the vacant, glimmering, fairy
perspective. You are in a dream, in the heart of a romance; you enjoy
the most perfect solitude, that of a city which was once filled with
‘the busy hum of men,’ and of which the tremulous fragments at every
step strike the sense, and call up reflection. In short, nothing is to
be seen of Ferrara, but the remains, graceful and romantic, of what it
was—no sordid object intercepts or sullies the retrospect of the past—it
is not degraded and patched up like Rome, with upstart improvements,
with earthenware and oil-shops; it is a classic vestige of antiquity,
drooping into peaceful decay, a sylvan suburb—

                 ‘Where buttress, wall and tower
                 Seem fading fast away
                 From human thoughts and purposes,
                 To yield to some transforming power,
                 And blend with the surrounding trees.’

Here Ariosto lived—here Tasso occupied first a palace, and then a
dungeon. Verona has even a more sounding name; boasts a finer situation,
and contains the tomb of Juliet. But the same tender melancholy grace
does not hang upon its walls, nor hover round its precincts as round
those of Ferrara, inviting to endless leisure and pensive musing.
Ferrara, while it was an independent state, was a flourishing and
wealthy city, and contained 70,000 inhabitants; but from the time it
fell into the hands of the Popes, in 1597, it declined, and it has now
little more than an historical and poetical being.

From Ferrara we proceeded through Rovigo to Padua _the Learned_, where
we were more fortunate in our inn, and where, in the fine open square at
the entrance, I first perceived the rage for vulgar and flaunting
statuary, which distinguishes the Lombardo-Venetian States. The
traveller to Venice (who goes there to see the masterpieces of Titian or
Palladio’s admired designs), runs the gauntlet all the way along at
every town or villa he passes, of the most clumsy, affected, paltry,
sprawling figures, cut in stone, that ever disgraced the chisel. Even
their crucifixes and common Madonnas are in bad taste and proportion.
This inaptitude for the representation of forms in a people, whose eye
for colours transcended that of all the world besides, is striking as it
is curious: and it would be worth the study of a man’s whole life to
give a true and satisfactory solution of the mystery. Padua, though one
of the oldest towns in Italy, is still a place of some resort and
bustle; among other causes, from the number of Venetian families who are
in the habit of spending the summer months there. Soon after leaving it,
you begin to cross the canals and rivers which intersect this part of
the country bordering upon the sea, and for some miles you follow the
course of the Brenta along a flat, dusty, and unprofitable road. This is
a period of considerable and painful suspense, till you arrive at
Fusina, where you are put into a boat and rowed down one of the
_Lagunes_, where over banks of high rank grass and reeds, and between
solitary sentry-boxes at different intervals, you see Venice rising from
the sea. For an hour and a half, that it takes you to cross from the
last point of land to this Spouse of the Adriatic, its long line of
spires, towers, churches, wharfs is stretched along the water’s edge,
and you view it with a mixture of awe and incredulity. A city built in
the air would be something still more wonderful; but any other must
yield the palm to this for singularity and imposing effect. If it were
on the firm land, it would rank as one of the first cities in Europe for
magnificence, size, and beauty; as it is, it is without a rival. I do
not know what Lord Byron and Lady Morgan could mean by quarrelling about
the question who first called Venice ‘the Rome of the sea’—since it is
perfectly unique in its kind. If a parallel must be found for it, it is
more like Genoa shoved into the sea. Genoa stands _on_ the sea, this
_in_ it. The effect is certainly magical, dazzling, perplexing. You feel
at first a little giddy: you are not quite sure of your footing as on
the deck of a vessel. You enter its narrow, cheerful canals, and find
that instead of their being scooped out of the earth, you are gliding
amidst rows of palaces and under broad-arched bridges, piled on the
sea-green wave. You begin to think that you must cut your liquid way in
this manner through the whole city, and use oars instead of feet. You
land, and visit quays, squares, market-places, theatres, churches,
halls, palaces; ascend tall towers, and stroll through shady gardens,
without being once reminded that you are not on _terra firma_. The early
inhabitants of this side of Italy, driven by Attila and his hordes of
Huns from the land, sought shelter in the sea, built there for safety
and liberty, laid the first foundations of Venice in the rippling wave,
and commerce, wealth, luxury, arts, and crimson conquest crowned the
growing Republic;—

                        ‘And Ocean smil’d,
                Well pleased to see his wondrous child.’

Man, proud of his amphibious creation, spared no pains to aggrandize and
embellish it, even to extravagance and excess. The piles and blocks of
wood on which it stands are brought from the huge forests at Treviso and
Cadore: the stones that girt its circumference, and prop its walls, are
dug from the mountains of Istria and Dalmatia: the marbles that inlay
its palace-floors are hewn from the quarries near Verona. Venice is
loaded with ornament, like a rich city-heiress with jewels. It seems the
natural order of things. Her origin was a wonder: her end is to
surprise. The strong, implanted tendency of her genius must be to the
showy, the singular, the fantastic. Herself an anomaly, she reconciles
contradictions, liberty with aristocracy, commerce with nobility, the
want of titles with the pride of birth and heraldry. A violent birth in
nature, she lays greedy, perhaps ill-advised, hands on all the
artificial advantages that can supply her original defects. Use turns to
gaudy beauty; extreme hardship to intemperance in pleasure. From the
level uniform expanse that forever encircles her, she would obviously
affect the aspiring in forms, the quaint, the complicated, relief and
projection. The richness and foppery of her architecture arise from
this: its stability and excellence probably from another circumstance
counteracting this tendency to the buoyant and fluttering, _viz._, the
necessity of raising solid edifices on such slippery foundations, and of
not playing tricks with stone-walls upon the water. Her eye for colours
and costume she would bring with conquest from the East. The spirit,
intelligence, and activity of her men, she would derive from their
ancestors: the grace, the glowing animation and bounding step of her
women, from the sun and mountain-breeze! The want of simplicity and
severity in Venetian taste seems owing to this, that all here is
factitious and the work of art: redundancy again is an attribute of
commerce, whose eye is gross and large, and does not admit of the _too
much_; and as to irregularity and want of fixed principles, we may
account by analogy at least for these, from that element of which Venice
is the nominal bride, to which she owes her all, and the very essence of
which is caprice, uncertainty, and vicissitude!

              ‘And now from out the watery floor
              A city rose, and well she wore
              Her beauty, and stupendous walls,
              And towers that touched the stars, and halls
              Pillar’d with whitest marble, whence
              Palace on lofty palace sprung:
              And over all rich gardens hung,
              Where, amongst silver water-falls,
              Cedars and spice-trees, and green bowers,
              And sweet winds playing with all the flowers
              Of Persia and of Araby,
              Walked princely shapes; some with an air
              Like warriors; some like ladies fair
              Listening ...
              In supreme magnificence.’

This, which is a description of a dream of Babylon of old, by a living
poet, is realized almost literally in modern Venice.



                             CHAPTER XXIII


I never saw palaces anywhere but at Venice. Those at Rome are dungeons
compared to them. They generally come down to the water’s edge, and as
there are canals on each side of them, you see them _four-square_. The
views by Canaletti are very like, both for the effect of the buildings
and the hue of the water. The principal are by Palladio, Longhena, and
Sansovino. They are massy, elegant, well-proportioned, costly in
materials, profuse of ornament. Perhaps if they were raised above the
water’s edge on low terraces (as some of them are), the appearance of
comfort and security would be greater, though the architectural daring,
the poetical miracle would appear less. As it is, they seem literally to
be suspended in the water.—The richest in interior decoration that I
saw, was the Grimani Palace, which answered to all the imaginary
conditions of this sort of thing. Aladdin might have exchanged his for
it, and given his lamp into the bargain. The floors are of marble, the
tables of precious stones, the chairs and curtains of rich silk, the
walls covered with looking-glasses, and it contains a cabinet of
invaluable antique sculpture, and some of Titian’s finest portraits. I
never knew the practical amount to the poetical, or furniture seem to
grow eloquent but in this instance. The rooms were not too large for
comfort neither; for space is a consideration at Venice. All that it
wanted of an Eastern Palace was light and air, with distant vistas of
hill and grove. A genealogical tree of the family was hung up in one of
the rooms, beginning with the founder in the ninth century, and ending
with the present representative of it; and one of the portraits, by
Titian, was of a Doge of the family, looking just like an ugly, spiteful
old woman; but with a truth of nature, and a force of character that no
one ever gave but he. I saw no other mansion equal to this. The Pisani
is the next to it for elegance and splendour; and from its situation on
the Grand Canal, it admits a flood of bright day through glittering
curtains of pea-green silk, into a noble saloon, enriched with an
admirable family-picture by Paul Veronese, with heads equal to Titian
for all but the character of thought.

Close to this is the Barberigo Palace, in which Titian lived, and in
which he died, with his painting-room just in the state in which he left
it. It is hung round with pictures, some of his latest works, such as
the Magdalen and the Salvator Mundi (which are common in prints), and
with an unfinished sketch of St. Sebastian, on which he was employed at
the time of his death. Titian was ninety-nine when he died, and was at
last carried off by the plague. My guide who was enthusiastic on the
subject of Venetian art, would not allow any falling-off in these latest
efforts of his mighty pencil, but represented him as prematurely cut off
in the height of his career. He knew, he said, an old man, who had died
a year ago, at one hundred and twenty. The Venetians may still live to
be old, but they do not paint like Titian! The Magdalen is imposing and
expressive, but the colouring is tinted (quite different from Titian’s
usual simplicity) and it has a flaccid, meretricious, affectedly
lachrymose appearance, which I by no means like. There is a slabbery
freedom or a stiff grandeur about most of these productions, which, I
think, savoured of an infirm hand and eye, accompanied with a sense of
it. Titian, it is said, thought he improved to the last, and wished to
get possession of his former pictures, to paint them over again, upon
broader and more scientific principles, as some authors have wished to
re-write their works: there was a small model of him in wax, done by a
contemporary artist in his extreme old age, shewn in London a year or
two ago, with the black velvet cap, the green gown, and a white sleeve
appearing from under it, against a pale, shrivelled hand. The
arrangement of colouring was so truly characteristic, that it was
probably dictated by himself. It may be interesting to artists to be
told, that the room in the Barberigo Palace (said to be his
painting-room) has nearly a southern aspect. There are some other
indifferent pictures hanging in the room, by painters before his time,
probably some that he had early in his possession, and kept longest for
that reason. It is an event in one’s life to find one’s-self in Titian’s
painting-room. Yet it did not quite answer to my expectations—a hot sun
shone into the room, and the gondola in which we came was unusually
close—neither did I stoop and kiss the stone which covers his dust,
though I have worshipped him on this side of idolatry!

                 ‘Ci giace il gran Titiano di Vecelli,
                 Emulator di Zeusi e di gl’Apelli.’

This is the inscription on his tomb in the church of the Frati. I read
it twice over, but it would not do. Why grieve for the immortals? One is
not exactly one’s-self on such occasions, and enthusiasm has its
intermittent and stubborn fits; besides, mine is, at present, I suspect,
a kind of July shoot, that must take its rise from the stock of former
impressions. It spread aloft on the withered branches of the St. Peter
Martyr, and shot out more kindly still from seeing three pictures of
his, close together, at the house of Signor Manfrini (a Venetian
tobacconist), an elaborate Portrait of his friend Ariosto—sharp-featured
and tawny-coloured, with a light Morisco look—a bronzed duplicate of the
Four Ages at the Marquess of Stafford’s—and his Mistress (which is in
the Louvre) introduced into a composition with a gay cavalier and a
page. I was glad to see her in company so much fitter for her than her
old lover; and besides, the varied grouping gave new life and reality to
this charming vision. The two last pictures are doubtfully ascribed to
Giorgioni, and this critical equivoque was a source of curiosity and
wonder. Giorgioni is the only painter with respect to whom this could be
made a question (the distinction between Titian and the other painters
of the Venetian school, Tintoret and Paul Veronese, is broad and
palpable enough)—and for myself, I incline to attribute the last of the
three _chef d’œuvres_ above enumerated to Giorgioni. The difference, it
appears to me, may be thus stated. There is more glow and animation in
Giorgioni than in Titian. He is of a franker and more genial spirit.
Titian has more subtilty and meaning, Giorgioni more life and youthful
blood. The feeling in the one is suppressed; in the other, it is overt
and transparent. Titian’s are set portraits, with the smallest possible
deviation from the straight line: they look as if they were going to be
shot, or to shoot somebody. Giorgioni, in what I have seen of his
pictures, as the Gaston de Foix, the Music-piece at Florence, &c. is
full of inflection and contrast; there is seldom a particle of it in
Titian. An appearance of silence, a tendency to still-life, pervades
Titian’s portraits; in Giorgioni’s there is a bending attitude, and a
flaunting air, as if floating in gondolas or listening to music. For all
these reasons (perhaps slenderly put together) I am disposed to think
the portrait of the young man in the picture alluded to is by Giorgioni,
from the flushed cheek, the good-natured smile, and the careless
attitude; and for the same reason, I think it likely that even the
portrait of the lady is originally his, and that Titian copied and
enlarged the design into the one we see in the Louvre, for the head
(supposed to be of himself, in the background) is middle-aged, and
Giorgioni died while Titian was yet young. The question of priority in
this case is a very nice one; and it would be curious to ascertain the
truth by tradition or private documents of any kind.

I teazed my _valet de place_ (Mr. Andrew Wyche, a Tyrolese, a very
pleasant, companionable, and patriotic sort of person) the whole of the
first morning at every fresh landing or embarkation by asking, ‘But are
we going to see the Saint Peter Martyr?’ When we reached the Church of
Saint John and Saint Paul, the light did not serve, and we got
reprimanded by the priest for turning our backs on the host, in our
anxiety to find a proper point of view. We returned to the charge at
five in the afternoon, when the light fell upon it through a high-arched
Gothic window, and it came out in all its pristine glory, with its rich,
embrowned, overshadowing trees, its nobly-drawn heroic figures, its
blood-stained garments, its flowers and trailing plants, and that cold
convent-spire rising in the distance amidst the sapphire mountains and
the golden sky. I found every thing in its place and as I expected. Yet
I am unwilling to say that I saw it through my former impressions: this
picture suffices to itself, and fills the mind without an effort; for it
contains all the mighty world of landscape and history, grandeur and
breadth of form with the richest depth of colouring, an expression
characteristic, powerful, that cannot be mistaken, conveying the scene
at the moment, a masterly freedom and unerring truth of execution, and a
subject as original as it is stately and romantic. It is the foremost of
Titian’s productions, and exhibits the most extraordinary specimen of
his varied powers. Most probably, as a picture, it is the finest in the
world; or if I cannot say it is the picture which I would the soonest
have painted, it is at least the one which I would the soonest have. It
is a rich feast to the eye, ‘where no crude surfeit reigns.’ As an
instance of the difference between Titian and Raphael, you here see the
figures from below, and they stand out with noble grandeur of effect
against the sky; Raphael would have buried them under the horizon, or
stuck them against the landscape, without relief or motion. So much less
knowledge had he of the picturesque! Again, I do not think Raphael could
have given the momentary expression of sudden, ghastly terror, or the
hurried, disorderly movements of the flying Monk, or the entire
prostration of the other (like a rolling ruin) so well as Titian. The
latter could not, I know, raise a sentiment to its height like the
former; but Raphael’s expressions and attitudes were (so to speak) the
working out of ‘foregone conclusions,’ not the accidental fluctuations
of mind or matter—were final and fixed,[47] not salient or variable. I
observed, in looking closer, that the hinder or foreshortened leg of the
flying monk rests upon the edge of a bank of earth, from which he is
descending. This explains the action of the part better, but I doubt
whether this idea of inequality and interruption from the broken nature
of the ground is an addition to the feeling of precipitate fear and
staggering perplexity in the mind of the person represented. This may be
an hypercriticism. The colouring of the foremost leg of this figure is
sufficient to prove that the utter paleness of the rest of it is from
its having faded in the course of time. The colour of the face in this
and the other monk is the same as it was twenty years ago; it has
sustained no injury in that time. But for the sun-burnt, well-baked,
robust tone of the flesh-colour, commend me to the leg and girded thigh
of the robber. What a difference between this and Raphael’s
brick-dust!—I left this admirable performance with regret; yet I do not
see why; for I have it present with me, ‘in my mind’s eye,’ and swear,
in the wildest scenes of the Alps, that the St. Peter Martyr is finer.
That, and the Man in the Louvre, are my standards of perfection; my
taste may be wrong; nay, even ridiculous—yet such it is.

The picture of the Assumption, at the Academy of Painting at Venice,
which was discovered but the other day under a load of dirt and varnish,
is cried up as even superior to the St. Peter: it is indeed a more
extraordinary picture for the artist to have painted; but for that very
reason it is neither so perfect nor so valuable. Raphael could not paint
landscape; Titian could hardly paint history without the help of
landscape. A background was necessary to him, like music to a melodrame.
He had in this picture attempted the style of Raphael, and has succeeded
and even failed—to admiration. He has given the detached figures of the
Roman school, the contrasted, uniform colours of their draperies, the
same determined outline, no breaking of the colours or play of light and
shade, and has aimed at the same elevation and force of expression. The
drawing has nearly the same firmness with more scope, the colouring is
richer and almost as hard, the attitudes are imposing and significant,
and the features handsome—what then is wanting? That glow of heavenward
devotion bent on ideal objects, and taking up its abode in the human
form and countenance as in a shrine; that high and abstracted
expression, that outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible
grace, which Raphael alone could give in its utmost purity and
intensity. One glimpse of the Crowning of the Virgin in the Vatican is
worth it all—lifts the mind nigher to the subject, dissolves it in
greater sweetness, sinks it in deeper thoughtfulness. The eager headlong
enthusiasm of the Apostle to the right in a green mantle is the best;
the lambent eyes and suffused glow of the St. John are only the
indications of rosy health, and youthful animation; the Virgin is a
well-formed rustic beauty with a little affectation, and the attitude of
the Supreme Being is extravagant and distorted. Raphael could have
painted this subject, as to its essential qualities, better; he could
not have done the St. Peter Martyr in any respect so well. I like
Titian’s Martyrdom of St. Lawrence (notwithstanding the horror of the
subject) better than the Assumption, for its characteristic expression,
foreshortening, and fine mellow masses of light and shade. Titian could
come nearer the manner of Michael Angelo than that of Raphael, from an
eye for what was grand and impressive in outward form and position, as
his frescoes of Prometheus, Cain and Abel, and another grotesque and
gigantic subject on the ceiling of one of the churches, shew. These, in
picturesque grouping, in muscular relief, and vastness of contour,
surpass Michael Angelo’s figures in the Last Judgment, however they may
fall short of them in anatomical knowledge or accuracy. I also was
exceedingly delighted with the Salutation of the Virgin at the Academy,
which is shewn as one of his masterpieces, for the mixture of airy
scenic effect with the truth of individual portraiture. The churches and
public buildings here bear ample testimony to the powers of Titian’s
historic pencil, though I did not see enough of his portraits in private
collections, of which I had hoped to take my fill. In the large hall of
the Academy of Painting are also the fine picture of the Miracle of
Saint Mark by Tintoret, an inimitable representation of a religious and
courtly ceremony by Paris Bourbon (inimitable for the light, rich,
gauze-colouring, and magical effect of the figures in perspective), and
several others of vast merit as well as imposing dimensions. The Doge’s
Palace and the Council-Chamber of the Senate are adorned with the lavish
performances of Tintoret and Paul Veronese; and in the allegorical
figures in the ceiling of the Council-Chamber, and in the splendid
delineation of a Doge returning thanks to the Virgin for some victory
over the Infidels, which occupies the end of it, I think the last-named
painter has reached the top of his own and of Venetian art. As an art of
decoration, addressing itself to the eye, to the vain or voluptuous part
of our constitution, it cannot be carried farther. Of all pictures this
Thanksgiving is the most dazzling, the most florid. A rainbow is not
more rich in hues, a bubble that glitters in the sun is not more light
and glossy, a bed of tulips is not more gaudy. A flight of angels with
rosy hues and winged glories connects the heavenly and the earthly
groups like a garland of blushing flowers. The skill and delicacy of
this composition is equal to its brilliancy of effect. His marriage of
Cana (another wonderful performance) is still at Paris: it was formerly
in the Refectory of the church of St. Giorgio Maggiore, on an island on
the opposite side of the harbour, which is well worth attention for the
architecture by Palladio and the altar-piece in bronze by John of
Bologna, containing a number of figures (as it appears to me) of the
most masterly design and execution.

I have thus hastily run through what struck me as most select in fine
art in this celebrated city. To enumerate every thing would be endless.
There are other objects for the curious. The Mosaics of the church of
St. Mark, the Brazen Horses, the belfry or Campanile, the arsenal, and
the theatres, which are wretched both as it relates to the actors and
the audience. The shops are exceedingly neat and well-stocked, and the
people gay and spirited. The harbour does not present an appearance of
much traffic. In the times of the Republic, 30,000 people are said to
have slept every night in the vessels in the bay. Daniell’s Hotel, at
which we were, and to which I would recommend every English traveller,
commands a superb view of it, and the scene (particularly by moonlight)
is delicious. I heard no music at Venice, neither voice nor lute; saw no
group of dancers or maskers, and the gondolas appear to me to resemble
hearses more than pleasure-boats. I saw the Rialto, which is no longer
an Exchange. The Bridge of Sighs, of which Lord Byron speaks, is not a
thoroughfare, but an arch suspended at a considerable height over one of
the canals, and connecting the Doge’s palace with the prison.



                              CHAPTER XXIV


We left Venice with mingled satisfaction and regret. We had to retrace
our steps as far as Padua, on our way to Milan. For four days’ journey,
from Padua to Verona, to Brescia, to Treviglio, to Milan, the whole way
was cultivated beauty and smiling vegetation. Not a rood of land lay
neglected, nor did there seem the smallest interruption to the bounty of
nature or the industry of man. The constant verdure fatigued the eye,
but soothed reflection. For miles before you, behind you, and on each
side, the trailing vines hung over waving corn-fields, or clear streams
meandered through rich meadow-grounds, and pastures. The olive we had
nearly left behind us in Tuscany, and were not sorry to part with its
half-mourning appearance amidst more luxuriant scenes and various
foliage. The country is quite level, and the roads quite straight for
nearly four hundred miles that we had travelled after leaving Bologna;
and every foot or acre of this immense plain is wrought up to a pitch of
neatness and productiveness, equal to that of a gentleman’s
kitchen-garden, or to the nursery-grounds in the neighbourhood of
London. A gravel-pit or a furze-bush by the roadside is a relief to the
eye. There is no perceptible difference in approaching the great towns,
though their mounds of green earth and the mouldering remains of
fortifications give an agreeable and romantic variety to the scene; the
whole of the intermediate space is literally, and without any kind of
exaggeration, one continued and delightful garden. Whether this effect
is owing to the felicity of the soil and climate, or to the art of man,
or to former good government, or to all these combined, I shall not here
inquire; but the fact is so, and it is sufficient to put an end to the
idea that there is neither industry nor knowledge of agriculture nor
plenty out of England, and to the common proverbial cant about the sloth
and apathy of the Italians, as if they would not lift the food to their
mouths, or gather the fruits that are drooping into them. If the
complaints of the poverty and wretchedness of Italy are confined to the
Campagna of Rome, or to some districts of the Apennines, I have nothing
to say; but if a sweeping conclusion is drawn from these to Italy in
general, or to the North of it in particular, I must enter my protest
against it. Such an inference is neither philosophical, nor, I suspect,
patriotic. The English are too apt to take every opportunity, and to
seize on every pretext for treating the rest of the world as wretches—a
tone of feeling which does not exactly tend to enhance our zeal in the
cause either of liberty or humanity. If people are wretches, the next
impression is that they deserve to be so; and we are thus prepared to
lend a helping hand to make them what we say they are. The Northern
Italians are as fine a race of people as walk the earth; and all that
they want, to be what they once were, or that any people is capable of
becoming, is neither English abuse nor English assistance, but three
words spoken to the other powers; ‘Let them alone!’ But England, in the
dread that others should follow her example, has quite forgotten what
she herself once was. Another idea that the aspect of this country and
of the country-people suggests, is the fallacy of some of Mr. Malthus’s
theories. The soil is here cultivated to the greatest possible degree,
and yet it seems to lead to no extraordinary excess of population.
Plenty and comfort abound; but they are not accompanied by an appearance
of proportionable want and misery, tracking them at the heels. The
present generation of farmers and peasants seem well of; the last,
probably, were so: this circumstance, therefore, does not appear to have
given any overweening presumptuous activity, or headstrong impulse to
the principle of population, nor to have determined those fortunate
possessors of a land flowing with milk and honey, from an acquaintance
with the good things of this life, to throw all away at one desperate
cast, and entail famine, disease, vice, and misery on themselves and
their immediate descendants. It is not, however, my intention to enter
into politics or statistics: let me, therefore, escape from them.

We reached Verona the second day: it is delightfully situated. Mr.
Addison has given a very beautiful description of the Giusti gardens
which overlook it on one side. They here shew you the tomb of Juliet: it
looks like an empty cistern in a common court-yard: you look round,
however, and the carved niches with the frescoes on the walls convince
you that you are in the precincts of an ancient monastery. The guide
also points to the part of the wall that Romeo leaped over, and takes
you to the spot in the garden where he fell. This gives an air of trick
and fiction to the whole. The tradition is a thousand years old: it is
kept up with a tender and pious awe: the interest taken in the story of
a passion faithful to death shews not that the feeling is rare, but
common. Many Italian women have read Shakspeare’s tragedy of Romeo and
Juliet, admire and criticise it with great feeling. What remains of the
old monastery is at present a Foundling Hospital. On returning from this
spot, which is rather low and gloomy, we witnessed the most brilliant
sight we had seen in Italy—the sun setting in a flood of gold behind the
Alps that overlook the lake of Garda. The Adige foamed at our feet
below; the bank opposite was of pure emerald; the hills which rose
directly behind it in the most fantastic forms were of perfect purple,
and the arches of the bridge to the left seemed plunged in ebon darkness
by the flames of light that darted round them. Verona has a less
dilapidated, pensive air than Ferrara. Its streets and squares are airy
and spacious; but the buildings have a more modern and embellished look,
and there is an appearance of greater gaiety and fashion among the
inhabitants. The English sometimes come here to reside, though not in
such crowds as at Florence, and things are proportionably less dear. The
Amphitheatre is nearly as fine and quite as entire as that at Rome: the
Gate of Galienas terminates one of the principal streets. We met with
nothing remarkable the rest of the way to Milan, except the same rich,
unvaried face of the country; the distant Alps hanging like a thin film
over the horizon, or approaching nearer in lofty, solid masses as we
advanced; the lake of Garda embosomed in them, and the fine fortress of
Peschiera buried in its almost subterranean fastnesses like a mole; the
romantic town of Virli, with a rainbow glittering over its verdant
groves and hills; a very bad inn at Brescia, and a very excellent one at
Treviglio. Milan was alive and full of visitors, thick as the ‘motes
that people the sun-beam;’ it felt the presence of its lord. The Emperor
of Austria was there! Milan (at least on this occasion) was as gay as
Bath or any town in England. How times and the characters of countries
change with them! In other parts of Italy, as at Rome and at Florence,
the business of the inhabitants seemed to be to hide themselves, neither
to see nor be seen: here it was evidently their object to do both. The
streets were thronged and in motion, and the promenades full of
carriages and of elegantly-dressed women, as on a festival or gala-day.
I think I never saw so many well-grown, well-made, good-looking women as
at Milan. I did not however see one face strikingly beautiful, or with a
very fine expression. In this respect the Romans have the advantage of
them. The North has a tinge of robust barbarism in it. Their animation
was a little exuberant; their look almost amounts to a stare, their walk
is a swing, their curiosity is not free from an air of defiance. The
free and unrestrained manners of former periods of Italy appear also to
have been driven northward, and to have lingered longer on the confines.
The Cathedral or Duomo is a splendid fabric of white marble: it is rich,
vast, and the inside solemn and full of a religious awe: the marble is
from a quarry on the Lago Maggiore. We also saw the celebrated theatre
of the Gran Scala, which is of an immense size and of extreme beauty,
but it was not full, nor was the performance striking. The manager is
the proprietor of the Cobourg Theatre (Mr. Glossop), and his wife
(formerly our Miss Fearon) the favourite singer of the Milanese circles.
I inquired after the great pantomime Actress, Pallarini, but found she
had retired from the stage on a fortune. The name of Vigano was not
known to my informant. I did not see the great picture of the Last
Supper by Leonardo nor the little Luini, two miles out of Milan, which
my friend Mr. Beyle charged me particularly to see.

We left Milan, in a calash or small open carriage, to proceed to the
Isles Borromees. The first day it rained violently, and the third day
the boy drove us wrong, pretending to mistake Laveno for Baveno; so I
got rid of him. We had a delightful morning at Como, and a fine view of
the lake and surrounding hills, which however rise too precipitously
from the shores to be a dwelling-place for any but hunters and
fishermen. Several English gentlemen as well as rich Milanese have
villas on the banks. I had a hankering after Cadenobia; but the Simplon
still lay before me. We were utterly disappointed in the Isles
Borromees. Isola Bella, belonging to the Marquis Borromeo, indeed
resembles ‘a pyramid of sweetmeats ornamented with green festoons and
flowers.’ I had supposed this to be a heavy German conceit, but it is a
literal description. The pictures in the Palace are trash. We were
accosted by a beggar in an island which contains only a palace and an
inn. We proceeded to the inn at Baveno, situated on the high road, close
to the lake, and enjoyed for some days the enchanting and varied scenery
along its banks. The abrupt rocky precipices that overhang it—the woods
that wave in its refreshing breeze—the distant hills—the gliding sails
and level shore at the opposite extremity—the jagged summits of the
mountains that look down upon Palanza and Feriole, and the deep defiles
and snowy passes of the Simplon, every kind of sublimity or beauty,
changing every moment with the shifting light or point of view from
which you beheld them. We were tempted to stop here for the summer in a
suite of apartments (not ill furnished) that command a panoramic view of
the lake hidden by woods and vineyards from all curious eyes, or in a
similar set of rooms at Intra on the other side of the lake, with a
garden and the conveniences of a market-town, for six guineas for the
half year. Hear this, ye who pine in England on limited incomes, and
with a taste for the picturesque! The temptation was great, and may yet
prove too strong. We wished, however, to pass the Simplon first. We
proceeded to Domo d’ Ossola for this purpose, and the next day began the
ascent. I have already attempted to describe the passage of Mont Cenis:
this is said to be finer, and I believe it; but it impressed me less, I
believe owing to circumstances. The road does not wind its inconceivable
breathless way down the side of the same mountain (like the
circumgyrations of an eagle), gallery seeing gallery sunk beneath it,
but makes longer reaches, and passes over from one side of the valley to
the other. The ascent is nearly by the side of the brook of the Simplon
for several miles, and you pass along by the edge of precipices and by
slender bridges over mountain-torrents, under huge brown rugged rocks,
hanging over the road like mighty masses of ruins or castle walls—some
bare, others covered with pine-trees to the top; some too steep for any
plant to grow on them, others displaying spots of verdure, the thatched
cottage, and the winding path half-way up, and dallying with vernal
flowers and the winter’s snow to the last moment. The fir generally
clothes them, and its spiny form and dark hues combine well with their
‘star-ypointing pyramids,’ and ashy paleness. The eagle screams
over-head, and the chamois looks startled round. Half-way up a little
rugged path (the pathway of their life) loitered a young peasant and his
mistress hand in hand, with some older people behind, following to their
peaceful humble home—half hid among the cliffs and clouds. We passed
under one or two sounding arches, and over some lofty bridges. At length
we reached the village of the Simplon, and stopped there at a most
excellent inn, where we had a supper that might vie, for taste and
elegance, with that with which Chiffinch entertained Peveril of the Peak
and his companion at the little inn, in the wilds of Derbyshire. The
next day we proceeded onwards, and passed the commencement of the
tremendous glacier of the Flech Horr. Monteroso ascended to the right,
shrouded in cloud and mist, at a height inaccessible even to the eye.
This mountain is only a few hundred feet lower than Mont-Blanc, yet its
name is hardly known. So a difference of a hair’s breadth in talent
often makes all the difference between total obscurity and endless
renown! We soon after passed the barrier, and found ourselves involved
in fog and driving sleet upon the brink of precipices: the view was
hidden, the road dangerous. On our right were drifts of snow left there
by the avalanches. Soon after the mist dispersed, or we had perhaps
passed below it, and a fine sunny morning disclosed the whole amazing
scene above, about, below us. On our right was the Swartzenberg, behind
us the Simplon, on our left the Flech Horr, and the pointed
Clise-Horn—opposite was the Yung-Frow, and the distant mountains of the
lake of Geneva rose between, circled with wreaths of mist and sunshine:
stately fir-trees measured the abrupt descent at our side, or the sound
of dimly-seen cataracts; and in an opening below, seen through the steep
chasm under our feet, lay the village of Brigg (as in a map) still half
a day’s journey distant. We wound round the valley at the other
extremity of it: the road on the opposite side, which we could plainly
distinguish, seemed almost on the level ground, and when we reached it
we found a still greater depth below us. Villages, cottages, flocks of
sheep in the valley underneath, now came in sight, and made the eye
giddy to look at them: huge cedars by the road-side were interposed
between us and the rocks and mountains opposite, and threw them into
half-tint; and the height above our heads, and that beneath our feet, by
being perceptibly joined together, doubled the elevation of the objects.
Mountains seem highest either when you are at their very summits and
look down on the world, or when you are midway up, and the eye takes in
the measure of their height at two distinct stages. I think the finest
part of the descent of the Simplon is about four or five miles before
you come to Brigg. The valley is here narrow, and affords prodigious
contrasts of wood and rock, of hill and vale, of sheltered beauty and of
savage grandeur. The red perpendicular chasm in the rock at the foot of
the Clise-Horn is tremendous; the look back to the snow-clad
Swartzenberg that you have left behind is no less so. I grant the
Simplon has the advantage of Mont Cenis in variety and beauty and in
sudden and terrific contrasts, but it has not the same simple expansive
grandeur, blending and growing into one vast accumulated impression; nor
is the descent of the same whirling and giddy character, as if you were
hurried, stage after stage, and from one yawning depth to another, into
the regions of ‘Chaos and old Night.’ The Simplon presents more
picturesque points of view; Mont Cenis makes a stronger impression on
the imagination. I am not prejudiced in favour of one or the other; the
road over each was raised by the same master-hand. After a jaunt like
this through the air, it was requisite to pause some time at the
hospitable inn at Brigg to recover. It only remains for me to describe
the lake of Geneva and Mont Blanc.



                              CHAPTER XXV


We left the inn at Brigg, after having stopped there above a week, and
proceeded on our way to Vevey, which had always been an interesting
point in the horizon, and a resting-place to the imagination. In
travelling, we visit _names_ as well as places; and Vevey is the scene
of the _New Eloise_. In spite of Mr. Burke’s philippic against this
performance, the contempt of the _Lake School_, and Mr. Moore’s late
_Rhymes on the Road_, I had still some overmastering recollections on
that subject, which I proposed to indulge at my leisure on the spot
which was supposed to give them birth, and which I accordingly did. I
did not, on a re-perusal, find my once favourite work quite so vapid,
quite so void of eloquence or sentiment as some critics (it is true, not
much beholden to it) would insinuate. The following passage, among
others, seemed to me the perfection of style:—‘_Mais vois la rapidité de
cet astre, qui vole et ne s’arrête jamais; le tems fuit, l’occasion
échappe, ta beauté, ta beauté même aura son terme, elle doit flétrir et
périr un jour comme un fleur qui tombe sans avoir été cueilli!_’ What a
difference between the sound of this passage and of Mr. Moore’s verse or
prose! Nay, there is more imagination in the single epithet _astre_,
applied as it is here to this brilliant and fleeting scene of things,
than in all our fashionable poet’s writings! At least I thought so,
reading St. Preux’s Letter in the wood near Clarens, and stealing
occasional glances at the lake and rocks of Meillerie. But I am
anticipating.

The mountains on either side of the Valley of the Simplon present a
gloomy succession of cliffs, often covered with snow, and contrasting by
no means agreeably with the marshy grounds below, through which the
Rhone wanders scarce noticed, scarce credited. It is of a whitish muddy
colour (from the snow and sand mingled with its course, very much as if
had been poured out of a washing-tub), and very different from the deep
purple tint it assumes on oozing out from the other side of the Lake,
after having drank its cerulean waters. The woods near the lofty peaks
of the Clise-Horn, and bordering on Monteroso, are said to be still the
frequent haunt of bears, though a price is set upon their heads. As we
advanced farther on beyond Tortomania, the whole breadth of the valley
was sometimes covered with pine-forests, which gave a relief to the eye,
and afforded scope to the imagination. The fault of mountain scenery in
general is, that it is too barren and naked, and that the whole is
exposed in enormous and unvarying masses to the view at once. The
clothing of trees is no less wanted as an ornament than partially to
conceal objects, and thus present occasional new points of view. Without
something to intercept and break the aggregate extent of surface, you
gain no advantage by change of place; the same elevation and ground-plan
of hill and valley are still before you—you might as well carry a map or
landscape in your hand. In this part of our journey, however, besides
the natural wildness and grandeur of the scenery, the road was rough and
uneven, and frequently crossed rude bridges over the Rhone, or over
rivulets pouring into it: the gloomy recesses of the forests might be
the abode of wild beasts or of the lurking robber. The huge fragments of
rock that had tumbled from the overhanging precipices often made a
turning in the road necessary, and for a moment interrupted the view
beyond; the towns, built on the sides of the hills, resembled shattered
heaps of rock, scarcely distinguishable from the grey peaks and crags
with which they were surrounded, giving an agreeable play to the fancy;
while the snowy tops of the Simplon mountains, now coming in sight, now
hidden behind the nearer summits, threw us back to the scenes we had
left, and measured the distance we had traversed. The way in which these
mighty landmarks of the Alpine regions ascertain this point is, however,
contrary to the usual one: for it is by appearing plainer, the farther
you retire from them. They tower with airy shape and dazzling whiteness
above the lengthening perspective; and it is the intervening objects
that dwindle in the comparison, and are lost sight of in succession. In
the midst of the most lonely and singular part of this scene, just as we
passed a loose bridge of rough fir-planks over a brawling brook, and as
a storm seemed to threaten us, we met a party of English gentlemen in an
open carriage, though their courteous looks and waving salutation almost
‘forbade us to interpret them such.’ Certainly there is no people in
whom urbanity is more a duty than the English; for there is no people
that feel it more. Travelling confounds our ideas, not of place only,
but of time; and I could not help making a sudden transition from the
party we had by chance encountered to the Chevalier Grandison and his
friends, paying their last visit to Bologna. Pshaw! Why do I indulge in
such idle fancies? Yet why in truth should I not, when I am a thousand
miles from home, and when every object one meets is like a dream? _Passe
pour cela._

We reached Sion that evening. It is one of the dirtiest and least
comfortable towns on the road; nor does the chief inn deserve the
epithet so applicable to Swiss inns in general—_simplex munditiis_. It
was here that Rousseau, in one of his early peregrinations, was
recommended by his landlord to an iron-foundry in the neighbourhood (the
smoke of which, I believe, we saw at a little distance), where he would
be likely to procure employment, mistaking ‘the pauper lad’ for a
journeyman blacksmith. Perhaps the author of the _Rhymes on the Road_
will think it a pity he did not embrace this proposal, instead of
forging thunderbolts for kingly crowns. Alas! Mr. Moore would then never
have had to write his ‘Fables for the Holy Alliance.’ Haunted by some
indistinct recollection of this adventure, I asked at the Inn, ‘If Jean
Jacques Rousseau had ever resided in the town?’ The waiter himself could
not tell, but soon after brought back for answer, ‘That Monsieur
Rousseau had never lived there, but that he had passed through about
fourteen years before on his way to Italy, when he had only time to stop
to take tea!’—Was this a mere stupid blunder, or one of the refractions
of fame, founded on his mission as Secretary to the Venetian Ambassador
a hundred years before? There is a tradition in the neighbourhood of
Milton’s house in York-street, Westminster, that ‘one Mr. _Milford_, a
celebrated poet, formerly lived there!’ We set forward the next morning
on our way to Martigny, through the most dreary valley possible, and in
an absolute straight line for twelve or fifteen miles of level road,
which was terminated by the village-spire and by the hills leading to
the Great St. Bernard and Mont-Blanc. The wind poured down from these
tremendous hills, and blew with unabated fury in our faces the whole
way. It was a most unpleasant ride, nor did the accommodations at the
inn (the Swan, I think) make us amends. The rooms were cold and empty.
It might be supposed that the desolation without had subdued the
imagination to its own hue and quality, so that it rejected all attempts
at improvement; that the more niggard Nature had been to it, the more
churlish it became to itself; and through habit, neither felt the want
of comforts nor a wish to supply others with them. Close to the bridge
stands a steep rock with a castle at the top of it (attributed to the
times of the Romans). At a distance it was hardly discernible; and
afterwards, when we crossed over to Chamouni, we saw it miles below us
like a dove-cot, or a dirt-pye raised by children. Yet viewed from
beneath, it seemed to present an imposing and formidable attitude, and
to elevate its pigmy front in a line with the stately heights around. So
Mr. Washington Irvine binds up his own portrait with Goldsmith’s in the
Paris edition of his works, and to many people seems the _genteeler_
man! From the definite and dwarfish, we turned to the snow-clad and
cloud-capt; and strolled to the other side of the village, where the
road parts to St. Bernard and Chamouni, anxiously gazing at the steep
pathway on either side, and half tempted to launch into that billowy sea
of mist and mountain: but we reserved this for a subsequent period. As
we were loitering at the foot of the dizzy ascent, our postilion, who
had staid behind us a couple of hours the day before to play at bowls,
now drove on half an hour before his time, and when we turned a corner
which gave us a view of our inn, no cabriolet was there. He, however,
soon found his mistake, and turned back to meet us. The only picturesque
objects between this and Bex are a waterfall about two hundred feet in
height, issuing through the cavities of the mountain from the immense
glacier in the valley of Trie, and the romantic bridge of St. Maurice,
the boundary between Savoy and the Pays de Vaud. On the ledge of a rocky
precipice, as you approach St. Maurice, stands a hermitage in full view
of the road; and possibly the inmate consoles himself in his voluntary
retreat by watching the carriages as they come in sight, and fancying
that the driver is pointing out his aërial dwelling to the inquisitive
and wondering traveller! If a man could transport himself to one of the
fixed stars, so far from being lifted above this sublunary sphere, he
would still wish his fellow-mortals to point to it as his particular
abode, and the scene of his marvellous adventures. We go into a crowd to
be seen: we go into solitude that we may be distinguished from the
crowd, and talked of. We travel into foreign parts to get the start of
those who stay behind us; we return home to hear what has been said of
us in our absence. Lord Byron mounted on his pedestal of pride on the
shores of the Adriatic, as Mr. Hobhouse rides in the car of popularity
through the streets of Westminster. The one object could be seen at a
distance; the other, whose mind is more Sancho-Panza-ish and
_pug-featured_, requires to be brought nearer to the eye for
stage-effect! Bex itself is delicious. It stands in a little nook of
quiet, almost out of the world, nestling in rural beauty, in mountain
sublimity. There is an excellent inn, a country church before it, a
large ash tree, a circulating library, a rookery, every thing useful and
comfortable for the life of man. Behind, there is a ridge of dark rocks;
beyond them tall and bare mountains—and a higher range still appears
through rolling clouds and circling mists. Our reception at the inn was
every way what we could wish, and we were half disposed to stop here for
some months. But something whispered me on to Vevey:—this we reached the
next day in a drizzling shower of rain, which prevented our seeing much
of the country, excepting the black masses of rock and pine-trees that
rose perpendicularly from the roadside. The day after my arrival, I
found a lodging at a farm-house, a mile out of Vevey, so ‘lapped in
luxury,’ so retired, so reasonable, and in every respect convenient,
that we remained here for the rest of the summer, and felt no small
regret at leaving it.

The country round Vevey is, I must nevertheless own, the least
picturesque part of the borders of the Lake of Geneva. I wonder
Rousseau, who was a good judge and an admirable describer of romantic
situations, should have fixed upon it as the scene of the ‘New Eloise.’
You have passed the rocky and precipitous defiles at the entrance into
the valley, and have not yet come into the open and more agreeable parts
of it. The immediate vicinity of Vevey is entirely occupied with
vineyards slanting to the south, and inclosed between stone-walls
without any kind of variety or relief. The walks are uneven and bad, and
you in general see little (for the walls on each side of you) but the
glassy surface of the Lake, the rocky barrier of the Savoy Alps opposite
(one of them crowned all the year round with snow, and which, though it
is twenty miles off, seems as if you could touch it with your hand, so
completely does size neutralize the effect of distance), the green hills
of an inferior class over Clarens, with the Dent de Jamant sticking out
of them like an iron tooth, and the winding valley leading northward
towards Berne and Fribourg. Here stands Gelamont (the name of the
_Campagna_ which we took), on a bank sloping down to the brook that
passes by Vevey, and so entirely embosomed in trees and ‘upland swells,’
that it might be called, in poetical phrase, ‘the peasant’s nest.’ Here
every thing was perfectly clean and commodious. The _fermier_ or
vineyard-keeper, with his family, lived below, and we had six or seven
rooms on a floor (furnished with every article or convenience that a
London lodging affords) for thirty Napoleons for four months, or about
thirty shillings a week. This first expense we found the greatest during
our stay, and nearly equal to all the rest, that of a servant included.
The number of English settled here had made lodgings dear, and an
English gentleman told me he was acquainted with not less than
three-and-twenty English families in the neighbourhood. To give those
who may feel an inclination to try foreign air, an idea of the
comparative cheapness of living abroad, I will mention that mutton
(equal to the best Welch mutton, and fed on the high grounds near
Moudon) is two batz, that is, threepence English per pound; and the beef
(which is also good, though not of so fine a quality) is the same.
Trout, caught in the Lake, you get almost for nothing. A couple of fowls
is eighteen-pence. The wine of the country, which though not rich, is
exceedingly palatable, is three pence a bottle. You may have a basket of
grapes in the season for one shilling or fifteen pence.[48] The bread,
butter and milk are equally cheap and excellent. They have not the art
here of adulterating every thing. You find the same things as in
England, served up in the same plain and decent manner, but in greater
plenty, and generally speaking, of a better and more wholesome quality,
and at least twice as cheap. In England they have few things, and they
contrive to spoil those few. There is a good deal of ill-nature and
churlishness, as well as a narrow policy in this. The trading principle
seems to be to give you the worst, and make you pay as dear for it as
possible. It is a vile principle. As soon as you land at Dover, you feel
the force of this _home_ truth. They cheat you to your face, and laugh
at you. I must say, that it appears to me, whatever may be the faults or
vices of other nations, the English _population_ is the only one to
which the epithet _blackguard_ is applicable. They are, in a word, the
only people who make a merit of giving others pain, and triumph in their
impudence and ill-behaviour, as proofs of a manly and independent
spirit. Afraid that you may complain of the absence of foreign luxuries,
they are determined to let you understand beforehand, they do not care
about what you may think, and wanting the art to please, resort to the
easier and surer way of keeping up their importance by practising every
kind of annoyance. Instead of their being at your mercy, you find
yourself at theirs, subjected to the sullen airs of the masters, and to
the impertinent fatuity of the waiters. They dissipate your theory of
English comfort and hospitality at the threshold. What do they care that
you have cherished a fond hope of getting a nice, _snug_ little dinner
on your arrival, better than any you have had in France? ‘The French may
be d——,’ is the answer that passes through their minds—‘the dinner is
good enough, if it is English!’ Let us take care, that by assuming an
insolent local superiority over all the world, we do not sink below them
in every thing, liberty not excepted. While the name of any thing passes
current, we may dispense with the reality, and keep the start of the
rest of mankind, simply by asserting that we have it, and treating all
foreigners as a set of poor wretches, who neither know how, nor are in
truth fit to live! Against this post, alas! John Bull is continually
running his head, but as yet without knocking his brains out. The
beef-steak which you order at Dover with patriotic tender yearnings for
its reputation, is accordingly filled with cinders—the mutton is done to
a rag—the soup not eatable—the porter sour—the bread gritty—the butter
rancid. Game, poultry, grapes, wine it is in vain to think of; and as
you may be mortified at the privation, they punish you for your
unreasonable dissatisfaction by giving you cause for it in the
mismanagement of what remains.[49] In the midst of this ill fare you
meet with equally bad treatment. While you are trying to digest a tough
beef-steak, a fellow comes in and peremptorily demands your fare, on the
assurance that you will get your baggage from the clutches of the
Custom-house in time to go by the six o’clock coach; and when you find
that this is impossible, and that you are to be trundled off at two in
the morning, or by the next day’s coach, _if_ it is not _full_, and
complain to that personification of blind justice, an English mob, you
hear the arch _slang_ reply, ‘Do you think the Gentleman such a fool as
to part with his money without knowing why?’ and should the natural
rejoinder rise to your lips—‘Do you take me for a fool, because I did
not take you for a rogue?’ the defendant immediately stands at bay upon
the national character for honesty and morality. ‘I hope there are no
rogues here!’ is echoed through the dense atmosphere of English
intellect, though but the moment before they had been laughing in their
sleeves (or out loud) at the idea of a stranger having been tricked by a
townsman. Happy country! equally and stupidly satisfied with its vulgar
vices and boasted virtues!

               ‘Oh! for a lodge in some vast wilderness,
               Some boundless continuity of shade!’

Yet to what purpose utter such a wish, since it is impossible to stay
there, and the moment you are separated from your fellows, you think
better of them, begin to form chimeras with which you would fain compare
the realities, find them the same as ever to your cost and shame—

             ‘And disappointed still, are still deceived!’

I found little of this _tracasserie_ at Gelamont. Days, weeks, months,
and even years might have passed on much in the same manner, with ‘but
the season’s difference.’ We breakfasted at the same hour, and the
tea-kettle was always boiling (an excellent thing in housewifery)—a
_lounge_ in the orchard for an hour or two, and twice a week we could
see the steam-boat creeping like a spider over the surface of the lake;
a volume of the Scotch novels (to be had in every library on the
Continent, in English, French, German, or Italian, as the reader
pleases), or M. Galignani’s Paris and London _Observer_, amused us till
dinner time; then tea and a walk till the moon unveiled itself,
‘apparent queen of night,’ or the brook, swoln with a transient shower,
was heard more distinctly in the darkness, mingling with the soft,
rustling breeze; and the next morning the song of peasants broke upon
refreshing sleep, as the sun glanced among the clustering vine-leaves,
or the shadowy hills, as the mists retired from their summits, looked in
at our windows. The uniformity of this mode of life was only broken
during fifteen weeks that we remained in Switzerland, by the civilities
of Monsieur Le Vade, a Doctor of medicine and octogenarian, who had been
personally acquainted with Rousseau in his younger days; by some
attempts by our neighbours to _lay us under obligations_, by parting
with rare curiosities to Monsieur l’Anglois for half their value; and by
an excursion to Chamouni, of which I must defer the account to my next.



                              CHAPTER XXVI


We crossed over in a boat to St. Gingolph, a little town opposite to
Vevey, and proceeded on the other side of the lake to Martigny, from
which we could pass over either on foot or by the help of mules to
Mont-Blanc. It was a warm day towards the latter end of August, and the
hills before us drew their clear outline, and the more distant Alps
waved their snowy tops (tinged with golden sunshine) in the
gently-undulating surface of the crystal lake. As we approached the
Savoy side, the mountains in front, which from Vevey look like a huge
battery or flat upright wall, opened into woody recesses, or reared
their crests on high; rich streaks of the most exquisite verdure gleamed
at their feet, and St. Gingolph came distinctly in view, with its
dingy-looking houses and smoking chimneys. It is a small manufacturing
town, full of forges and workshops, and the inn is dirty and
disagreeable. The contrast to Vevey was striking. But this side of the
lake is in the dominions of the King of Sardinia, and cleanliness seems
to be in general the virtue of republics, or of free states. There is an
air of desolation, sluttishness, and indifference, the instant you cross
the water, compared with the neatness, activity, regularity, and
cheerfulness of the Pays de Vaud. We walked out to take a view of the
situation, as soon as we had bespoken our room and a supper. It was a
brilliant sunset; nor do I recollect having ever beheld so majestic and
rich a scene, set off to such advantage. A steep pathway led to a
village embayed between two mountains, whose tops towered into the sky:
conical hills rose to about half their height, covered with green
copses: fields and cottages were seen climbing as it were the sides of
others, with cattle feeding; the huge projecting rocks gave new
combinations and a new aspect to the most picturesque objects; tall
branching trees (ash, or beech, or chesnut) hung from green sloping
banks over the road-side, or dipped their foliage in the transparent
wave below: their bold luxuriant forms threw the rocks and mountains
into finer relief, and elevated them into a higher atmosphere, so that
they seemed trembling (another airy world) over our heads. The lake
shone like a broad golden mirror, reflecting the thousand dyes of the
fleecy purple clouds, while Saint Gingolph, with its clustering
habitations, shewed like a dark pitchy spot by its side; and beyond the
glimmering verge of the Jura (almost hid in its own brightness) hovered
gay wreaths of clouds, fair, lovely, visionary, that seemed not of this
world, but brought from some dream of fancy, treasured up from past
years, emblems of hope, of joy and smiling regret, that had come to
grace a scene so heavenly, and to bid it a last, lingering farewell. No
person can describe the effect; but so in Claude’s landscapes the
evening clouds drink up the rosy light, and sink into soft repose! Every
one who travels into Switzerland should visit this secluded spot, and
witness such a sunset, with the heaven stooping its face into the lake
on one side, and the mountains, rocks, and woods, lifting earth to
heaven on the other. We had no power to leave it or to admire it, till
the evening shades stole in upon us, and drew the dusky veil of twilight
over it.

We had a pleasant walk the next morning along the side of the lake under
the grey cliffs, the green hills and azure sky; now passing under the
open gateway of some dilapidated watch-tower that had in former times
connected the rocky barrier with the water, now watching the sails of a
boat slowly making its way among the trees on the banks of the Rhone,
like butterflies expanding their wings in the breeze, or the snowy
ridges that seemed close to us at Vevey receding farther into a kind of
lofty back-ground as we advanced. The speculation of Bishop Berkeley, or
some other philosopher, that distance is measured by motion and not by
the sight, is verified here at every step. After going on for hours, and
perceiving no alteration in the form or appearance of the object before
you, you begin to be convinced that it is out of ordinary calculation,
or, in the language of the _Fancy_, an ‘ugly customer;’ and our
curiosity once excited, is ready to magnify every circumstance relating
to it to an indefinite extent. The literal impression being discarded as
insufficient, the imagination takes out an unlimited letter of credit
for all that is possible or wonderful, and what the eye sees is
considered thenceforward merely as an imperfect hint, to be amplified
and filled up on a colossal scale by the understanding and rules of
proportion. To say the truth, you also suffer a change, feel like
Lilliputians, and can fancy yourselves transported to a different world,
where the dimensions and relations of things are regulated by some
unknown law. The inn where we stopped at Vionnax is bad. Beyond this
place, the hills at the eastern end of the lake form into an irregular
and stupendous amphitheatre; and you pass through long and apparently
endless vistas of tall flourishing trees, without being conscious of
making much progress. There is a glass-manufactory at Vionnax, which I
did not go to see; others who have more curiosity may. It will be there
(I dare say) next year for those who choose to visit it: I liked neither
its glare nor its heat. The cold icy crags that hang suspended over it
have been there a thousand years, and will be there a thousand years to
come. Short-lived as we are, let us attach ourselves to the immortal,
and scale (assisted by earth’s giant brood) the empyrean of pure
thought! But the English abroad turn out of their way to see every
pettifogging, huckstering object that they could see better at home, and
are as _fussy_ and fidgetty, with their smoke-jacks and mechanical
inventions among the Alps, as if they had brought Manchester and
Sheffield in their pockets! The finest effect along this road is the
view of the bridge as you come near St. Maurice. The mountains on either
side here descend nearly to a point, boldly and abruptly; the river
flows rapidly through the tall arch of the bridge, on one side of which
you see an old fantastic turret, and beyond it the hill called the
Sugar-loaf, rising up in the centre of immense ranges of mountains, and
with fertile and variously-marked plains stretching out in the
intervening space. The landscape painter has only to go there, and make
a picture of it. It is already framed by nature to his hand! I mention
this the more, because that kind of _grouping_ of objects which is
essential to the picturesque, is not always to be found in the most
sublime or even beautiful scenes. Nature (so to speak) uses a larger
canvass than man, and where she is greatest and most prodigal of her
wealth, often neglects that principle of concentration and contrast
which is an indispensable preliminary before she can be translated with
effect into the circumscribed language of art. We supped at Martigny, at
the Hotel de la Poste (formerly a convent), and the next morning
proceeded by the Valley of Trie and the Col de Peaume to Chamouni.

We left the great St. Bernard, and the road by which Buonaparte passed
to Marengo, on our left, and Martigny and the Valley of the Simplon
directly behind us. These last were also soon at an immeasurable depth
below us; but the summits of the mountains that environed us on all
sides, seemed to ascend with us, and to add our elevation to their own.
Crags, of which we could only before discern the jutting tops, gradually
reared their full stature at our side; and icy masses, one by one, came
in sight, emerging from their lofty recesses, like clouds floating in
mid-air. All this while a green valley kept us company by the road-side,
watered with gushing rills, interspersed with cottages and well-stocked
farms: fine elms and ash grew on the sides of the hills, under the shade
of one of which we saw an old peasant asleep. The road, however, was
long, rough, and steep; and from the heat of the sun, and the continual
interruption of loose stones and the straggling roots of trees, I felt
myself exceedingly exhausted. We had a mule, a driver, and a guide. I
was advised, by all means, to lessen the fatigue of the ascent by taking
hold of the _queue of Monsieur le Mulet_, a mode of travelling partaking
as little of the sublime as possible, and to which I reluctantly
acceded. We at last reached the top, and looked down on the Valley of
Trie, bedded in rocks, with a few wooden huts in it, a mountain-stream
traversing it from the _Glacier_ at one end, and with an appearance as
if summer could never gain a footing there, before it would be driven
out by winter. In the midst of this almost inaccessible and desolate
spot, we found a little inn or booth, with refreshments of wine, bread,
and fruit, and a whole drove of English travellers, mounted or on foot.

               ‘Nor Alps nor Apennines can keep them out,
               Nor fortified redoubt!’

As we mounted the steep wood on the other side of the valley, we met
several mules returning, with their drivers only, and looking extremely
picturesque, as they were perched above our heads among the jagged
pine-trees, and cautiously felt their perilous way over the edges of
projecting rocks and stumps of trees, down the zigzag pathway. The view
here is precipitous, extensive, and truly appalling, both from the size
of the objects and their rugged wildness. The smell of the pine-trees,
the clear air, and the golden sunshine gleaming through the dark foliage
refreshed me; and the fatigue from which I had suffered in the morning
completely wore off. I had concluded that when we got to the top of the
wood that hung over our heads, we should have mastered our difficulties;
but they only then began. We emerged into a barren heath or morass of a
most toilsome ascent, lengthening as we advanced, with herds of swine,
sheep, and cattle feeding on it, and a bed of half-melted snow marking
the summit over which we had to pass. We turned aside, half-way up this
dreary wilderness, to stop at a _chalet_, where a boy, who tended the
straggling cattle, was fast asleep in the middle of the day; and being
waked up, procured us a draught of most delicious water from a fountain.
We at length reached the Col de Peaume, and saw Mont Blanc, the King of
Mountains, stretching away to the left, with clouds circling round its
sides, and snows forever resting on its head. It was an image of
immensity and eternity. Earth had heaved it from its bosom; the ‘vast
cerulean’ had touched it with its breath. It was a meeting of earth and
sky. Other peaked cliffs rose perpendicularly by its side, and a range
of rocks, of red granite, fronted it to the north; but Mont-Blanc itself
was round, bald, shining, ample, and equal in its swelling proportions—a
huge dumb heap of matter. The valley below was bare, without an
object—no ornament, no contrast to set it off—it reposed in silence and
in solitude, a world within itself.

         ‘Retire, the world shut out, thy thoughts call home.’

There is an end here of vanity and littleness, and all transitory
jarring interests. You stand, as it were, in the presence of the Spirit
of the Universe, before the majesty of Nature, with her chief elements
about you; cloud and air, and rock, and stream, and mountain are brought
into immediate contact with primeval Chaos and the great First Cause.
The mind hovers over mysteries deeper than the abysses at our feet; its
speculations soar to a height beyond the visible forms it sees around
it. As we descended the path on foot (for our muleteer was obliged to
return at the barrier between the two states of Savoy and Switzerland
marked by a solitary unhewn stone,) we saw before us the shingled roofs
of a hamlet, situated on a patch of verdure near inaccessible columns of
granite, and could hear the tinkling bells of a number of cattle
pasturing below (an image of patriarchal times!)—we also met one or two
peasants returning home with loads of fern, and still farther down,
found the ripe harvests of wheat and barley growing close up to the feet
of the glaciers (those huge masses of ice arrested in their passage from
the mountains, and collected by a thousand winters,) and the violet and
gilliflower nestling in the cliffs of the hardest rocks. There are four
of these glaciers, that pour their solid floods into the valley, with
rivulets issuing from them into the Arbe. The one next to Chamouni is, I
think, the finest. It faces you like a broad sheet of congealed snow and
water about half-way up the lofty precipice, and then spreads out its
arms on each side into seeming batteries and fortifications of
undistinguishable rock and ice, as though winter had here ‘built a
fortress for itself,’ seated in stern state, and amidst frowning
horrors. As we advanced into the plain, and before it became dusk, we
could discern at a distance the dark wood that skirts the glaciers of
Mont-Blanc, the spire of Chamouni, and the bridges that cross the
stream. We also discovered, a little way on before us, stragglers on
mules, and a cabriolet, that was returning from the valley of Trie, by
taking a more circuitous route. As the day closed in and was followed by
the moonlight, the mountains on our right hung over us like a dark pall,
and the glaciers gleamed like gigantic shrouds opposite. We might have
fancied ourselves inclosed in a vast tomb, but for the sounding
cataracts and the light clouds that flitted over our heads. We arrived
at Chamouni at last, and found the three inns crowded with English. The
entrance to that to which we had been recommended, or rather were
conducted by our guide (the Hotel de Londres,) was besieged by English
loungers, like a bazaar, or an hotel at some fashionable watering-place,
and we were glad to secure a small but comfortable room for the night.

We had an excellent supper, the materials of which we understood came
from Geneva. We proceeded the next morning to Saleges, on our way to
this capital. If the entrance to the valley of Chamouni is grand and
simple, the route from it towards Geneva unites the picturesque to the
sublime in the most remarkable degree. For two or three miles you pass
along under Mont-Blanc, looking up at it with awe and wonder, derived
from a knowledge of its height. The interest, the pleasure you take in
it is from conviction and reflection; but turn a corner in the road at a
homely village and a little bridge, and it shoots up into the sky of its
own accord, like a fantastic vision. Its height is incredible, its
brightness dazzling, and you notice the snow crusted upon its surface
into round hillocks, with pellucid shadows like shining pavilions for
the spirits of the upper regions of the air. Why is the effect so
different from its former desolate and lumpish appearance? Tall rocks
rise from the roadside with dark waving pine-trees shooting from them,
over the highest top of which, as you look up, you see Mont-Blanc; a
ruined tower serves as a foil to the serene smiler in the clouds that
mocks at the defences of art, or the encroachments of time. Another
mountain opposite, part bare, part clothed with wood, intercepts the
view to the left, giving effect to what is seen, and leaving more to the
imagination; and the impetuous torrent roars at your feet, a hundred
fathoms below, with the bright red clusters of the mountain-ash and
loose fragments of rock bending over it, and into which a single step
would precipitate you. One of the mightiest objects in nature is set off
by the most appropriate and striking accidents; and the impression is of
the most romantic and enchanting kind. The scene has an intoxicating
effect; you are relieved from the toil of wishing to admire, and the
imagination is delighted to follow the lead of the senses. We passed
this part of the road in a bright morning, incessantly turning back to
admire, and finding fresh cause of pleasure and wonder at every step or
pause, loth to leave it, and yet urged onward by continual displays of
new and endless beauties. Chamouni seems to lie low enough; but we found
that the river and the road along with it winds and tumbles for miles
over steep banks or sloping ground; and as you revert your eye, you find
that which was a flat converted into a _table-land_; the objects which
were lately beneath you now raised above you, and forming an
intermediate stage between the spot where you are and the more distant
elevations; and the last snow-crowned summits reflected in translucent
pools of water by the roadside, with spots of the brightest azure in
them (denoting mineral springs); the luxuriant branches of the ash,
willow, and acacia waving over them, and the scarlet flowers of the
geranium, or the water-lilies, ‘all silver white,’ stuck like gems in
the girdle of old winter, and offering a sparkling foreground to the
retiring range of icebergs and _avalanches_. This rapid and whirling
descent continued almost to Saleges, about twenty miles from Chamouni.
Here we dined, and proceeded that night to Bonneville, on nearly level
ground; but still with the same character the whole way of a road
winding through the most cultivated and smiling country, full of
pastures, orchards, vineyards, cottages, villas, refreshing streams,
long avenues of trees, and every kind of natural and artificial beauty,
flanked with rocks and precipices (on each side) of the most abrupt and
terrific appearance, and on which, from the beginning of time, the hand
of man has made no impression, except that here and there you see a
patch of verdure, a cottage, a flock of sheep, at a height which the eye
can hardly reach, and which you think no foot could tread. I have seen
no country where I have been more tempted to stop and enjoy myself,
where I thought the inhabitants had more reason to be satisfied, and
where, if you could not find happiness, it seemed in vain to seek
farther for it. You have every kind and degree of enjoyment; the
extremes of luxury and wildness, gigantic sublimity at a distance or
over your head, elegance and comfort at your feet; you may gaze at the
air-drawn Alps, or shut out the prospect by a flowering shrub, or by a
well-clipped hedge, or neatly-wainscoted parlour: and you may vary all
these as you please, ‘with kindliest interchange.’ Perhaps one of these
days I may try the experiment, and turn my back on sea-coal fires, and
old English friends! The inn at Bonneville was dirty, ill-provided, and
as it generally happens in such cases, the people were inattentive, and
the charges high. We were, however, indemnified by the reception we met
with at Geneva, where the living was luxurious, and the expence
comparatively trifling. I shall not dwell on this subject, lest I should
be thought an epicure, though indeed I rather ‘live a man forbid,’ being
forced to deny myself almost all those good things which I recommend to
others. Geneva is, I think, a very neat and picturesque town, not equal
to some others we had seen, but very well for a Calvinistic capital. It
stands on a rising ground, at the end of the lake, with the purple Rhone
running by it, and Mont-Blanc and the Savoy Alps seen on one side, and
the Jura on the other. I was struck with the fine forms of many of the
women here. Though I was pleased with my fare, I was not altogether
delighted with the manners and appearance of the inhabitants. Their
looks may be said to be moulded on the republican maxim, that ‘you are
no better than they,’ and on the natural inference from it, that ‘they
are better than you.’ They pass you with that kind of scrutinizing and
captious air, as if some controversy was depending between you as to the
form of religion or government. I here saw Rousseau’s house, and also
read the _Edinburgh Review_ for May. The next day we passed along in the
Diligence through scenery of exquisite beauty and perfect
cultivation—vineyards and farms, and villas and hamlets of the most
enviable description, succeeding each other in uninterrupted connexion,
by the smooth margin of the silver lake. We saw Lausanne by moonlight.
Its situation, as far as I could judge, and the environs were superb. We
arrived that night at Vevey, after a week’s absence and an exceedingly
delightful tour.



                             CHAPTER XXVII


We returned down the Rhine through Holland. I was willing to see the
contrast between flat and lofty, and between Venice and Amsterdam. We
left Vevey on the 20th of September, and arrived in England on the 16th
of October. It was at first exceedingly hot; we encountered several days
of severe cold on the road, and it afterwards became mild and pleasant
again. We hired a _char-aux-bancs_ from Vevey to Basle, and it took us
four days to reach this latter place; the expense of the conveyance was
twenty-four francs a day, besides the driver. The first part of our
journey, as we ascended from the Lake on the way to Moudon, was like an
aërial voyage, from the elevation and the clearness of the atmosphere;
yet still through the most lovely country imaginable, and with glimpses
of the grand objects behind us (seen over delicious pastures, and
through glittering foliage) that were truly magical. The combinations of
language, however, answer but ill to the varieties of nature, and by
repeating these descriptions so often, I am afraid of becoming tiresome.
My excuse must be, that I have little to relate but what I saw. After
mounting to a considerable height, we descended to Moudon, a small town
situated in a most romantic valley. The accommodations at the inn here
were by no means good, though it is a place of some pretensions. In
proportion to the size of the house and the massiveness of the
furniture, the provisions of the kitchen appeared to be slender, and the
attendance slack. The freshness of the air the next morning, and the
striking beauty and rapid changes of the scenery, soon made us forget
any disappointment we had experienced in this respect. As we ascended a
steep hill on this side of Moudon, and looked back, first at the green
dewy valley under our feet, with the dusky town and the blue smoke
rising from it, then at the road we had traversed the preceding evening,
winding among thick groves of trees, and last at the Savoy Alps on the
other side of the Lake of Geneva (with which we had been familiar for
four months, and which seemed to have no mind to quit us) I perceived a
bright speck close to the top of one of these—I was delighted, and said
it was Mont Blanc. Our driver was of a different opinion, was positive
it was only a cloud, and I accordingly supposed I had taken a sudden
fancy for a reality. I began in secret to take myself to task, and to
lecture myself for my proneness to build theories on the foundation of
my conjectures and wishes. On turning round occasionally, however, I
observed that this cloud remained in the same place, and I noticed the
circumstance to our guide, as favouring my first suggestion; for clouds
do not usually remain long in the same place. We disputed the point for
half a day, and it was not till the afternoon when we had reached the
other side of the lake of Neufchatel, that this same cloud rising like a
canopy over the point where it had hovered, ‘in shape and station
proudly eminent,’ he acknowledged it to be Mont Blanc. We were then at a
distance of about forty miles from Vevey, and eighty or ninety from
Chamouni. This will give the reader some idea of the scale and nature of
this wonderful scenery. We dined at Iverdun (a pretty town), at the head
of the lake, and passed on to Neufchatel, along its enchanting and
almost unrivalled borders, having the long unaspiring range of the Jura
on our left (from the top of which St. Preux, on his return from his
wanderings round the world, first greeted that country, where ‘torrents
of delight had poured into his heart,’ and, indeed, we could distinguish
the _Dent de Jamant_ right over Clarens almost the whole way), and on
our right was the rippling lake, its low cultivated banks on the other
side, then a brown rocky ridge of mountains, and the calm golden peaks
of the snowy passes of the Simplon, the Great St. Bernard, and (as I was
fain to believe) of Monteroso rising into the evening sky at intervals
beyond. Meanwhile we rode on through a country abounding in farms and
vineyards and every kind of comfort, and deserving the epithets, ‘verd
et riant.’ Sometimes a tall rock rose by the road side; or a ruinous
turret or a well-compacted villa attracted our attention. Neufchatel is
larger and handsomer than Iverdun, and is remarkable for a number of
those genteel and quiet-looking habitations, where people seem to have
retired (in the midst of society) to spend the rest of their lives in
ease and comfort: they are not for shew, nor are they very striking from
situation; they are neither fashionable nor romantic; but the decency
and sober ornaments of their exterior evidently indicate fireside
enjoyments and cultivated taste within. This kind of retreat, where
there is nothing to surprise, nothing to disgust, nothing to draw the
attention out of itself, uniting the advantages of society and solitude,
of simplicity and elegance, and where the mind can indulge in a sort of
habitual and self-centred satisfaction, is the only one which I should
never feel a wish to quit. The _golden mean_ is, indeed, an exact
description of the mode of life I should like to lead—of the style I
should like to write; but alas! I am afraid I shall never succeed in
either object of my ambition!

The next day being cloudy, we lost sight entirely of the highest range
of Alpine hills, and saw them no more afterwards. The road lay for some
miles through an open and somewhat dreary country, in which the only
objects of curiosity were the tall peasant-girls working in the fields,
with their black gauze head-dresses, sticking out from their matted hair
like the wings of a dragon-fly. We, however, had the Lake of Bienne and
Isle of St. Pierre in prospect before us, which are so admirably
described by Rousseau, in his ‘Reveries of a Solitary Walker,’ and to
which he gives the preference over the Lake of Geneva. The effect from
the town of Bienne where we stopped to dine was not much; but in
climbing to the top of a steep sandy hill beyond it, we saw the whole to
great advantage. Evening was just closing in, and the sky was cloudy,
with a few red streaks near the horizon: the first range of Alps only
was discernible; the Lake was of a dull sombre lead colour, and the Isle
of St. Pierre was like a dark spot in it; the hills on one side of the
Lake ascended abrupt and gloomy; extensive forests swept in magnificent
surges over the rich valley to our left; towns were scattered below us
here and there, as in a map; rocky fragments hung over our heads, with
the shattered trunks of huge pine-trees; a mountain-torrent rushed down
the irregular chasm between us and the base of the mountain, that rose
in misty grandeur on the opposite side; but the whole was in the
greatest keeping, and viewed by the twilight of historic landscape. Yet
amidst all this solemnity and grandeur, the eye constantly reverted to
one little dark speck, the Isle of St. Pierre (where Rousseau had taken
refuge for a few months from his sorrows and his persecutions) with a
more intense interest than all the rest; for the widest prospects are
trivial to the deep recesses of the human heart, and its anxious
beatings are far more audible than the ‘loud torrent or the whirlwind’s
roar!’ The clouds of vapours, and the ebon cloud of night prevented our
having a distinct view of the road that now wound down to ——, where we
stopped for the night. The inn here (the Rose and Crown), though almost
a solitary house in a solitary valley, is a very good one, and the
cheapest we met with abroad. Our bill for supper, lodging, and
breakfast, amounted to only seven francs. Our route, the following
morning, lay up a broad steep valley, with a fine gravelly road through
it, and forests of pine and other trees, raised like an amphitheatre on
either side. The sun had just risen, and the drops of rain still hung
upon the branches. On the other side we came into a more open country,
and then again were inclosed among wild and narrow passes of high rock,
split either by thunder or earthquakes into ledges, like castle walls,
coming down to the edge of a stream that winds through the valley, or
aspiring to an airy height, with the diminished pines growing on their
very tops, and patches of verdure and the foliage of other trees
flourishing in the interstices between them. It was the last scene of
the kind we encountered. I begin to tire of these details, and will
hasten to the end of my journey, touching only on a few detached points
and places.

BASLE.—This is a remarkably neat town; but it lies beyond the confines
of the picturesque. We stopped at the Three Kings, and were shewn into a
long, narrow room, which did not promise well at first; but the waiter
threw up the window at the further end, and we all at once saw the full
breadth of the Rhine, rolling rapidly beneath it, after passing through
the arches of an extensive bridge. It was clear moonlight, and the
effect was fine and unexpected. The broad mass of water rushed by with
clamorous sound and stately impetuosity, as if it were carrying a
message from the mountains to the ocean! The next morning we perceived
that it was of a muddy colour. We thought of passing down it in a small
boat; but the covering was so low as to make the posture uncomfortable,
or, if raised higher, there was a danger of its being overset by any
sudden gust of wind. We therefore went by the Diligence to Colmar and
Strasburg. I regretted afterwards that we did not take the right hand
road by Freybourg and the Black Forest—the woods, hills, and mouldering
castles of which, as far as I could judge from a distance, are the most
romantic and beautiful possible. The tower at Strasburg is red, and has
a singular appearance. The fortifications here, in time of peace, have
an effect like the stillness of death.

RASTADT.—We crossed the Rhine at Strasburg, and proceeded through
Rastadt and Manheim to Mayence. We stopped the first night at the Golden
Cross at Rastadt, which is the very best inn I was at during the whole
time I was abroad. Among other things, we had _chiffrons_ for supper,
which I found on inquiry were wood-partridges, which are much more
highly esteemed than the field ones. So delicately do they distinguish
in Germany! Manheim is a splendid town, both from its admirable
buildings and the glossy neatness of the houses. They are too fine to
live in, and seem only made to be looked at. Would that one of the
streets could be set down in Waterloo-place! Yet even Manheim is not
equal to the towns in Italy. There the houses are palaces.

Mayence is a disagreeable town. We half missed the scenery between this
and Coblentz, the only part of the Rhine worth seeing. We saw it,
however, by moonlight (which hung over it like a silver veil), with its
nodding towers and dismantled fortresses over our heads, the steep woody
banks on the opposite side, and the broad glittering surface of the
Rhine, reflecting the white clouds or dark sail gliding by. It was like
a brilliant dream; nor did the mellow winding notes of the horn, calling
to the warders of the drawbridges as we passed along, lessen the effect.
Ehrenbreitstein overlooks Coblentz, and crowns it with magnificence and
beauty. The Duke of Wellington, I understood, had been here, and being
asked by a French officer, ‘If it could be taken?’ answered, ‘Yes; in
two ways, by hunger and gold.’ Did the Duke of Wellington make this
answer? I cry you mercy—it was the Frenchman who gave the answer: the
Duke said nothing.

Cologne is the birth-place of Rubens; and at one of the churches, there
is a _Crucifixion_ by him, which we did not see, for it being the time
of divine service, the back was turned to the spectator, and only a copy
of it was exhibited. The road from Cologne to Neuss is the only really
bad one we found on the Continent; it is a mere sand-bank, and not
likely to be soon mended, from its vicinity to the Rhine.

From Neuss to Cleves we went in the Royal Prussian Diligence, and from
thence to Nimeguen, the first town in Holland. From a small tower here
we had an admirable view of the country. It was nearly a perfect flat
all round, as far as the eye could reach; yet it was a rich and
animated, as well as a novel scene. You saw a greater extent of surface
than is possible in a hilly country; all within the circumference of the
horizon lay exposed to the eye. It was like seeing a section of the
entire globe, or like ‘striking flat its thick rotundity.’ It was a fine
clear afternoon, and in the midst of this uniformity of surface, you saw
every other variety—rich meadows, with flocks and herds feeding,
hedge-rows, willowy banks, woods, corn-fields, roads winding along in
different directions, canals, boats sailing, innumerable villages,
windmills, bridges, and towns and cities in the far-off horizon; but
neither rock, nor mountain, nor barren waste, nor any object that
prevented your seeing the one beyond it. There were no contrasts, no
masses, but the immense space stretched out beneath the eye was filled
up with dotted lines, and minute, detached, countless beauties. It was
as if the earth were curiously fringed and embroidered. Holland is the
same everywhere, except that it is often more intersected by canals; and
that as you approach the sea, the water prevails over the land. We
proceeded from Nimeguen to Utrecht and Amsterdam, by the stage. The rich
uninterrupted cultivation, the marks of successful industry and smiling
plenty, are equally commendable and exhilarating; but the repetition of
the same objects, and the extent of _home_ view, become at last
oppressive. If you see much at once, there ought to be masses and
relief: if you see only detached objects, you ought to be confined to a
few of them at a time. What is the use of seeing a hundred windmills, a
hundred barges, a hundred willow-trees, or a hundred herds of cattle at
once? Any one specimen is enough, and the others hang like a dead-weight
on the traveller’s patience. Besides, there is something lumpish and
heavy in the aspect of the country; the eye is clogged and impeded in
its progress over it by dams and dykes, and the marshy nature of the
soil damps and chills imagination. There is a like extent of country at
Cassel in France; but from the greater number of woods and a more
luxuriant vegetation (leaving the bare earth seldom visible,) the whole
landscape seems in one glow, and the eye scours delighted over waving
groves and purple distances. The towns and villas in Holland are
unrivalled for neatness, and an appearance of wealth and comfort. All
the way from Utrecht to Amsterdam, to the Hague, to Rotterdam, you might
fancy yourself on Clapham Common. The canals are lined with farms and
summer-houses, with orchards and gardens of the utmost beauty, and in
excellent taste. The exterior of their buildings is as clean as the
interior of ours; their public-houses look as nice and well-ordered as
our private ones. If you are up betimes in a morning, you see a servant
wench (the domestic Naiad,) with a leathern pipe, like that attached to
a fire-engine, drenching the walls and windows with pail-fulls of water.
With all this, they suffocate you with tobacco smoke in their
stage-coaches and canal-boats, and you do not see a set of clean teeth
from one end of Holland to the other. Amsterdam did not answer our
expectations; it is a kind of paltry, rubbishly Venice. The pictures of
Rembrandt here (some of which have little shade) are inferior to what we
have in England. I was assured here that Rembrandt was the greatest
painter in the world, and at Antwerp that Rubens was. The inn at
Amsterdam (the Rousland) is one of the best I have been at; and an inn
is no bad test of the civilization and diffusion of comfort in a
country. We saw a play at the theatre here; and the action was
exceedingly graceful and natural. The chimes at Amsterdam, which play
every quarter of an hour, at first seemed gay and delightful, and in a
day and a half became tedious and intolerable. It was as impertinent as
if a servant could not come into the room to answer the bell without
dancing and jumping over the chairs and tables every time. A row of
lime-trees grew and waved their branches in the middle of the street
facing the hotel. The Dutch, who are not an ideal people, bestow all
their taste and fancy on practical things, and instead of creating the
chimeras of poetry, devote their time and thoughts to embellishing the
objects of ordinary and familiar life. Ariosto said, it was easier to
build palaces with words, than common houses with stones. The Hague is
Hampton-Court turned into a large town. There is an excellent collection
of pictures here, with some of my old favourites brought back from the
Louvre, by Rembrandt, Vandyke, Paul Potter, &c. Holland is, perhaps, the
only country which you gain nothing by seeing. It is exactly the same as
the Dutch landscapes of it. I was shewn the plain and village of
Ryswick, close to the Hague. It struck me I had seen something very like
it before. It is the back-ground of Paul Potter’s _Bull_. From the views
and models of Chinese scenery and buildings preserved in the Museum
here, it would seem that Holland is the China of Europe. Delft is a very
model of comfort and polished neatness. We met with a gentleman
belonging to this place in the _trackschuyt_, who, with other
civilities, shewed us his house (a perfect picture in its kind,) and
invited us in to rest and refresh ourselves, while the other boat was
getting ready. These things are an extension of one’s idea of humanity.
It is pleasant, and one of the uses of travel, to find large tracts of
land cultivated, cities built and repaired, all the conveniences of
life, men, women, and children laughing, talking, and happy, common
sense and good manners on the other side of the English channel. I would
not wish to lower any one’s idea of England; but let him enlarge his
notions of existence and enjoyment beyond it. He will not think the
worse of his own country, for thinking better of human nature! The
inconveniences of travelling by canal-boats in Holland is, that you make
little way, and are forced to get out and have your luggage taken into
another boat at every town you come to, which happens two or three times
in the course of the day. Let no one go to the Washington Arms at
Rotterdam; it is only fit for American sea-captains. Rotterdam is a
handsome bustling town; and on inquiring our way, we were accosted by a
Dutch servant-girl, who had lived in an English family for a year, and
who spoke English better, and with less of a foreign accent, than any
French woman I ever heard. This convinced me that German is not so
difficult to an Englishman as French; for the difficulty of acquiring
any foreign language must be mutual to the natives of each country.
There was a steam-boat here which set sail for London the next day; but
we preferred passing through Ghent, Lille, and Antwerp. This last is a
very delightful city, and the spire of the cathedral exquisitely light,
beautiful, and well-proportioned. Indeed, the view of the whole city
from the water-side is as singular as it is resplendent. We saw the
Rubenses in the great church here. They were hung outside the choir; and
seen against the huge white walls, looked like pictures dangling in a
broker’s shop for sale. They did not form a part of the building. The
person who shewed us the Taking Down from the Cross, said, ‘It was the
finest picture in the world.’ I said, ‘One of the finest’—an answer with
which he appeared by no means satisfied. We returned by way of St. Omers
and Calais. I wished to see Calais once more, for it was here I first
landed in France twenty years ago.

I confess, London looked to me on my return like a long, straggling,
dirty country-town; nor do the names of Liverpool, Manchester,
Birmingham, Leeds, or Coventry, sound like a trumpet in the ears, or
invite our pilgrim steps like those of Sienna, of Cortona, Perugia,
Arezzo, Pisa and Ferrara. I am not sorry, however, that I have got back.
There is an old saying, _Home is home, be it never so homely_. However
delightful or striking the objects may be abroad, they do not take the
same hold of you, nor can you identify yourself with them as at home.
Not only is the language an insuperable obstacle; other things as well
as men speak a language new and strange to you. You live comparatively
in a dream, though a brilliant and a waking one. It is in vain to urge
that you learn the language; that you are familiarized with manners and
scenery. No other language can ever become our mother-tongue. We may
learn the words; but they do not convey the same feelings, nor is it
possible they should do so, unless we could begin our lives over again,
and divide our conscious being into two different selves. Not only can
we not attach the same meaning to words, but we cannot see objects with
the same eyes, or form new loves and friendships after a certain period
of our lives. The pictures that most delighted me in Italy were those I
had before seen in the Louvre ‘with eyes of youth.’ I could revive this
feeling of enthusiasm, but not transfer it. Neither would I recommend
the going abroad when young, to become a mongrel being, half French,
half English. It is better to be something than nothing. It is well to
see foreign countries to enlarge one’s speculative knowledge, and dispel
false prejudices and libellous views of human nature; but our affections
must settle at home. Besides though a dream, it is a splendid one. It is
fine to see the white Alps rise in the horizon of fancy at the distance
of a thousand miles; or the imagination may wing its thoughtful flight
among the castellated Apennines, roaming from city to city over cypress
and olive grove, viewing the inhabitants as they crawl about mouldering
palaces or temples, which no hand has touched for the last three hundred
years, and see the genius of Italy brooding over the remains of virtue,
glory and liberty, with Despair at the gates, an English Minister
handing the keys to a foreign Despot, and stupid Members of Parliament
wondering what is the matter!

                                THE END.



                 MISCELLANEOUS ESSAYS ON THE FINE ARTS



                          BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE


Of the essays on the Fine Arts which follow, none were collected for
publication in volume form by Hazlitt. Particulars as to their source
will be found at the head of the Notes referring to each essay.

In 1838 the articles on _Painting_ and _The Fine Arts_, ‘contributed to
the seventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, by B. R. Haydon,
Esq., and William Hazlitt, Esq.,’ were republished in Edinburgh by
Messrs. Adam & Charles Black, in a post 8vo. volume. See the article in
the present volume and notes thereto.

In 1843 appeared a fcap. 8vo. volume of ‘Criticisms on Art: and Sketches
of the Picture Galleries of England. By William Hazlitt. With Catalogues
of the Principal Galleries, now first collected. Edited by his Son,’ and
published by John Templeman, 248, Regent Street. A Second Series
appeared the year following, published by C. Templeman, 6 Great Portland
Street, London. These volumes contain the essays printed in the present
volume, together with others on Art which are to be found in _Table
Talk_, _The Round Table_, _The Plain Speaker_ and volume x. of the
present edition, where the _Edinburgh Review_ articles will be found.
They also contain two appendixes of catalogues of pictures in the
various galleries, compiled by Hazlitt’s son, and not here reprinted. In
the Advertisement to these volumes Mr. W. Hazlitt (the second) states:
‘I have carefully corrected all the references to the pictures
described, according to the latest arrangement of each particular
gallery; and I have here and there ventured to append an illustrative or
corrective note, where such seemed to be required as to a matter of
fact.’ In the present edition the Essays are given as Hazlitt published
them, and in the order of their first publication.

A ‘New Edition’ of ‘Essays on the Fine Arts by William Hazlitt,’ was
published in one volume by Messrs. Reeves & Turner in 1873, edited by
Mr. W. Carew Hazlitt.



                                CONTENTS


                                                           PAGE
         On Haydon’s Solomon                                309

         The Catalogue Raisonné of the British Institution  311

         West’s Picture of Death on the Pale Horse          318

         On Williams’s Views in Greece                      324

         On the Elgin Marbles                               326

         Fonthill Abbey                                     348

         Judging of Pictures                                356

         The Vatican                                        359

         English Students at Rome                           367

         Fine Arts                                          377

         James Barry                                        413

         Originality                                        423

         The Ideal                                          429

         Royal Academy                                      434



                        ESSAYS ON THE FINE ARTS


ON HAYDON’S SOLOMON

The Tenth Exhibition of the Society of Painters in Oil and Water Colours
opened on Monday last. The productions of Glover, Cristall, De Wint, &c.
principally fill and adorn the Water Colour Department.—Among the oil
pictures in the room, the principal are, _The Judgment of Solomon_, by
Mr. Haydon, and _Don Quixote receiving Mambrino’s Helmet from Sancho_,
by Mr. Richter. The former is a work that evidently claims a place in
the higher department of art; and we are little disposed to reject that
claim. It certainly shews a bold and aspiring mind; in many parts (that
which we hold above all other things to be essential to the painter) an
eye for the picturesque both in form and colour; considerable variety of
expression, attitude and character, and great vigour and rapidity of
execution throughout. It would, at the same time, be in vain to deny,
that the success is not always in proportion to the effort made; that
the conception of character is sometimes erroneous; that the desire to
avoid insipidity and monotony has occasionally led to extravagance and
distortion; that there are great inequalities in the style, and some
inconsistencies in the composition; and that, however striking and
admirable many of the parts are, there is a want of union and complete
harmony between them. What was said of the _disjecta membra poetæ_ is
not inapplicable to this picture. It exhibits fine studies and original
fragments of a great work—it has many powerful starts of genius—without
conveying that impression of uniform consistency and combined effect,
which is sometimes attained by the systematic mechanism of
well-disciplined dullness, and at others is the immediate emanation of
genius.

That which strikes the eye most on entering the room, and on which it
dwells with the greatest admiration afterwards, are the figures of the
two Jewish Doctors on the left of Solomon. We do not recollect any
figures in modern pictures which have a more striking effect. We say
this, not only with respect to the solid mass of colour which they
project on the eye, the dark draperies contrasting finely with the
paleness of the countenances, but also with respect to the force, truth,
and dramatic opposition of character displayed in them. The face of the
one is turned in anxious expectation towards the principal actors in the
scene: the other, looking downwards, appears lost in inward meditation
upon it. The one is eagerly watching for the catastrophe,—the other
seems endeavouring to anticipate it. Too much praise cannot be given to
the conception of the figure of Solomon, which is raised above the rest
of the picture, and placed in the centre—the face fronting, and looking
down, the action balanced and suspended, and the face intended to
combine the different characters of youth, beauty, and wisdom. Such is
evidently the conception of the painter, which we think equally striking
and just; but we are by no means satisfied that he has succeeded in
embodying this idea, except as far as relates to the design. The
expression of the countenance of the youthful judge, which ought to
convey the feeling of calm penetration, we think, degenerates into
supercilious indifference; the action given to the muscles is such as to
destroy the beauty of the features, without giving force to the
character, and instead of the majesty of conscious power and intellect,
there is an appearance of languid indecision, which seems to shrink with
repugnance from the difficulties which it has to encounter. The
colouring of the head is unexceptionable. In the face of the good
mother, the artist has, in our opinion, succeeded in overcoming that
which has been always considered as the greatest difficulty of the
art—the union of beauty with strong expression. The whole face exhibits
the internal workings of maternal love and fear; but its death-like
paleness and agony do not destroy the original character of feminine
beauty and delicacy. The attitude of this figure is decidedly bad, and
out of nature as well as decorum. It is one of those sprawling,
extravagant, theatrical French figures, in which a common action is
strained to the extremity of caricature. The action and expression of
the executioner are liable to the same objection. He is turbulent and
fierce, instead of being cold and obdurate. He should not bluster in the
part heroically like an actor—it is his office.—On the whole, we think
this picture decidedly superior to any of this Artist’s former
productions, and a proof not only of genius, but of improved taste and
judgment. In speaking of it with freedom, we trust we shall best serve
both him and the art.



           THE CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ OF THE BRITISH INSTITUTION


We will lay odds that this is a fellow ‘damned in a fair face;’ with
white eyes and eye-brows; of the colour of a Shrewsbury cake; a smooth
tallow-skinned rascal, a white German sausage, a well-fed chitterling,
from whose face Madame de —— would have turned away in disgust,—a
transcendental stuffed man! We have no patience that the Arts should be
catechised by a piece of whitleather, a whey-face, who thinks that
pictures, like the moon, should be made of green-cheese! Shall a roll of
double tripe rise up in judgment on grace; shall a piece of dough talk
of feeling? ‘Tis too much. ‘Sdeath, for Rembrandt to be demanded of a
cheese-curd, what replication should he make? What might Vandyke answer
to a jack-pudding, whose fingers are of a thickness at both ends? What
should Rubens say, who ‘lived in the rainbow, and played i’ th’ plighted
clouds,’ to a swaddling-clout, a piece of stockinet, of fleecy hosiery,
to a squab man, without a bend in his body? What might Raphael answer to
a joint-stool? Or Nicholas Poussin, charged in the presence of his
_Cephalus and Aurora_ with being a mere pedant, without grace or
feeling, to this round-about machine of formal impertinence, this
lumbering go-cart of dulness and spite? We could have wished that as the
fellow stood before the portrait of Rembrandt, chattering like an ape,
making mocks and mows at it, the picture had lifted up its _great grimy
fist_, and knocked him down.

The _Catalogue Raisonné_ of the British Institution is only worth
notice, as it is pretty well understood to be a declaration of the views
of the Royal Academy. It is a very dull, gross, impudent attack by one
of its toad-eaters on human genius, on permanent reputation, and on
liberal art. What does it say? Why, in so many words, that the knowledge
of Art in this country is inconsistent with the existence of the
Academy, and that their success as a body of men instituted for
promoting and encouraging the Fine Arts, requires the destruction or
concealment of all works of Art of great and acknowledged excellence. In
this they may be right; but we did not think they would have come
forward to say so themselves. Or that they would get a fellow, a low
buffoon, a wretched Merry Andrew, a practical St. Giles’s joker, a dirty
Grub-Street critic, to vent his abominations on the _chef-d’œuvres_
produced by the greatest painters that have gone before them, to paw
them over with his bleared-eyes, to smear the filth and ordure of his
tongue upon them, to spit at them, to point at them, to nickname them,
to hoot at them, to make mouths at them, to shrug up his shoulders and
run away from them in the presence of these divine guests, like a
blackguard who affects to make a bugbear of every one he meets in the
street; to play over again the nauseous tricks of one of Swift’s
Yahoos—and for what? Avowedly for the purpose of diverting the public
mind from the contemplation of all that genius and art can boast in the
lapse of ages, and to persuade the world that there is nothing in Art
that has been or ever will be produced worth looking at but the gilt
frames and red curtains at the Exhibition of the Royal Academy! We knew
before that they had no great genius for the Arts; but we thought they
might have some love of them in their hearts. They here avow their
rankling jealousy, hatred and scorn, of all Art and of all the great
names in Art, and as a bold put indeed, require the keeping down of the
public taste as the only means of keeping up the bubble of their
reputation. They insist that their only hope of continued encouragement
and support with a _discerning public_ is in hood-winking that public,
in confining their highest notions of Art to their own gross and
superficial style of daubing, and in vilifying all works of standard
genius.—This is right English. The English are a shop-keeping nation,
and the Royal Academy are a society of hucksters in the Fine Arts, who
are more tenacious of their profits as chapmen and dealers, than of the
honour of the Art. The day after the _Catalogue Raisonné_ was published,
the Prince Regent, in the name and on behalf of his Father, should have
directed it to be burned by the hands of the hangman of their Committee,
or, upon refusal, have shut up their shop. A society for the
encouragement and promotion of Art has no right to exist at all, from
the moment that it professes to exist only in wrong of Art, by the
suppression of the knowledge of Art, in contempt of genius in Art, in
defiance of all manly and liberal sentiment in Art. But this is what the
Royal Academy professes to do in the _Catalogue Raisonné_.

The Academy, from its commencement and up to the present hour, is in
fact, a mercantile body, like any other mercantile body, consisting
chiefly of manufacturers of portraits, who have got a regular monopoly
of this branch of trade, with a certain rank, style, and title of their
own, that is, with the King’s privilege to be thought Artists and men of
genius,—and who, with the jealousy natural to such bodies, supported by
authority from without, and by cabal within, think themselves bound to
crush all generous views and liberal principles of Art, lest they should
interfere with their monopoly and their privilege to be thought Artists
and men of genius. The Academy is the Royal road to Art. The whole style
of English Art, as issuing from this Academy, is founded on a principle
of appeal to the personal vanity and ignorance of their sitters, and of
accommodation to the lucrative pursuits of the Painter, in a sweeping
attention to effect in painting, by which means he can cover so many
more whole or half lengths in each season. The Artists have not time to
finish their pictures, or if they had, the effect would be lost in the
superficial glare of that hot room, where nothing but rouged cheeks,
naked shoulders, and Ackermann’s dresses for May, can catch the eye in
the crowd and bustle and rapid succession of meretricious attractions,
as they do in another hot room of the same equivocal description. Yet
they complain in one part of the Catalogue, that ‘they (the
Academicians) are forced to come into a hasty competition every year
with works that have stood the test of ages.’ It is for that very
reason, among others, that it was proper to exhibit the works at the
British Institution, to show to the public, and by that means to make
the Academicians feel, that the securing the applause of posterity and a
real rank in the Art, which that alone can give, depended on the number
of pictures they finished, and not on the number they began. It is this
which excites the apprehensions of the cabal; for if the eye of the
public should be once spoiled by the Old Masters, the necessity of doing
something like them might considerably baulk the regularity of their
returns. Why should they complain of being forced into this premature
competition? Who forces them to bring forward so many pictures yearly
before they are fit to be seen? Would they have taken more pains, more
time to finish them, to work them up to that fastidious standard of
perfection, on which they have set their minds, if they had not been
hurried into this unfair competition with the British Institution, ‘sent
to their account with all their imperfections on their heads,
unhouseled, unanointed, unanealed?’ Would they have done a single stroke
more to any one picture, if the Institution had never been opened? No
such thing. It is not then true, that this new and alarming competition
prevents them from finishing their works, but it prevents them from
imposing them on the public as finished. _Pingo in eternitatem_, is not
their motto. There are three things which constitute the art of
painting, which make it interesting to the public, which give it
permanence and rank among the efforts of human genius. They are, first,
_gusto_ or expression: _i.e._ the conveying to the eye the impressions
of the soul, or the other senses connected with the sense of sight, such
as the different passions visible in the countenance, the romantic
interest connected with scenes of nature, the character and feelings
associated with different objects. In this, the highest and first part
of art, the Italian painters, particularly Raphael, Correggio, &c.,
excel. The second is the _picturesque_; that is, the seizing on those
objects, or situations and accidents of objects, as light and shade, &c.
which make them most striking to the mind as objects of sight only. This
is the _forte_ of the Flemish and Venetian painters, Titian, Paul
Veronese, Rubens, Vandyke, Rembrandt, and they have carried this part of
the art as high as it can go, some of them with more, some of them with
less of the former excellence. The third is the exact and laborious
imitation of natural objects, such as they exist in their component
parts, with every variety and nicety of detail, the pencil performing
the part of a microscope, and there being no necessity for expression or
the picturesque in the object represented, or anything but truth in the
representation. In this least interesting but still curious and
ingenious part of the Art, the Dutch School have been allowed to excel,
though with little of the former qualities, which indeed are not very
much wanted for this purpose. Now in all these three the English School
are notoriously deficient and they are so for these following reasons:—

They cannot paint _gusto_, or high expression, for it is not in the
national character. At least, it must be sought in Nature; but our
Painters do not go out of their way in search of character and
expression—their sitters come to them in crowds; and they come to them
not to be painted in all the truth of character and expression, but to
be _flattered_ out of all meaning; or they would no longer come in
crowds. To please generally, the Painter must exaggerate what is
generally pleasing, obvious to all capacities, and void of offence
before God and man, the shewy, the superficial, and the insipid, that
which strikes the greatest number of persons with the least effort of
thought; and he must suppress all the rest; all that might be ‘to the
Jews a stumbling block, and to the Gentiles foolishness.’ The Exhibition
is a successful experiment on the ignorance and credulity of the town.
They collect ‘a quantity of barren spectators’ to judge of Art, in their
corporate and public capacity, and then each makes the best market he
can of them in his own. A Royal Academician must not ‘hold the mirror up
to Nature,’ but make his canvass ‘the glass of fashion, and the mould of
form.’ The ‘numbers without number’ who pay thirty, forty, fifty, a
hundred guineas for their pictures in large, expect their faces to come
out of the Painter’s hands smooth, rosy, round, smiling; just as they
expect their hair to come out of the barber’s curled and powdered. It
would be a breach of contract to proceed in any other way. A fashionable
Artist and a fashionable hair-dresser have the same common principles of
theory and practice; the one fits his customers to appear with _éclat_
in a ball room, the other in the Great Room of the Royal Academy. A
certain dexterity, and a knowledge of the prevailing fashion, are all
that is necessary to either. An Exhibition-portrait is, therefore, an
essence, not of character, but of commonplace. It displays not high
thought and fine feeling, but physical well-being, with an outside label
of health, ease, and competence. Yet the Catalogue-writer talks of the
dignity of modern portrait! To enter into a general obligation to paint
the passions or characters of men, must, where there are none, be
difficult to the artist; where they are bad, be disagreeable to his
employers. When Sir Thomas Lawrence painted Lord Castlereagh some time
ago, he did not try to exhibit his character, out of complaisance to his
Lordship, nor his understanding, out of regard to himself; but he
painted him in a fashionable coat, with his hair dressed in the fashion,
in a genteel posture like one of his footmen, and with the prim,
smirking aspect of a haberdasher. There was nothing of the noble
_disinvoltura_ of his Lordship’s manner, the grand _contour_ of his
features, the profundity of design hid under an appearance of
indifference, the traces of the Irish patriot or the English statesman.
It would have puzzled Lavater or Spurzheim to have discovered there the
author of the Letter to _Mon Prince_. Tacitus had drawn him before in a
different style, and perhaps Sir Thomas despaired of rivalling this
great master in his own way. Yet the picture pleased, and Mr. Perry of
the _Chronicle_ swore to the likeness, though he had been warned to the
contrary. Now, if this picture had erred on the side of the
characteristic expression as much as it did on that of mannered
insignificance, how it must have shocked all parties in the State! An
insipid misrepresentation was safer than a disagreeable reality. In the
glosses of modern art, as in the modern refinement of law, it is the
truth that makes the libel.—Again, the _picturesque_ is necessarily
banished from the painting rooms of the Academicians, and from the Great
Room of the Academy. People of fashion go to be painted because other
people do, and they wish to look like other people. We never remember to
have seen a memorable head in the Exhibition of the Royal Academy. Any
thing that had any thing singular or striking in it would look quite
monstrous there, and would be stared out of countenance. Any thing
extraordinary or original in nature is inadmissible in modern art; any
thing that would strike the eye, or that you would ever think of again,
would be a violation of decorum, an infringement of professional
etiquette, and would disturb the uniform and well-arranged monotony of
the walls of the Exhibition ‘with most admired disorder.’ A man of any
originality of mind, if he has also the least common sense, soon finds
his error, and reforms. At Rome one must do as the people at Rome do.
The Academy is not the place for the eccentricities of genius. The
persons of rank and opulence, who wish to have their pictures exhibited,
do not wish to be exhibited as objects of natural history, as
extraordinary phenomena in art or nature, in the moral or intellectual
world; and in this they are right. Neither do they wish to volunteer
their own persons, which they hold in due reverence, though there is
nothing at all in them, as subjects for the painter to exercise his
skill upon, as studies of light and shade, as merely objects of sight,
as something curious and worth seeing from the outward accidents of
nature. They do not like to share their triumph with nature; to sink
their persons in ‘her glorious light.’ They owe no allegiance to the
elements. They wish to be painted as Mr. and Mrs. Such-a-one, not as
studies of light and shade; they wish to be represented as complete
abstractions of persons and property, to have one side of the face seen
as much as the other; to have their coat, waistcoat and breeches, their
muslin dresses, silks, sophas, and settees, their dogs and horses, their
house furniture, painted, to have themselves and all that belongs to
them, and nothing else painted. The picture is made for them, and not
they for the picture. Hence there can be nothing but the vapid, trite,
and mechanical, in professional Art. Professional Art is a contradiction
in terms. Art is genius, and genius cannot belong to a profession. Our
Painters’ galleries are not studies, but lounging shew-rooms. Would a
booby with a star wish to be painted (think you) with a view to its
effect in the picture, or would he not have it seen at all events and as
much as possible? The Catalogue Writer wishes the gentlemen-sitters of
the Royal Academy to go and look at Rembrandt’s portraits, and to ask
themselves, their wives, and daughters, whether they would like to be
painted in the same way? No, truly. This, we confess, is hard upon our
Artists, to have to look upon splendour and on obscurity still more
splendid, which they dare not even attempt to imitate; to see themselves
condemned, by the refinements of taste and progress of civilization, to
smear rouge and white paste on the faces and necks of their portraits,
for ever; and still ‘to let _I dare not_ wait upon _I would_, like the
poor cat in the adage.’ But why then complain of the injury they would
sustain by the restoration of Art (if it were possible) into the
original wardship of nature and genius, when ‘service sweat for duty,
not for meed.’ Sir Joshua made a shift to combine some of Rembrandt’s
art with his portraits, only by getting the start of public affectation,
and by having the lead in his profession, so that like the early
painters he could assert the independence of his own taste and judgment.
The modern makers of catalogues would have driven him and his _chiaro
scuro_ into the shade presently. The critic professes to admire Sir
Joshua, though all his excellencies are Gothic, palpably borrowed from
the Old Masters. But he is wrong or inconsistent in everything.—The
imitation of the details of nature is not compatible with the
professional avarice of the painter, as the two former essentials of the
art are inconsistent with the vanity and ignorance of his employers.
‘This, this is the unkindest blow of all.’ It is that in which the
understanding of the multitude is most likely to conspire with the
painter’s ‘own gained knowledge’ to make him dissatisfied with his
disproportioned profits or under the loss of them. The Dutch masters are
instructive enough in this way, and shew the value of detail by shewing
the value of Art where there is nothing else but this. But this is not
all. It might be pretended by our wholesale manufacturers of
_chef-d’œuvres_ in the Fine Arts, that so much nicety of execution is
useless or improper in works of high gusto and grand effect. It happens
unfortunately, however, that the works of the greatest gusto and most
picturesque effect have this fidelity of imitation often in the highest
degree (as in Raphael, Titian, and Rembrandt), generally in a very high
degree (as in Rubens and Paul Veronese), so that the moderns gain
nothing by this pretext. This is a serious loss of time or reputation to
them. To paint a hand like Vandyke would cost them as much time as a
dozen half-lengths; and they could not do it after all. To paint an eye
like Titian would cost them their whole year’s labour, and they would
lose their time and their labour into the bargain. Or to take Claude’s
landscapes as an example in this respect, as they are in almost all
others. If Turner, whom, with the Catalogue-writer, we allow, most
heartily allow, to be the greatest landscape-painter of the age, were to
finish his trees or his plants in the foreground, or his distances, or
his middle distances, or his sky, or his water, or his buildings, or any
thing in his pictures, in like manner, he could only paint and sell one
landscape where he now paints and sells twenty. This is a clear loss to
the artist of pounds, shillings, and pence, and ‘that’s a feeling
disputation.’ He would have to put twenty times as much of every thing
into a picture as he now has, and that is what (if he is like other
persons who have got into bad habits) he would be neither able nor
willing to do. It was a common cant a short time ago to pretend of him
as it formerly was of Wilson, that he had other things which Claude had
not, and that what Claude had besides, only impaired the grandeur of his
pictures. The public have seen to the contrary. They see the quackery of
painting trees blue and yellow, to produce the effect of green at a
distance. They see the affectation of despising the mechanism of the
Art, and never thinking about any thing but the mechanism. They see that
it is not true in Art, that a part is greater than the whole, or that
the means are destructive of the end. They see that a daub, however
masterly, cannot vie with the perfect landscapes of the all-accomplished
Claude. ‘To some men their graces serve them but as enemies’; and it was
so till the other day with Claude. If it had been only for opening the
eyes of the public on this subject, the Institution would have deserved
well of the art and their country.



               WEST’S PICTURE OF DEATH ON THE PALE HORSE


Mr. West’s name stands deservedly high in the annals of art in this
country—too high for him to condescend to be his own puffer, even at
second-hand. He comes forward, in the present instance, as the painter
and the showman of the piece; as the candidate for public applause, and
the judge who awards himself the prize; as the idol on the altar, and
the priest who offers up the grateful incense of praise. He places
himself, as it were, before his own performance, with a _Catalogue
Raisonné_ in his hand, and, before the spectator can form a judgment on
the work itself, dazzles him with an account of the prodigies of art
which are there conceived and executed. This is not quite fair. It is a
proceeding which, though ‘it sets on a quantity of barren spectators to
_admire_, cannot but make the judicious grieve.’ Mr. West, by thus
taking to himself unlimited credit for the ‘high endeavour and the glad
success,’ by proclaiming aloud that he has aimed at the highest
sublimities of his art, and as loudly, with a singular mixture of
pomposity and phlegm, that he has fully accomplished all that his most
ardent hopes had anticipated,—must, we should think, obtain a great deal
of spurious, catchpenny reputation, and lose a great deal of that
genuine tribute of approbation to which he is otherwise entitled, by
turning the attention of the well-informed and unprejudiced part of the
community from his real and undoubted merits to his groundless and
exaggerated pretensions. _Self-praise_, it is said, _is no praise_; but
it is worse than this. It either shows great weakness and vanity for an
artist to talk (or to get another to talk) of his own work, which was
produced yesterday, and may be forgotten to-morrow, with the same lofty,
emphatic, solemn tone, as if it were already stamped with the voice of
ages, and had become sacred to the imagination of the beholder; or else
the doing so is a deliberate attempt to encroach on the right of private
judgment and public opinion, which those who are not its dupes will
resent accordingly, and endeavour to repel by acts of precaution or
hostility. An unsuccessful effort to extort admiration is sure to
involve its own punishment.

We should not have made these remarks, if the ‘Description of the
Picture of Death’ had been a solitary instance of the kind; but it is
one of a series of descriptions of the same sort—it is a part of a
system of self-adulation which cannot be too much discouraged. Perhaps
Mr. West may say, that the Descriptive Catalogue is not _his_; that he
has nothing to do with its composition or absurdities. But it must be
written with his consent and approbation; and this is a sanction which
it ought not to receive. We presume the artist would have it in his
option to put a negative on any undue censure or flagrant abuse of his
picture; it must be equally in his power, and it is equally incumbent
upon him, to reject, with dignified modesty, the gross and palpable
flatteries which it contains, direct or by implication.

The first notice we received of this picture was by an advertisement in
a morning paper, (the editor of which is not apt to hazard extravagant
opinions without a prompter,) purporting that, ‘in consequence of the
President’s having devoted a year and a half to its completion, and of
its having for its subject the _Terrible Sublime_, it would place Great
Britain in the same conspicuous relation to the rest of Europe in arts,
that the battle of Waterloo had done in arms!’ We shall not stay to
decide between the battle and the picture; but the writer follows up the
same idea of the _Terrible Sublime_ in the Catalogue, the first
paragraph of which is conceived in the following terms:—

‘The general effect proposed to be excited by this picture is the
terrible sublime, and its various modifications, until lost in the
opposite extremes of pity and horror, a sentiment which painting has so
seldom attempted to awaken, that a particular description of the subject
will probably be acceptable to the public.’

‘So shall my anticipation prevent your discovery.’ Mr. West here, like
Bayes in the ‘Rehearsal,’ _insinuates the plot_ very profoundly. He has,
it seems, opened a new walk in art with its alternate ramifications into
the opposite regions of horror and pity, and kindly takes the reader by
the hand, to show him how triumphantly he has arrived at the end of his
journey.

‘In poetry,’ continues the writer, ‘the same effect is produced by a few
abrupt and rapid gleams of description, touching, as it were, with fire,
the features and edges of a general mass of awful obscurity; but in
painting, such indistinctness would be a defect, and imply, that the
artist wanted the power to pourtray the conceptions of his fancy. Mr.
West was of opinion that to delineate a physical form, which in its
moral impression would approximate to that of the visionary Death of
Milton, it was necessary to endow it, if possible, with the appearance
of superhuman strength and energy. He has, therefore, exerted the utmost
force and perspicuity of his pencil on the central figure.’ This is
‘spoken with authority, and not as the scribes.’ Poetry, according to
the definition here introduced of it, resembles a candlelight picture,
which gives merely the rim and outlines of things in a vivid and
dazzling, but confused and imperfect manner. We cannot tell whether this
account will be considered as satisfactory. But Mr. West, or his
commentator, should tread cautiously on this ground. He may otherwise
commit himself, not only in a comparison with the epic poet, but with
the inspired writer, who only uses _words_. It will hardly be contended,
for instance, that the account of Death on the Pale Horse in the book of
Revelations, never produced its due effect of _the terrible sublime_,
till the deficiencies of the pen were supplied by the pencil. Neither do
we see how the endowing a physical form with superhuman strength, has
any necessary connection with the _moral impression of the visionary
Death of Milton_. There seems to be here some radical mistake in Mr.
West’s theory. The moral attributes of death are powers and effects of
an infinitely wide and general description, which no individual or
physical form can possibly represent, but by courtesy of speech or by a
distant analogy. The moral impression of Death is essentially visionary;
its reality is in the mind’s eye. Words are here the only things; and
things, physical forms, the mere mockeries of the understanding. The
less definite the conception, the less bodily, the more vast, unformed,
and unsubstantial, the nearer does it approach to some resemblance of
that omnipresent, lasting, universal, irresistible principle, which
everywhere, and at some time or other, exerts its power over all things.
Death is a mighty abstraction, like Night, or Space, or Time. He is an
ugly customer, who will not be invited to supper, or to sit for his
picture. He is with us and about us, but we do not see him. He stalks on
before us, and we do not mind him; he follows us behind, and we do not
look back at him. We do not see him making faces at us in our lifetime!
we do not feel him tickling our bare ribs afterwards, nor look at him
through the empty grating of our hollow eyes! Does Mr. West really
suppose that he has put the very image of Death upon his canvas; that he
has taken the fear of him out of our hearts; that he has circumscribed
his power with a pair of compasses; that he has measured the length of
his arm with a two-foot rule; that he has suspended the stroke of his
dart with a stroke of his pencil; that he has laid his hands on the
universal principle of destruction, and hemmed him in with lines and
lineaments, and made a gazing-stock and a show of him, ‘under the
patronage of the Prince Regent’ (as that illustrious person has taken,
and confined, and made a show of another _enemy of the human race_)—so
that the work of decay and dissolution is no longer going on in nature;
that all we have heard or felt of death is but a fable compared with
this distinct, living, and warranted likeness of him? Oh no! There is no
power in the pencil actually to embody an abstraction, to impound the
imagination, to circumvent the powers of the soul, which hold communion
with the universe. The painter cannot make the general particular, the
infinite and imaginary defined and palpable, that which is only believed
and dreaded, an object of sight.

As Mr. West appears to have wrong notions of the powers of his art, so
he seems not to put in practice all that it is capable of. The only way
in which the painter of genius can represent the force of moral truth,
is by translating it into an artificial language of his own,—by
substituting hieroglyphics for words, and presenting the closest and
most striking affinities his fancy and observation can suggest between
the general idea and the visible illustration of it. Here we think Mr.
West has failed. The artist has represented Death riding over his
prostrate victims in all the rage of impotent despair. He is in a great
splutter, and seems making a last effort to frighten his foes by an
explosion of red-hot thunderbolts, and a pompous display of his
allegorical paraphernalia. He has not the calm, still, majestic form of
Death, killing by a look,—withering by a touch. His presence does not
make the still air cold. His flesh is not stony or cadaverous, but is
crusted over with a yellow glutinous paste, as if it had been baked in a
pye. Milton makes Death ‘grin horrible a ghastly smile,’ with an evident
allusion to the common Death’s head; but in the picture he seems
grinning for a wager, with a full row of loose rotten teeth; and his
terrible form is covered with a long black drapery, which would cut a
figure in an undertaker’s shop, and which cuts a figure where it is (for
it is finely painted), but which serves only as a disguise for the King
of Terrors. We have no idea of such a swaggering and blustering Death as
this of Mr. West’s. He has not invoked a ghastly spectre from the tomb,
but has called up an old squalid ruffian from a night cellar, and
crowned him ‘monarch of the universal world.’ The horse on which he
rides is not ‘pale,’ but white. There is no gusto, no imagination in Mr.
West’s colouring. As to his figure, the description gives an accurate
idea of it enough. ‘His horse rushes forward with the universal wildness
of a tempestuous element, breathing livid pestilence, and rearing and
trampling with the vehemence of unbridled fury.’ The style of the figure
corresponds to the style of the description. It is overloaded and
top-heavy. The chest of the animal is a great deal too long for the
legs.

The painter has made amends for this splashing figure of the Pale Horse,
by those of the White and Red Horse. They are like a couple of
rocking-horses, and go as easy. Mr. West’s vicarious egotism obtrudes
itself again offensively in speaking of the Rider on the White Horse.
‘As he is supposed,’ says the Catalogue, ‘to represent the Gospel, it
was requisite that he should be invested with those exterior indications
of purity, excellence, and dignity, which are associated in our minds
with the name and offices of the Messiah. But it was not THE SAVIOUR
healing and comforting the afflicted, or the meek and lowly JESUS,
bearing with resignation the scorn and hatred of the scoffing multitude,
that was to be represented;—it was the King of Kings going forth,
conquering and to conquer. He is _therefore_ painted with a solemn
countenance, expressive of a mind filled with the thoughts of a great
enterprise; and he advances onward in his sublime career with that
serene Majesty,’ &c. Now this is surely an unwarrantable assumption of
public opinion in a matter of taste. Christ is not represented in this
picture as he was in Mr. West’s two former pictures; but in all three he
gives you to understand that he has reflected the true countenance and
divine character of the Messiah. _Multum abludit imago._ The Christs in
each picture have a different character indeed, but they only present a
variety of meanness and insipidity. But the unwary spectator, who looks
at the catalogue to know what he is to think of the picture, and reads
all these _therefores_ of _sublimity_, _serenity_, _purity_, &c.
considers them as so many infallible inferences and demonstrations of
the painter’s skill.

Mr. West has been tolerably successful in the delineation of the neutral
character of the ‘Man on the Black Horse;’ but ‘the two wretched
emaciated figures’ of a man and woman before him, ‘absorbed in the
feelings of their own particular misery,’ are not likely to excite any
sympathy in the beholders. They exhibit the lowest stage of mental and
physical imbecility, that could never by any possibility come to any
good. In the domestic groupe in the foreground, ‘the painter has
attempted to excite the strongest degree of pity which his subject
admitted, and to contrast the surrounding objects with images of
tenderness and beauty;’ and it is here that he has principally failed.
The Dying Mother appears to have been in her lifetime a plaster-cast
from the antique, stained with a little purple and yellow, to imitate
the life. The ‘Lovely Infant’ that is falling from her breast, is a
hideous little creature, with glazed eyes, and livid aspect, borrowed
from the infant who is falling out of his mother’s lap over the bridge,
in Hogarth’s Print of Gin-Lane. The Husband’s features, who is placed in
so pathetic an attitude, are cut out of the hardest wood, and of the
deepest dye; and the surviving Daughter, who is stated ‘to be sensible
only to the loss she has sustained by the death of so kind a parent,’ is
neither better nor worse than the figures we meet with in the elegant
frontispieces to history-books, or family stories, intended as Christmas
presents to good little boys and girls. The foreshortening of the lower
extremities, both of the Mother and Child, is wretchedly defective,
either in drawing and colouring.

In describing ‘the anarchy of the combats of men with beasts,’ Mr. West
has attained that sort of excellence which always arises from a
knowledge of the rules of composition. His lion, however, looks as if
his face and velvet paws were covered with calf’s skin, or leather
gloves pulled carefully over them. So little is the appearance of hair
given! The youth in this group, whom Mr. West celebrates for his
muscular manly courage, has a fine rustic look of health and strength
about him; but we think the other figure, with scowling swarthy face,
striking at an animal, is superior in force of character and expression.
In the back figure of the man holding his hand to his head, (with no
very dignified action), the artist has well imitated the bad colouring,
and stiff inanimate drawing of Poussin. The remaining figures are not of
much importance, or are striking only from their defects. Mr. West,
however, omits no opportunity of discreetly sounding his own praise.
‘The story of this group,’ it is said, ‘would have been incomplete, had
the lions _not_ been shown conquerors to a certain extent, by the two
wounded men,’ &c. As it is, it is perfect! Admirable critic! Again we
are told, ‘The pyramidal form of this large division is _perfected_ by a
furious bull,’ &c. Nay, indeed, the form of the pyramid is even
preserved in the title-page of the catalogue. The prettiest incident in
the picture is the dove lamenting over its mate, just killed by the
serpent. We do not deny Mr. West the praise of invention. Upon the
whole, we think this the best coloured and most picturesque of all Mr.
West’s productions; and in all that relates to composition, and the
introduction of the adjuncts of historical design, it shows, like his
other works, the hand of a master. In the same room is the picture of
Christ Rejected. Alas! how changed, and in how short a time! The colours
are scarcely dry, and it already looks dingy, flat, and faded.



                     ON WILLIAMS’S VIEWS IN GREECE


There has been lately exhibited at the Calton Convening Room, Edinburgh,
a collection of views in Greece, Italy, Sicily, and the Ionian Isles,
painted in water colours by Mr. Hugh Williams, a native of Scotland,
which themselves do honour to the talents of the artist, as the
attention they have excited does to the taste of the northern capital.
It is well; for the exhibition in that town of the works of living
artists (to answer to our Somerset-House exhibition) required some
set-off. Mr. Williams has made the _amende honorable_, for his country,
to the offended genius of art, and has stretched out under the far-famed
Calton Hill, and in the eye of Arthur’s Seat, fairy visions of the fair
land of Greece, that Edinburgh belles and beaux repair to see with
cautious wonder and well-regulated delight. It is really a most
agreeable novelty to the passing visitant to see the beauty of the
North, the radiant beauty of the North, enveloped in such an atmosphere,
and set off by such a back-ground. Oriental skies pour their molten
lustre on Caledonian charms. The slender, lovely, taper waist (made more
taper, more lovely, more slender by the stay-maker), instead of being
cut in two by the keen blasts that rage in Prince’s street, is here
supported by warm languid airs, and a thousand sighs, that breathe from
the vale of Tempe. Do not those fair tresses look brighter as they are
seen hanging over a hill in Arcadia, than when they come in contact with
the hard grey rock of the castle? Do not those fair blue eyes look more
translucent as they glance over some classic stream? What can vie with
that alabaster skin but marble temples, dedicated to the Queen of Love?
What can match those golden freckles but glittering sun-sets behind
Mount Olympus? Here, in one corner of the room, stands the Hill of the
Muses, and there is a group of Graces under it! There played the NINE on
immortal lyres, and here sit the critical but admiring Scottish fair,
with the catalogue in their hands, reading the quotations from Lord
Byron’s verses with liquid eyes and lovely vermilion lips—would that
they spoke English, or any thing but Scotch!—Poor is this irony! Vain
the attempt to reconcile Scottish figures with Attic scenery! What land
can rival Greece? What earthly flowers can compare with the colours in
the sky? What living beauty can recall the dead? For in that word,
GREECE, there breathe three thousand years of fame that has no date to
come! Over that land hovers a light, brighter than that of suns, softer
than that which vernal skies shed on halcyon seas, the light that rises
from the tomb of virtue, genius, liberty! Oh! thou Uranian Venus, thou
that never art, but wast and art to be; thou that the eye sees not, but
that livest for ever in the heart; thou whom men believe and know to be,
for thou dwellest in the desires and longings, and hunger of the mind;
thou that art a Goddess, and we thy worshippers, say dost thou not smile
for ever on this land of Greece, and shed thy purple light over it, and
blend thy choicest blandishments with its magic name? But here (in the
Calton Convening Room, in Waterloo place, close under the Melville
monument—strange contradiction!) another Greece grows on the walls—other
skies are to be seen, ancient temples rise, and modern Grecian ladies
walk. Here towers Mount Olympus, where Gods once sat—that is the top of
a hill in Arcadia—(who would think that the eyes would ever behold a
form so visionary, that they would ever see an image of that, which
seems only a delicious vanished sound?) this is Corinth—that is the
Parthenon—there stands Thebes in Bœotia—that is the Plain of
Platæa,—yonder is the city of Syracuse, and the Temple of Minerva
Sunias, and there the site of the gardens of Alcinous.

            ‘Close to the gate a spacious garden lies,
            From storms defended, and inclement skies;
            Tall thriving trees confess the fruitful mould,
            The reddening apple ripens here to gold.
            Here the blue fig with luscious juice o’erflows,
            With deeper red the full pomegranate glows;
            The branch here bends beneath the weighty pear,
            And verdant olives flourish round the year.
            The balmy spirit of the western gale
            Eternal breathes on fruits, untaught to fail;
            The same mild season gives the blooms to blow,
            The buds to harden, and the fruit to grow.’

This is Pope’s description of them in the Odyssey, which (we must say)
is very bad, and if Mr. Williams had not given us a more distinct idea
of the places he professes to describe, we should not have gone out of
our way to notice them. As works of art, these water-colour drawings
deserve very high praise. The drawing is correct and characteristic: the
colouring chaste, rich, and peculiar; the finishing generally careful;
and the selection of points of view striking and picturesque. We have at
once an impressive and satisfactory idea of the country of which we have
heard so much; and wish to visit places which, it seems from this
representation of them, would not bely all that we have heard. Some
splenetic travellers have pretended that Attica was dry, flat, and
barren. But it is not so in Mr. Williams’s authentic draughts; and we
thank him for restoring to us our old, and, as it appears, true
illusion—for crowning that Elysium of our school-boy fancies with
majestic hills, and scooping it into lovely winding valleys once more.
Lord Byron is, we believe, among those who have spoken ill of Greece,
calling it a ‘sand-bank,’ or something of that sort. Every ill-natured
traveller ought to hold a pencil as well as a pen in his hand, and be
forced to produce a sketch of his own lie. As to the subjects of Mr.
Williams’s pencil, nothing can exceed the local interest that belongs to
them, and which he has done nothing, either through injudicious
selection, or negligent execution, to diminish. Quere. Is not this
interest as great in London as it is in Edinburgh? In other words, we
mean to ask, whether this exhibition would not answer well in London.

There are a number of other very interesting sketches interspersed, and
some very pleasing _home_ views, which seem to show that nature is
everywhere herself.



                          ON THE ELGIN MARBLES


           ‘Who to the life an exact piece would make
           Must not from others’ work a copy take;
           No, not from Rubens or Vandyke:
           Much less content himself to make it like
           Th’ ideas and the images which lie
           In his own Fancy or his Memory.
           No: he before his sight must place
           The natural and living face;
           The real object must command
           Each judgment of his eye and motion of his hand.’

The true lesson to be learnt by our students and professors from the
Elgin marbles, is the one which the ingenious and honest Cowley has
expressed in the above spirited lines. The great secret is to recur at
every step to nature—

                                       ‘To learn
             Her manner, and with rapture taste her style.’

It is evident to any one who views these admirable remains of Antiquity
(nay, it is acknowledged by our artists themselves, in despite of all
the melancholy sophistry which they have been taught or have been
teaching others for half a century) that the chief excellence of the
figures depends on their having been copied from nature, and not from
imagination. The communication of art with nature is here everywhere
immediate, entire, palpable. The artist gives himself no fastidious airs
of superiority over what he sees. He has not arrived, at that stage of
his progress described at much length in Sir Joshua Reynolds’s
Discourses, in which having served out his apprenticeship to nature, he
can set up for himself in opposition to her. According to the old Greek
form of drawing up the indentures in this case, we apprehend they were
to last for life. At least, we can compare these Marbles to nothing but
human figures petrified: they have every appearance of absolute
_fac-similes_ or casts taken from nature. The details are those of
nature; the masses are those of nature; the forms are from nature; the
action is from nature; the whole is from nature. Let any one, for
instance, look at the leg of the Ilissus or River-God, which is bent
under him—let him observe the swell and undulation of the calf, the
inter-texture of the muscles, the distinction and union of all the
parts, and the effect of action every where impressed on the external
form, as if the very marble were a flexible substance, and contained the
various springs of life and motion within itself, and he will own that
art and nature are here the same thing. It is the same in the back of
the Theseus, in the thighs and knees, and in all that remains unimpaired
of these two noble figures. It is not the same in the cast (which was
shown at Lord Elgin’s) of the famous Torso by Michael Angelo, the style
of which that artist appears to have imitated too well. There every
muscle has obviously the greatest prominence and force given to it of
which it is capable in itself, not of which it is capable in connexion
with others. This fragment is an accumulation of mighty parts, without
that play and re-action of each part upon the rest, without that
‘alternate action and repose’ which Sir Thomas Lawrence speaks of as
characteristic of the Theseus and the Ilissus, and which are as
inseparable from nature as waves from the sea. The learned, however,
here make a distinction, and suppose that the truth of nature is, in the
Elgin Marbles, combined with ideal forms. If by _ideal forms_ they mean
fine natural forms, we have nothing to object; but if they mean that the
sculptors of the Theseus and Ilissus got the forms out of their own
heads, and then tacked the truth of nature to them, we can only say,
‘Let them look again, let them look again.’ We consider the Elgin
Marbles as a demonstration of the impossibility of separating art from
nature without a proportionable loss at every remove. The utter absence
of all setness of appearance proves that they were done as studies from
actual models. The separate parts of the human body may be given from
scientific knowledge:—their modifications or inflections can only be
learnt by seeing them in action; and the truth of nature is incompatible
with ideal form, if the latter is meant to exclude actually existing
form. The mutual action of the parts cannot be determined where the
object itself is not seen. That the forms of these statues are not
common nature, such as we see it every day, we readily allow: that they
were not select Greek nature, we see no convincing reason to suppose.
That truth of nature, and ideal or fine form, are not always or
generally united, we know; but how they can ever be united in art,
without being first united in nature, is to us a mystery, and one that
we as little believe as understand!

Suppose, for illustration’s sake, that these Marbles were originally
done as casts from actual nature, and then let us inquire whether they
would not have possessed all the same qualities that they now display,
granting only, that the forms were in the first instance selected with
the eye of taste, and disposed with knowledge of the art and of the
subject.

First, the larger masses and proportions of entire limbs and divisions
of the body would have been found in the casts, for they would have been
found in nature. The back and trunk, and arms, and legs, and thighs
would have been there, for these are parts of the natural man or actual
living body, and not inventions of the artist, or _ideal_ creations
borrowed from the skies. There would have been the same sweep in the
back of the Theseus; the same swell in the muscles of the arm on which
he leans; the same division of the leg into calf and small, _i.e._ the
same general results, or aggregation of parts, in the principal and most
striking divisions of the body. The upper part of the arm would have
been thicker than the lower, the thighs larger than the legs, the body
larger than the thighs, in a cast taken from common nature; and in casts
taken from the finest nature they would have been so in the same
proportion, form, and manner, as in the statue of the Theseus, if the
Theseus answers to the _idea_ of the finest nature; for the idea and the
reality must be the same; only, we contend that the idea is taken from
the reality, instead of existing by itself, or being the creature of
fancy. That is, there would be the same grandeur of proportions and
parts in a cast taken from finely developed nature, such as the Greek
sculptors had constantly before them, naked and in action, that we find
in the limbs and masses of bone, flesh, and muscle, in these much and
justly admired remains.

Again, and incontestibly, there would have been, besides the grandeur of
form, all the _minutiæ_ and individual details in the cast that subsist
in nature, and that find no place in the theory of _ideal_ art—in the
omission of which, indeed, its very grandeur is made to consist. The
Elgin Marbles give a flat contradiction to this gratuitous separation of
grandeur of design and exactness of detail, as incompatible in works of
art, and we conceive that, with their whole ponderous weight to crush
it, it will be difficult to set this theory on its legs again. In these
majestic colossal figures, nothing is omitted, nothing is made out by
negation. The veins, the wrinkles in the skin, the indications of the
muscles under the skin (which appear as plainly to the anatomist as the
expert angler knows from an undulation on the surface of the water what
fish is playing with his bait beneath it), the finger-joints, the nails,
every the smallest part cognizable to the naked eye, is given here with
the same ease and exactness, with the same prominence, and the same
subordination, that it would be in a cast from nature, _i.e._, in nature
itself. Therefore, so far these things, _viz._, nature, a cast from it,
and the Elgin Marbles, are the same; and all three are opposed to the
fashionable and fastidious theory of the _ideal_. Look at Sir Joshua’s
picture of Puck, one of his finest-coloured, and most spirited
performances. The fingers are mere _spuds_, and we doubt whether any one
can make out whether there are four toes or five allowed to each of the
feet. If there had been a young Silenus among the Elgin Marbles, we
don’t know that in some particulars it would have surpassed Sir Joshua’s
masterly sketch, but we are sure that the extremities, the nails, &c.
would have been studies of natural history. The life, the spirit, the
character of the grotesque and imaginary little being would not have
made an abortion of any part of his natural growth or form.

Farther, in a cast from nature there would be, as a matter of course,
the same play and flexibility of limb and muscle, or, as Sir Thomas
Lawrence expresses it, the same ‘alternate action and repose,’ that we
find so admirably displayed in the Elgin Marbles. It seems here as if
stone could move: where one muscle is strained, another is relaxed,
where one part is raised, another sinks in, just as in the ocean, where
the waves are lifted up in one place, they sink proportionally low in
the next: and all this modulation and affection of the different parts
of the form by others arise from an attentive and co-instantaneous
observation of the parts of a flexible body, where the muscles and bones
act upon, and communicate with, one another like the ropes and pullies
in a machine, and where the action or position given to a particular
limb or membrane naturally extends to the whole body. This harmony, this
combination of motion, this unity of spirit diffused through the
wondrous mass and every part of it, is the glory of the Elgin
Marbles:—put a well-formed human body in the same position, and it will
display the same character throughout; make a cast from it while in that
position and action, and we shall still see the same bold, free, and
comprehensive truth of design. There is no alliteration or antithesis in
the style of the Elgin Marbles, no setness, squareness, affectation, or
formality of appearance. The different muscles do not present a
succession of _tumuli_, each heaving with big throes to rival the other.
If one is raised, the other falls quietly into its place. Neither do the
different parts of the body answer to one another, like shoulder-knots
on a lacquey’s coat or the different ornaments of a building. The
sculptor does not proceed on architectural principles. His work has the
freedom, the variety, and stamp of nature. The form of corresponding
parts is indeed the same, but it is subject to inflection from different
circumstances. There is no primness or _petit maître-ship_, as in some
of the later antiques, where the artist seemed to think that flesh was
glass or some other brittle substance; and that if it were put out of
its exact shape it would break in pieces. Here, on the contrary, if the
foot of one leg is bent under the body, the leg itself undergoes an
entire alteration. If one side of the body is raised above the other,
the original, or abstract, or _ideal_ form of the two sides is not
preserved strict and inviolable, but varies as it necessarily must do in
conformity to the law of gravitation, to which all bodies are subject.
In this respect, a cast from nature would be the same. Mr. Chantrey once
made a cast from Wilson the Black. He put him into an attitude at first,
and made the cast, but not liking the effect when done, got him to sit
again and made use of the plaister of Paris once more. He was satisfied
with the result; but Wilson, who was tired with going through the
operation, as soon as it was over, went and leaned upon a block of
marble with his hands covering his face. The sagacious sculptor was so
struck with the superiority of this natural attitude over those into
which he had been arbitrarily put that he begged him (if possible) to
continue in it for another quarter of an hour, and another impression
was taken off. All three casts remain, and the last is a proof of the
superiority of nature over art. The effect of lassitude is visible in
every part of the frame, and the strong feeling of this affection,
impressed on every limb and muscle, and venting itself naturally in an
involuntary attitude which gave immediate relief, is that which strikes
every one who has seen this fine study from the life. The casts from
this man’s figure have been much admired:—it is from no superiority of
form: it is merely that, being taken from nature, they bear her ‘image
and superscription.’

As to expression, the Elgin Marbles (at least the Ilissus and Theseus)
afford no examples, the heads being gone.

Lastly, as to the _ideal_ form, we contend it is nothing but a selection
of fine nature, such as it was seen by the ancient Greek sculptors; and
we say that a sufficient approximation to this form may be found in our
own country, and still more in other countries, at this day, to warrant
the clear conclusion that, under more favourable circumstances of
climate, manners, &c. no vain imagination of the human mind could come
up to entire natural forms; and that actual casts from Greek models
would rival the common Greek statues, or surpass them in the same
proportion and manner as the Elgin Marbles do. Or if this conclusion
should be doubted, we are ready at any time to produce at least one cast
from living nature, which if it does not furnish practical proof of all
that we have here advanced, we are willing to forfeit the last thing we
can afford to part with—a theory!

If then the Elgin Marbles are to be considered as authority in subjects
of art, we conceive the following principles, which have not hitherto
been generally received or acted upon in Great Britain, will be found to
result from them:—

1. That art is (first and last) the imitation of nature.

2. That the highest art is the imitation of the finest nature, that is
to say, of that which conveys the strongest sense of pleasure or power,
of the sublime or beautiful.

3. That the _ideal_ is only the selecting a particular form which
expresses most completely the idea of a given character or quality, as
of beauty, strength, activity, voluptuousness, &c. and which preserves
that character with the greatest consistency throughout.

4. That the _historical_ is nature in action. With regard to the face,
it is expression.

5. That grandeur consists in connecting a number of parts into a whole,
and not in leaving out the parts.

6. That as grandeur is the principle of connexion between different
parts, beauty is the principle of affinity between different forms, or
rather gradual conversion into each other. The one harmonizes, the other
aggrandizes our impressions of things.

7. That grace is the beautiful or harmonious in what relates to position
or motion.

8. That grandeur of motion is unity of motion.

9. That strength is the giving the extremes, softness, the uniting them.

10. That truth is to a certain degree beauty and grandeur, since all
things are connected, and all things modify one another in nature.
Simplicity is also grand and beautiful for the same reason. Elegance is
ease and lightness, with precision.

All this we have, we believe, said before; we shall proceed to such
proofs or explanations as we are able to give of it in another article.

                  *       *       *       *       *

At the conclusion of a former article on this subject, we ventured to
lay down some general principles, which we shall here proceed to
elucidate in such manner as we are able.

1. The first was, that _art is (first and last) the imitation of
nature_.

By nature, we mean actually existing nature, or some one object to be
found _in rerum naturâ_, not an idea of nature existing solely in the
mind, got from an infinite number of different objects, but which was
never yet embodied in an individual instance. Sir Joshua Reynolds may be
ranked at the head of those who have maintained the supposition that
nature (or the universe of things) was indeed the groundwork or
foundation on which art rested; but that the superstructure rose above
it, that it towered by degrees above the world of realities, and was
suspended in the regions of thought alone—that a middle form, a more
refined idea, borrowed from the observation of a number of particulars,
but unlike any of them, was the standard of truth and beauty, and the
glittering phantom that hovered round the head of the genuine artist:

                                  ‘So from the ground
        Springs lighter the green stalk, from thence the leaves
        More airy, last the bright consummate flower!’

We have no notion of this vague, equivocal theory of art, and contend,
on the other hand, that each image in art should have a _tally_ or
corresponding prototype in some object in nature. Otherwise, we do not
see the use of art at all: it is a mere superfluity, an incumbrance to
the mind, a piece of ‘laborious foolery’—for the word, the mere name of
any object or class of objects will convey the general idea, more free
from particular details or defects than any the most neutral and
indefinite representation that can be produced by forms and colours. The
word Man, for instance, conveys a more filmy, impalpable, abstracted,
and (according to this hypothesis) sublime idea of the species, than
Michael Angelo’s Adam, or any real image can possibly do. If this then
is the true object of art, the language of painting, sculpture, &c.
becomes quite supererogatory. Sir Joshua and the rest contend, that
nature (properly speaking) does not express any single individual, nor
the whole mass of things as they exist, but a general principle, a
_something common_ to all these, retaining the perfections, that is, all
in which they are alike, and abstracting the defects, namely, all in
which they differ: so that, out of actual nature, we compound an
artificial nature, never answering to the former in any one part of its
mock-existence, and which last is the true object of imitation to the
aspiring artist. Let us adopt this principle of abstraction as the rule
of perfection, and see what havoc it will make in all our notions and
feelings in such matters. If the _perfect_ is the _intermediate_, why
not confound all objects, all forms, all colours at once? Instead of
painting a landscape with blue sky, or white clouds, or green earth, or
grey rocks and towers; what should we say if the artist (so named) were
to treat all these ‘fair varieties’ as so many imperfections and
mistakes in the creation, and mass them altogether, by mixing up the
colours on his palette in the same dull, leaden tone, and call this the
true principle of epic landscape-painting? Would not the thing be
abominable, an abortion, and worse than the worst Dutch picture? Variety
then is one principle, one beauty in external nature, and not an
everlasting source of pettiness and deformity, which must be got rid of
at all events, before taste can set its seal upon the work, or fancy own
it. But it may be said, it is different in things of the same species,
and particularly in man, who is cast in a regular mould, which mould is
one. What then, are we, on this pretext, to confound the difference of
sex in a sort of hermaphrodite softness, as Mr. Westall, Angelica
Kauffman, and others, have done in their effeminate performances? Are we
to leave out of the scale of legitimate art, the extremes of infancy and
old age, as not _middle terms_ in man’s life? Are we to strike off from
the list of available topics and sources of interest, the varieties of
character, of passion, of strength, activity, &c.? Is everything to wear
the same form, the same colour, the same unmeaning face? Are we only to
repeat the same average idea of perfection, that is, our own want of
observation and imagination, for ever, and to melt down the inequalities
and excrescences of individual nature in the monotony of abstraction? Oh
no! As well might we prefer the cloud to the rainbow; the dead corpse to
the living moving body! So Sir Joshua debated upon Rubens’s landscapes,
and has a whole chapter to inquire whether _accidents in nature_, that
is, rainbows, moonlight, sun-sets, clouds and storms, are the proper
thing in the classical style of art. Again, it is urged that this is not
what is meant, _viz._ to exclude different classes or characters of
things, but that there is in each class or character a _middle point_,
which is the point of perfection. What middle point? Or how is it
ascertained? What is the middle age of childhood? Or are all children to
be alike, dark or fair? Some of Titian’s children have black hair, and
others yellow or auburn: who can tell which is the most beautiful? May
not a St. John be older than an infant Christ? Must not a Magdalen be
different from a Madonna, a Diana from a Venus? Or may not a Venus have
more or less gravity, a Diana more or less sweetness? What then becomes
of the abstract idea in any of these cases? It varies as it does in
nature; that is, there is indeed a general principle or character to be
adhered to, but modified everlastingly by various other given or
nameless circumstances. The highest art, like nature, is a living spring
of unconstrained excellence, and does not produce a continued repetition
of itself, like plaster-casts from the same figure. But once more it may
be insisted, that in what relates to mere form or organic structure,
there is necessarily a middle line or central point, anything short of
which is deficiency, and anything beyond it excess, being the average
form to which all the other forms included in the same species tend, and
approximate more or less. Then this average form as it exists in nature
should be taken as the model for art. What occasion to do it out of your
own head, when you can bring it under the cognizance of your senses?
Suppose a foot of a certain size and shape to be the standard of
perfection, or if you will, the _mean proportion_ between all other
feet. How can you tell this so well as by seeing it? How can you copy it
so well as by having it actually before you? But, you will say, there
are particular minute defects in the best-shaped actual foot which ought
not to be transferred to the imitation. Be it so. But are there not also
particular minute beauties in the best, or even the worst shaped actual
foot, which you will only discover by ocular inspection, which are
reducible to no measurement or precepts, and which in finely-developed
nature outweigh the imperfections a thousandfold, the proper general
form being contained there also, and these being only the distinctly
articulated parts of it, with their inflections which no artist can
carry in his head alone? For instance, in the bronze monument of Henry
VII. and his wife, in Westminster Abbey, by the famous Torregiano, the
fingers and fingernails of the woman in particular are made out as
minutely, and, at the same time, as beautifully as it is possible to
conceive; yet they have exactly the effect that a cast taken from a fine
female hand would have, with every natural joint, muscle, and nerve in
complete preservation. Does this take from the beauty or magnificence of
the whole? No: it aggrandises it. What then does it take from? Nothing
but the conceit of the artist that he can paint a hand out of his own
head (that is, out of nothing, and by reducing it again as near as can
be to nothing, to a mere vague image) that shall be better than any
thing in nature. A hand or foot is not _one thing_, because it is _one
word_ or name; and the painter of mere abstractions had better lay down
his pencil at once, and be contented to write the descriptions or titles
under works of art. Lastly, it may be objected that a whole figure can
never be found perfect or equal; that the most beautiful arm will not
belong to the same figure as the most beautiful leg, and so on. How is
this to be remedied? By taking the arm from one, and the leg from the
other, and clapping them both on the same body? That will never do; for
however admirable in themselves, they will hardly agree together. One
will have a different character from the other; and they will form a
sort of natural patchwork. Or, to avoid this, will you take neither from
actual models, but derive them from the neutralising medium of your own
imagination. Worse and worse. Copy them from the same model, the best in
all its parts you can get; so that, if you have to alter, you may alter
as little as possible, and retain nearly the whole substance of
nature.[50] You may depend upon it that what is so retained, will alone
be of any specific value. The rest may have a negative merit, but will
be positively good for nothing. It will be to the vital truth and beauty
of what is taken from the best nature, like the piecing of an antique
statue. It fills a gap, but nothing more. It is, in fact, a mental
blank.

2. This leads us to the second point laid down before, which was, that
_the highest art is the imitation of the finest nature, or in other
words, of that which conveys the strongest sense of pleasure or power,
of the sublime or beautiful_.

The artist does not pretend to _invent_ an absolutely new class of
objects, without any foundation in nature. He does not spread his
palette on the canvas, for the mere finery of the thing, and tell us
that it makes a brighter show than the rainbow, or even than a bed of
tulips. He does not draw airy forms, moving above the earth, ‘gay
creatures of the element, that play i’ th’ plighted clouds,’ and scorn
the mere material existences, the concrete descendants of those that
came out of Noah’s Ark, and that walk, run, or creep upon it. No, he
does not paint only what he has seen _in his mind’s eye_, but the common
objects that both he and others daily meet—rocks, clouds, trees, men,
women, beasts, fishes, birds, or what he calls such. He is then an
imitator by profession. He gives the appearances of things that exist
outwardly by themselves, and have a distinct and independent nature of
their own. But these know their own nature best; and it is by consulting
them that he can alone trace it truly, either in the immediate details,
or characteristic essences. Nature is consistent, unaffected, powerful,
subtle: art is forgetful, apish, feeble, coarse. Nature is the original,
and therefore right: art is the copy, and can but tread lamely in the
same steps. Nature penetrates into the parts, and moves the whole mass:
it acts with diversity, and in necessary connexion; for real causes
never forget to operate, and to contribute their portion. Where,
therefore, these causes are called into play to the utmost extent that
they ever go to, there we shall have a strength and a refinement, that
art may imitate but cannot surpass. But it is said that art can surpass
this most perfect image in nature by combining others with it. What! by
joining to the most perfect in its kind something less perfect? Go
to,—this argument will not pass. Suppose you have a goblet of the finest
wine that ever was tasted: you will not mend it by pouring into it all
sorts of samples of an inferior quality. So the best in nature is the
stint and limit of what is best in art: for art can only borrow from
nature still; and, moreover, must borrow entire objects, for bits only
make patches. We defy any landscape-painter to invent out of his own
head, and by jumbling together all the different forms of hills he ever
saw, by adding a bit to one, and taking a bit from another, anything
equal to Arthur’s seat, with the appendage of Salisbury Crags, that
overlook Edinburgh. Why so? Because there are no levers in the mind of
man equal to those with which nature works at her utmost need. No
imagination can toss and tumble about huge heaps of earth as the ocean
in its fury can. A volcano is more potent to rend rocks asunder than the
most splashing pencil. The convulsions of nature can make a precipice
more frightfully, or heave the backs of mountains more proudly, or throw
their sides into waving lines more gracefully than all the _beau idéal_
of art. For there is in nature not only greater power and scope, but (so
to speak) greater knowledge and unity of purpose. Art is comparatively
weak and incongruous, being at once a miniature and caricature of
nature. We grant that a tolerable sketch of Arthur’s seat, and the
adjoining view, is better than Primrose Hill itself, (dear Primrose
Hill! ha! faithless pen, canst thou forget its winding slopes, and
valleys green, to which all Scotland can bring no parallel?) but no
pencil can transform or dandle Primrose Hill (our favourite Primrose
Hill!) into a thing of equal character and sublimity with Arthur’s seat.
It gives us some pain to make this concession; but in doing it, we
flatter ourselves that no Scotchman will have the liberality in any way
to return us the compliment. We do not recollect a more striking
illustration of the difference between art and nature in this respect,
than Mr. Martin’s very singular and, in some things, very meritorious
pictures. But he strives to outdo nature. He wants to give more than she
does, or than his subject requires or admits. He sub-divides his groups
into infinite littleness, and exaggerates his scenery into absolute
immensity. His figures are like rows of shiny pins; his mountains are
piled up one upon the back of the other, like the stories of houses. He
has no notion of the moral principle in all art, that a part may be
greater than the whole. He reckons that if one range of lofty square
hills is good, another range above that with clouds between must be
better. He thus wearies the imagination, instead of exciting it. We see
no end of the journey, and turn back in disgust. We are tired of the
effort, we are tired of the monotony of this sort of reduplication of
the same object. We were satisfied before; but it seems the painter was
not, and we naturally sympathise with him. This craving after quantity
is a morbid affection. A landscape is not an architectural elevation.
You may build a house as high as you can lift up stones with pulleys and
levers, but you cannot raise mountains into the sky merely with the
pencil. They lose probability and effect by striving at too much; and,
with their ceaseless throes, oppress the imagination of the spectator,
and bury the artist’s fame under them. The only error of these pictures
is, however, that art here puts on her seven-league boots, and thinks it
possible to steal a march upon nature. Mr. Martin might make Arthur’s
Seat sublime, if he chose to take the thing as it is; but he would be
for squaring it according to the mould in his own imagination, and for
clapping another Arthur’s Seat on the top of it, to make the Calton Hill
stare! Again, with respect to the human figure. This has an internal
structure, muscles, bones, blood-vessels, &c. by means of which the
external surface is operated upon according to certain laws. Does the
artist, with all his generalizations, understand these, as well as
nature does? Can he predict, with all his learning, that if a certain
muscle is drawn up in a particular manner, it will present a particular
appearance in a different part of the arm or leg, or bring out other
muscles, which were before hid, with certain modifications? But in
nature all this is brought about by necessary laws, and the effect is
visible to those, and those only, who look for it in actual objects.
This is the great and master-excellence of the ELGIN MARBLES, that they
do not seem to be the outer surface of a hard and immovable block of
marble, but to be actuated by an internal machinery, and composed of the
same soft and flexible materials as the human body. The skin (or the
outside) seems to be protruded or tightened by the natural action of a
muscle beneath it. This result is miraculous in art: in nature it is
easy and unavoidable. That is to say, art has to imitate or produce
certain effects or appearances without the natural causes: but the human
understanding can hardly be so true to those causes as the causes to
themselves; and hence the necessity (in this sort of _simulated
creation_) of recurring at every step to the actual objects and
appearances of nature. Having shown so far how indispensable it is for
art to identify itself with nature, in order to preserve the truth of
imitation, without which it is destitute of value or meaning, it may be
said to follow as a necessary consequence, that the only way in which
art can rise to greater dignity or excellence is by finding out models
of greater dignity and excellence in nature. Will any one, looking at
the Theseus, for example, say that it could spring merely from the
artist’s brain, or that it could be done from a common, ill-made, or
stunted body! The fact is, that its superiority consists in this, that
it is a perfect combination of art and nature, or an identical, and as
it were spontaneous copy of an individual picked out of a finer race of
men than generally tread this ball of earth. Could it be made of a
Dutchman’s trunk-hose? No. Could it be made out of one of Sir Joshua’s
Discourses on the _middle form_? No. How then? Out of an eye, a head,
and a hand, with sense, spirit, and energy to follow the finest nature,
as it appeared exemplified in sweeping masses, and in subtle details,
without pedantry, conceit, cowardice, or affectation! Some one was
asking at Mr. H—yd—n’s one day, as a few persons were looking at the
cast from this figure, why the original might not have been done as a
cast from nature. Such a supposition would account at least for what
seems otherwise unaccountable—the incredible labour and finishing
bestowed on the back and the other parts of this figure, placed at a
prodigious height against the walls of a temple, where they could never
be seen after they were once put up there. If they were done by means of
a cast in the first instance, the thing appears intelligible, otherwise
not. Our host stoutly resisted this imputation, which tended to deprive
art of one of its greatest triumphs, and to make it as mechanical as a
shaded profile. So far, so good. But the reason he gave was bad, _viz._,
that the limbs could not remain in those actions long enough to be cast.
Yet surely this would take a shorter time than if the model sat to the
sculptor; and we all agreed that nothing but actual, continued, and
intense observation of living nature could give the solidity,
complexity, and refinement of imitation which we saw in the half
animated, almost moving figure before us.[51] Be this as it may, the
principle here stated does not reduce art to the imitation of what is
understood by common or low life. It rises to any point of beauty or
sublimity you please, but it rises only as nature rises exalted with it
too. To hear these critics talk, one would suppose there was nothing in
the world really worth looking at. The Dutch pictures were the best that
they could paint: they had no other landscapes or faces before them.
_Honi soit qui mal y pense._ Yet who is not alarmed at a Venus by
Rembrandt? The Greek statues were (_cum grano salis_) Grecian youths and
nymphs; and the women in the streets of Rome (it has been remarked[52])
look to this hour as if they had walked out of Raphael’s pictures.
Nature is always truth: at its best, it is beauty and sublimity as well;
though Sir Joshua tells us in one of the papers in the IDLER, that in
itself, or with reference to individuals, it is a mere tissue of
meanness and deformity. Luckily, the Elgin Marbles say NO to that
conclusion: for they are decidedly _part and parcel thereof_. What
constitutes fine nature, we shall inquire under another head. But we
would remark here, that it can hardly be the _middle form_, since this
principle, however it might determine certain general proportions and
outlines, could never be intelligible in the details of nature, or
applicable to those of art. Who will say that the form of a finger nail
is just midway between a thousand others that he has _not_ remarked: we
are only struck with it when it is more than ordinarily beautiful, from
symmetry, an oblong shape, &c. The staunch partisans of this theory,
however, get over the difficulty here spoken of, in practice, by
omitting the details altogether, and making their works sketches, or
rather what the French call _ébauches_ and the English _daubs_.

3. _The_ IDEAL _is only the selecting a particular form which expresses
most completely the idea of a given character or quality, as of beauty,
strength, activity, voluptuousness, &c. and which preserves that
character with the greatest consistency throughout_.

Instead of its being true in general that the _ideal_ is the _middle
point_, it is to be found in the _extremes_; or, it is carrying any
_idea_ as far as it will go. Thus, for instance, a Silenus is as much an
_ideal_ thing as an Apollo, as to the principle on which it is done,
_viz._, giving to every feature, and to the whole form, the utmost
degree of grossness and sensuality that can be imagined, with this
exception (which has nothing to do with the understanding of the
question), that the _ideal_ means by custom this extreme on the side of
the good and beautiful. With this reserve, the _ideal_ means always the
_something more_ of anything which may be anticipated by the fancy, and
which must be found in nature (by looking long enough for it) to be
expressed as it ought. Suppose a good heavy Dutch face (we speak by the
proverb)—this, you will say, is gross; but it is not gross enough. You
have an idea of something grosser, that is, you have seen something
grosser and must seek for it again. When you meet with it, and have
stamped it on the canvas, or carved it out of the block, this is the
true _ideal_, namely, that which answers to and satisfies a preconceived
idea; not that which is made out of an abstract idea, and answers to
nothing. In the Silenus, also, according to the notion we have of the
properties and character of that figure, there must be vivacity,
slyness, wantonness, &c. Not only the image in the mind, but a real face
may express all these combined together; another may express them more,
and another most, which last is the _ideal_; and when the image in
nature coalesces with, and gives a body, force, and reality to the idea
in the mind, then it is that we see the true perfection of art. The
forehead should be ‘villainous low;’ the eye-brows bent in; the eyes
small and gloating; the nose _pugged_, and pointed at the end, with
distended nostrils; the mouth large and shut; the cheeks swollen; the
neck thick, &c. There is, in all this process, nothing of softening
down, of compromising qualities, of finding out a _mean proportion_
between different forms and characters; the sole object is to
_intensify_ each as much as possible. The only fear is ‘to o’erstep the
modesty of nature,’ and run into caricature. This must be avoided; but
the artist is only to stop short of this. He must not outrage
probability. We must have seen a class of such faces, or something so
nearly approaching, as to prevent the imagination from revolting against
them. The forehead must be low, but not so low as to lose the character
of humanity in the brute. It would thus lose all its force and meaning.
For that which is extreme and ideal in one species is nothing, if, by
being pushed too far, it is merged in another. Above all, there should
be _keeping_ in the whole and every part. In the Pan, the horns and
goat’s feet, perhaps, warrant the approach to a more _animal_ expression
than would otherwise be allowable in the human features; but yet this
tendency to excess must be restrained within certain limits. If Pan is
made into a beast, he will cease to be a God! Let Momus distend his jaws
with laughter, as far as laughter can stretch them, but no farther; or
the expression will be that of pain and not of pleasure. Besides, the
overcharging the expression or action of any one feature will suspend
the action of others. The whole face will no longer laugh. But this
universal suffusion of broad mirth and humour over the countenance is
very different from a placid smile, midway between grief and joy. Yet a
classical Momus, by modern theories of the _ideal_, ought to be such a
nonentity in expression. The ancients knew better. They pushed art in
such subjects to the verge of ‘all we hate,’ while they felt the point
beyond which it could not be urged with propriety, _i.e._ with truth,
consistency, and consequent effect. There is no difference, in
philosophical reasoning, between the mode of art here insisted on, and
the _ideal_ regularity of such figures as the Apollo, the Hercules, the
Mercury, the Venus, &c. All these are, as it were, _personifications_,
_essences_, _abstractions_ of certain qualities of virtue in human
nature, not of human nature in general, which would make nonsense.
Instead of being abstractions of all sorts of qualities jumbled together
in a neutral character, they are in the opposite sense _abstractions_ of
some single quality or customary combination of qualities, leaving out
all others as much as possible, and imbuing every part with that one
predominant character to the utmost. The Apollo is a representation of
graceful dignity and mental power; the Hercules of bodily strength; the
Mercury of swiftness; the Venus of female loveliness, and so on. In
these, in the Apollo is surely implied and found more grace than usual;
in the Hercules more strength than usual; in the Mercury more lightness
than usual; in the Venus more softness than usual. Is it not so? What
then becomes of the pretended _middle form_? One would think it would be
sufficient to prove this, to ask, ‘Do not these statues differ from one
another? And is this difference a defect?’ It would be ridiculous to
call them by different names, if they were not supposed to represent
different and peculiar characters: sculptors should, in that case, never
carve anything but the statue of _a man_, the statue of _a woman_, &c.
and this would be the name of perfection. This theory of art is not at
any rate justified by the history of art. An extraordinary quantity of
bone and muscle is as proper to the Hercules as his club, and it would
be strange if the Goddess of Love had not a more delicately rounded
form, and a more languishing look withal, than the Goddess of Hunting.
That a form combining and blending the properties of both, the downy
softness of the one, with the elastic buoyancy of the other, would be
more perfect than either, we no more see than that grey is the most
perfect of colours. At any rate, this is the march neither of nature nor
of art. It is not denied that these antique sculptures are models of the
_ideal_; nay, it is on them that this theory boasts of being founded.
Yet they give a flat contradiction to its insipid mediocrity. Perhaps
some of them have a slight bias to the false _ideal_, to the smooth and
uniform, or the negation of nature: any error on this side is, however,
happily set right by the ELGIN MARBLES, which are the paragons of
sculpture and the mould of form.—As the _ideal_ then requires a
difference of character in each figure as a whole, so it expects the
same character (or a corresponding one) to be stamped on each part of
every figure. As the legs of a Diana should be more muscular and adapted
for running, than those of a Venus or a Minerva, so the skin of her face
ought to be more tense, bent on her prey, and hardened by being exposed
to the winds of heaven. The respective characters of lightness,
softness, strength, &c. should pervade each part of the surface of each
figure, but still varying according to the texture and functions of the
individual part. This can only be learned or practised from the
attentive observation of nature in those forms in which any given
character or excellence is most strikingly displayed, and which has been
selected for imitation and study on that account.—Suppose a dimple in
the chin to be a mark of voluptuousness; then the Venus should have a
dimple in the chin; and she has one. But this will imply certain
correspondent indications in other parts of the features, about the
corners of the mouth, a gentle undulation and sinking in of the cheek,
as if it had just been pinched, and so on: yet so as to be consistent
with the other qualities of roundness, smoothness, &c. which belong to
the idea of the character. Who will get all this and embody it out of
the idea of a _middle form_, I cannot say: it may be, and has been, got
out of the idea of a number of distinct enchanting graces in the mind,
and from some heavenly object unfolded to the sight!

4. _That the historical is nature in action. With regard to the face, it
is expression._

Hogarth’s pictures are true history. Every feature, limb, figure, group,
is instinct with life and motion. He does not take a subject and place
it in a position, like a lay figure, in which it stirs neither limb nor
joint. The scene moves before you: the face is like a frame-work of
flexible machinery. If the mouth is distorted with laughter, the eyes
swim in laughter. If the forehead is knit together, the cheeks are
puckered up. If a fellow squints most horribly, the rest of his face is
awry. The muscles pull different ways, or the same way, at the same
time, on the surface of the picture, as they do in the human body. What
you see is the reverse of _still life_. There is a continual and
complete action and re-action of one variable part upon another, as
there is in the ELGIN MARBLES. If you pull the string of a bow, the bow
itself is bent. So is it in the strings and wires that move the human
frame. The action of any one part, the contraction or relaxation of any
one muscle, extends more or less perceptibly to every other:

           ‘Thrills in each nerve, and lives along the line.’

Thus the celebrated Iö of Correggio is imbued, steeped, in a manner in
the same voluptuous feeling all over—the same passion languishes in her
whole frame, and communicates the infection to the feet, the back, and
the reclined position of the head. This is history, not carpenter’s
work. Some painters fancy that they paint history, if they get the
measurement from the foot to the knee and put four bones where there are
four bones. This is not our idea of it; but we think it is to show how
one part of the body sways another in action and in passion. The last
relates chiefly to the expression of the face, though not altogether.
Passion may be shown in a clenched fist as well as in clenched teeth.
The face, however, is the throne of expression. Character implies the
feeling, which is fixed and permanent; expression that which it
occasional and momentary, at least, technically speaking. Portrait
treats of objects as they are; history of the events and changes to
which they are liable. And so far history has a double superiority; or a
double difficulty to overcome, _viz._ in the rapid glance over a number
of parts subject to the simultaneous action of the same law, and in the
scope of feeling required to sympathise with the critical and powerful
movements of passion. It requires greater capacity of muscular motion to
follow the progress of a carriage in violent motion, than to lean upon
it standing still. If, to describe passion, it were merely necessary to
observe its outward effects, these, perhaps, in the prominent points,
become more visible and more tangible as the passion is more intense.
But it is not only necessary to see the effects, but to discern the
cause, in order to make the one true to the other. No painter gives more
of intellectual or impassioned appearances than he understands or feels.
It is an axiom in painting that sympathy is indispensable to truth of
expression. Without it, you get only caricatures, which are not the
thing. But to sympathise with passion, a greater fund of sensibility is
demanded in proportion to the strength or tenderness of the passion. And
as he feels most of this whose face expresses most passion, so he also
feels most by sympathy whose hand can describe most passion. This
amounts nearly, we take it, to a demonstration of an old and very
disputed point. The same reasoning might be applied to poetry, but this
is not the place.—Again, it is easier to paint a portrait than an
historical face, because the head _sits_ for the first, but the
expression will hardly _sit_ for the last. Perhaps those passions are
the best subjects for painting, the expression of which may be retained
for some time, so as to be better caught, which throw out a sort of
lambent fire, and leave a reflected glory behind them, as we see in
Madonnas, Christ’s heads, and what is understood by sacred subjects in
general. The violences of human passion are too soon over to be copied
by the hand, and the mere conception of the internal workings is not
here sufficient, as it is in poetry. A portrait is to history what
still-life is to portraiture: that is, the whole remains the same while
you are doing it; or while you are occupied about each part, the rest
wait for you. Yet, what a difference is there between taking an original
portrait and making a copy of one! This shows that the face in its most
ordinary state is continually varying and in action. So much of history
is there in portrait!—No one should pronounce definitively on the
superiority of history over portrait, without recollecting Titian’s
heads. The finest of them are very nearly (say quite) equal to the
finest of Raphael’s. They have almost the look of _still-life_, yet each
part is decidedly influenced by the rest. Everything is _relative_ in
them. You cannot put any other eye, nose, lip in the same face. As is
one part, so is the rest. You cannot fix on any particular beauty; the
charm is in the whole. They have least action, and the most expression
of any portraits. They are doing nothing, and yet all other business
seems insipid in comparison of their thoughts. They are silent, retired,
and do not court observation; yet you cannot keep your eyes from them.
Some one said, that you would be as cautious of your behaviour in a room
where a picture of Titian’s was hung, as if there was somebody by—so
entirely do they look you through. They are the least tiresome
_furniture-company_ in the world!

5. _Grandeur consists in connecting a number of parts into a whole, and
not leaving out the parts._

Sir Joshua lays it down that the great style in art consists in the
omission of the details. A greater error never man committed. The great
style consists in preserving the masses and general proportions; not in
omitting the details. Thus, suppose, for illustration’s sake, the
general form of an eye-brow to be commanding and grand. It is of a
certain size, and arched in a particular curve. Now, surely, this
general form or outline will be equally preserved, whether the painter
daubs it in, in a bold, rough way, as Reynolds or perhaps Rembrandt
would, or produces the effect by a number of hair-lines arranged in the
same form as Titian sometimes did; and in his best pictures. It will not
be denied (for it cannot) that the characteristic form of the eye-brow
would be the same, or that the effect of the picture at a small distance
would be nearly the same in either case; only in the latter, it would be
rather more perfect, as being more like nature. Suppose a strong light
to fall on one side of a face, and a deep shadow to involve the whole of
the other. This would produce two distinct and large masses in the
picture; which answers to the conditions of what is called the grand
style of composition. Well, would it destroy these masses to give the
smallest veins or variation of colour or surface in the light side, or
to shade the other with the most delicate and elaborate _chiaro-scuro_?
It is evident not; from common sense, from the practice of the best
masters, and, lastly, from the example of nature, which contains both
the larger masses, the strongest contrasts, and the highest finishing,
within itself. The integrity of the whole, then, is not impaired by the
indefinite subdivision and smallness of the parts. The grandeur of the
ultimate effects depends entirely on the arrangement of these in a
certain form or under certain masses. The Ilissus, or River-god, is
floating in his proper element, and is, in appearance, as firm as a
rock, as pliable as a wave of the sea. The artist’s breath might be said
to mould and play upon the undulating surface. The whole is expanded
into noble proportions, and heaves with general effect. What then? Are
the parts unfinished; or are they not there? No; they are there with the
nicest exactness, but in due subordination; that is, they are there as
they are found in fine nature; and float upon the general form, like
straw or weeds upon the tide of ocean. Once more: in Titian’s portraits
we perceive a certain character stamped upon the different features. In
the Hippolito de Medici the eye-brows are angular, the nose is peaked,
the mouth has sharp corners, the face is (so to speak) a pointed oval.
The drawing in each of these is as careful and distinct as can be. But
the unity of intention in nature, and in the artist, does not the less
tend to produce a general grandeur and impressiveness of effect; which
at first sight it is not easy to account for. To combine a number of
particulars to one end is not to omit them altogether; and is the best
way of producing the grand style, because it does this without either
affectation or slovenliness.

6. The sixth rule we proposed to lay down was, that _as grandeur is the
principle of connexion between different parts; beauty is the principle
of affinity between different forms, or their gradual conversion into
each other. The one harmonizes, the other aggrandizes, our impressions
of things._

There is a harmony of colours and a harmony of sounds, unquestionably:
why then there should be all this squeamishness about admitting an
original harmony of forms as the principle of beauty and source of
pleasure there we cannot understand. It is true, that there is in
organized bodies a certain standard of form to which they approximate
more or less, and from which they cannot very widely deviate without
shocking the sense of custom, or our settled expectations of what they
ought to be. And hence it has been pretended that there is in all such
cases a _middle central form_, obtained by leaving out the peculiarities
of all the others, which alone is the pure standard of truth and beauty.
A conformity to custom is, we grant, one condition of beauty or source
of satisfaction to the eye, because an abrupt transition shocks; but
there is a conformity (or correspondence) of colours, sounds, lines,
among themselves, which is soft and pleasing for the same reason. The
average or customary form merely determines what is _natural_. A thing
cannot please, unless it is to be found in nature; but that which is
natural is most pleasing, according as it has other properties which in
themselves please. Thus the colour of a cheek must be the natural
complexion of a human face;—it would not do to make it the colour of a
flower or a precious stone;—but among complexions ordinarily to be found
in nature, that is most beautiful which would be thought so
abstractedly, or in itself. Yellow hair is not the most common, nor is
it a _mean proportion_ between the different colours of women’s hair.
Yet, who will say that it is not the most beautiful? Blue or green hair
would be a defect and an anomaly, not because it is not the _medium_ of
nature, but because it is not in nature at all. To say that there is no
difference in the sense of form except from custom, is like saying that
there is no difference in the sensation of smooth or rough. Judging by
analogy, a gradation or symmetry of form must affect the mind in the
same manner as a gradation of recurrence at given intervals of tones or
sounds; and if it does so in fact, we need not inquire further for the
principle. Sir Joshua (who is the arch-heretic on this subject) makes
grandeur or sublimity consist in the middle form, or abstraction of all
peculiarities; which is evidently false, for grandeur and sublimity
arise from extraordinary strength, magnitude, &c. or in a word, from an
excess of power, so as to startle and overawe the mind. But as sublimity
is an excess of power, beauty is, we conceive, the blending and
harmonizing different powers or qualities together, so as to produce a
soft and pleasurable sensation. That it is not the middle form of the
species seems proved in various ways. First, because one species is more
beautiful than another, according to common sense. A rose is the queen
of flowers, in poetry at least; but in this philosophy any other flower
is as good. A swan is more beautiful than a goose; a stag than a goat.
Yet if custom were the test of beauty, either we should give no
preference, or our preference would be reversed. Again, let us go back
to the human face and figure. A straight nose is allowed to be handsome,
that is, one that presents nearly a continuation of the line of the
forehead, and the sides of which are nearly parallel. Now this cannot be
the mean proportion of the form of noses. For, first, most noses are
broader at the bottom than at the top, inclining to the negro head, but
none are broader at top than at the bottom, to produce the Greek form as
a balance between both. Almost all noses sink in immediately under the
forehead bone, none ever project there; so that the nearly straight line
continued from the forehead cannot be a mean proportion struck between
the two extremes of convex and concave form in this feature of the face.
There must, therefore, be some other principle of symmetry, continuity,
&c. to account for the variation from the prescribed rule. Once more
(not to multiply instances tediously), a double calf is undoubtedly the
perfection of beauty in the form of the leg. But this is a rare thing.
Nor is it the medium between two common extremes. For the muscles seldom
swell enough to produce this excrescence, if it may be so called, and
never run to an excess there, so as, by diminishing the quantity, to
subside into proportion and beauty. But this second or lower calf is a
connecting link between the upper calf and the small of the leg, and is
just like a second chord or half-note in music. We conceive that any one
who does not perceive the beauty of the Venus de Medicis, for instance,
in this respect, has not the proper perception of form in his mind. As
this is the most disputable, or at least the most disputed part of our
theory, we may, perhaps, have to recur to it again, and shall leave an
opening for that purpose.

7. _That grace is the beautiful or harmonious in what relates to
position or motion._

There needs not much be said on this point; as we apprehend it will be
granted that, whatever beauty is as to the form, grace is the same thing
in relation to the use that is made of it. Grace, in writing, relates to
the transitions that are made from one subject to another, or to the
movement that is given to a passage. If one thing leads to another, or
an idea or illustration is brought in without effect, or without making
a _boggle_ in the mind, we call this a graceful style. Transitions must
in general be gradual and pieced together. But sometimes the most
violent are the most graceful, when the mind is fairly tired out and
exhausted with a subject, and is glad to leap to another as a repose and
relief from the first. Of these there are frequent instances in Mr.
Burke’s writings, which have something Pindaric in them. That which is
not beautiful in itself, or in the mere form, may be made so by position
or motion. A figure by no means elegant may be put in an elegant
position. Mr. Kean’s figure is not good; yet we have seen him throw
himself into attitudes of infinite spirit, dignity, and grace. John
Kemble’s figure, on the contrary, is fine in itself; and he has only to
show himself to be admired. The direction in which anything is moved has
evidently nothing to do with the shape of the thing moved. The one may
be a circle and the other a square. Little and deformed people seem to
be well aware of this distinction, who, in spite of their unpromising
appearance, usually assume the most imposing attitudes, and give
themselves the most extraordinary airs imaginable.

8. _Grandeur of motion is unity of motion._

This principle hardly needs illustration. Awkwardness is contradictory
or disjointed motion.

9. _Strength in art is giving the extremes, softness the uniting them._

There is no incompatibility between strength and softness, as is
sometimes supposed by frivolous people. Weakness is not refinement. A
shadow may be twice as deep in a finely coloured picture as in another,
and yet almost imperceptible, from the gradations that lead to it, and
blend it with the light. Correggio had prodigious strength, and greater
softness. Nature is strong and soft, beyond the reach of art to imitate.
Softness then does not imply the absence of considerable extremes, but
it is the interposing a third thing between them, to break the force of
the contrast. Guido is more soft than strong. Rembrandt is more strong
than soft.

10. And lastly. _That truth is, to a certain degree, beauty and
grandeur, since all things are connected, and all things modify one
another in nature. Simplicity is also grand and beautiful for the same
reason. Elegance is ease and lightness, with precision._

This last head appears to contain a number of _gratis dicta_, got
together for the sake of completing a decade of propositions. They have,
however, some show of truth, and we should add little clearness to them
by any reasoning upon the matter. So we will conclude here for the
present.



                             FONTHILL ABBEY


 _London Magazine._                                     _November 1822._

The old sarcasm—_Omne ignotum pro magnifico est_—cannot be justly
applied here. FONTHILL ABBEY, after being enveloped in impenetrable
mystery for a length of years, has been unexpectedly thrown open to
the vulgar gaze, and has lost none of its reputation for
magnificence—though, perhaps, its visionary glory, its classic renown,
have vanished from the public mind for ever. It is, in a word, a
desert of magnificence, a glittering waste of laborious idleness, a
cathedral turned into a toy-shop, an immense Museum of all that is
most curious and costly, and, at the same time, most worthless, in the
productions of art and nature. Ships of pearl and seas of amber are
scarce a fable here—a nautilus’s shell surmounted with a gilt triumph
of Neptune—tables of agate, cabinets of ebony and precious stones,
painted windows ‘shedding a gaudy, crimson light,’ satin borders,
marble floors, and lamps of solid gold—Chinese pagodas and Persian
tapestry—all the miniature splendour of Solomon’s Temple is displayed
to the view—whatever is far-fetched and dear-bought, rich in the
materials, or rare and difficult in the workmanship—but scarce one
genuine work of art, one solid proof of taste, one lofty relic of
sentiment or imagination!

The difficult, the unattainable, the exclusive, are to be found here in
profusion, in perfection; all else is wanting, or is brought in merely
as a foil or as a stop-gap. In this respect the collection is as
satisfactory as it is _unique_. The specimens exhibited are the best,
the most highly finished, the most costly and curious, of that kind of
ostentatious magnificence which is calculated to gratify the sense of
property in the owner, and to excite the wondering curiosity of the
stranger, who is permitted to see or (as a choice privilege and favour)
even to touch baubles so dazzling and of such exquisite nicety of
execution; and which, if broken or defaced, it would be next to
impossible to replace. The same character extends to the pictures, which
are mere furniture-pictures, remarkable chiefly for their antiquity or
painful finishing, without beauty, without interest, and with about the
same pretensions to attract the eye or delight the fancy as a
well-polished mahogany table or a waxed oak-floor. Not one great work by
one great name, scarce one or two of the worst specimens of the first
masters, Leonardo’s Laughing Boy, or a copy from Raphael or Correggio,
as if to make the thing remote and finical—but heaps of the most
elaborate pieces of the worst of the Dutch masters, Breughel’s
Sea-horses with coats of mother-of-pearl, and Rottenhammer’s Elements
turned into a Flower-piece. The Catalogue, in short, is guiltless of the
names of any of those works of art

             ‘Which like a trumpet make the spirits dance;’

and is sacred to those which rank no higher than veneering, and where
the painter is on a precise par with the carver and gilder. Such is not
our taste in art; and we confess we should have been a little
disappointed in viewing Fonthill, had not our expectations been
disabused beforehand. Oh! for a glimpse of the Escurial! where the piles
of Titians lie; where nymphs, fairer than lilies, repose in green, airy,
pastoral landscapes, and Cupids with curled locks pluck the wanton vine;
at whose beauty, whose splendour, whose truth and freshness, Mengs could
not contain his astonishment, nor Cumberland his raptures;

             ‘While groves of Eden, vanish’d now so long,
             Live in description, and look green in song;’

the very thought of which, in that monastic seclusion and low dell,
surrounded by craggy precipices, gives the mind a calenture, a longing
desire to plunge through wastes and wilds, to visit at the shrine of
such beauty, and be buried in the bosom of such verdant sweetness.—Get
thee behind us, temptation; or not all China and Japan will detain us,
and this article will be left unfinished, or found (as a volume of
Keats’s poems was carried out by Mr. Ritchie to be dropped in the Great
Desart) in the sorriest inn in the farthest part of Spain, or in the
marble baths of the Moorish Alhambra, or amidst the ruins of Tadmor, or
in barbaric palaces, where Bruce encountered Abyssinian queens! Any
thing to get all this frippery, and finery, and tinsel, and glitter, and
embossing, and system of tantalization, and fret-work of the imagination
out of our heads, and take one deep, long, oblivious draught of the
romantic and marvellous, the thirst of which the fame of Fonthill Abbey
has raised in us, but not satisfied!—

Mr. Beckford has undoubtedly shown himself an industrious _bijoutier_, a
prodigious virtuoso, an accomplished patron of unproductive labour, an
enthusiastic collector of expensive trifles—the only proof of taste (to
our thinking) he has shown in this collection is _his getting rid of
it_. What splendour, what grace, what grandeur might he substitute in
lieu of it! What a handwriting might he spread out upon the walls! What
a spirit of poetry and philosophy might breathe there! What a solemn
gloom, what gay vistas of fancy, like chequered light and shade, might
genius, guided by art, shed around! The author of Vathek is a scholar;
the proprietor of Fonthill has travelled abroad, and has seen all the
finest remains of antiquity and boasted specimens of modern art. Why not
lay his hands on some of these? He had power to carry them away. One
might have expected to see, at least, a few fine old pictures, marble
copies of the celebrated statues, the Apollo, the Venus, the Dying
Gladiator, the Antinous, antique vases with their elegant sculptures, or
casts from them, coins, medals, bas-reliefs, something connected with
the beautiful forms of external nature, or with what is great in the
mind or memorable in the history of man,—Egyptian hieroglyphics, or
Chaldee manuscripts, or paper made of the reeds of the Nile, or mummies
from the Pyramids! Not so; not a trace (or scarcely so) of any of
these;—as little as may be of what is classical or imposing to the
imagination from association or well-founded prejudice; hardly an
article of any consequence that does not seem to be labelled to the
following effect—‘_This is mine, and there is no one else in the whole
world in whom it can inspire the least interest, or any feeling beyond a
momentary surprise!_’ To show another _your_ property is an act in
itself ungracious, or null and void. It excites no pleasure from
sympathy. Every one must have remarked the difference in his feelings on
entering a venerable old cathedral, for instance, and a modern-built
private mansion. The one seems to fill the mind and expand the form,
while the other only produces a sense of listless vacuity, and disposes
us to shrink into our own littleness. Whence is this, but that in the
first case our associations of power, of interest, are general, and tend
to aggrandize the species; and that in the latter (_viz._ the case of
private property) they are exclusive, and tend to aggrandize none but
the individual? This must be the effect, unless there is something grand
or beautiful in the objects themselves that makes us forget the
distinction of mere property, as from the noble architecture or great
antiquity of a building; or unless they remind us of common and
universal nature, as pictures, statues do, like so many mirrors,
reflecting the external landscape, and carrying us out of the magic
circle of self-love. But all works of art come under the head of
property or showy furniture, which are neither distinguished by
sublimity nor beauty, and are estimated only by the labour required to
produce what is trifling or worthless, and are consequently nothing more
than obtrusive proofs of the wealth of the immediate possessor. The
motive for the production of such toys is mercenary, and the admiration
of them childish or servile. That which pleases merely from its novelty,
or because it was never seen before, cannot be expected to please twice:
that which is remarkable for the difficulty or costliness of the
execution can be interesting to no one but the maker or owner. A shell,
however rarely to be met with, however highly wrought or quaintly
embellished, can only flatter the sense of curiosity for a moment in a
number of persons, or the feeling of vanity for a greater length of time
in a single person. There are better things than this (we will be bold
to say) in the world both of nature and art—things of universal and
lasting interest, things that appeal to the imagination and the
affections. The village-bell that rings out its sad or merry tidings to
old men and maidens, to children and matrons, goes to the heart, because
it is a sound significant of weal or woe to all, and has borne no
uninteresting intelligence to you, to me, and to thousands more who have
heard it perhaps for centuries. There is a sentiment in it. The face of
a Madonna (if equal to the subject) has also a sentiment in it, ‘whose
price is above rubies.’ It is a shrine, a consecrated source of high and
pure feeling, a well-head of lovely expression, at which the soul drinks
and is refreshed, age after age. The mind converses with the mind, or
with that nature which, from long and daily intimacy, has become a sort
of second self to it: but what sentiment lies hid in a piece of
porcelain? What soul can you look for in a gilded cabinet or a marble
slab? Is it possible there can be any thing like a feeling of littleness
or jealousy in this proneness to a merely ornamental taste, that, from
not sympathising with the higher and more expansive emanations of
thought, shrinks from their display with conscious weakness and
inferiority? If it were an apprehension of an invidious comparison
between the proprietor and the author of any signal work of genius,
which the former did not covet, one would think he must be at least
equally mortified at sinking to a level in taste and pursuits with the
maker of a Dutch toy. Mr. Beckford, however, has always had the credit
of the highest taste in works of art as well as in _virtù_. As the
showman in Goldsmith’s comedy declares that ‘his bear dances to none but
the genteelest of tunes—_Water parted from the Sea_, or _The Minuet in
Ariadne_;’—so it was supposed that this celebrated collector’s money
went for none but the finest Claudes and the choicest specimens of some
rare Italian master. The two Claudes are gone. It is as well—they must
have felt a little out of their place here—they are kept in countenance,
where they are, by the very best company!

We once happened to have the pleasure of seeing Mr. Beckford in the
Great Gallery of the Louvre—he was very plainly dressed in a loose great
coat, and looked somewhat pale and thin—but what brought the
circumstance to our minds, was that we were told on this occasion one of
those thumping matter-of-fact lies, which are pretty common to other
Frenchmen besides Gascons—viz. _That he had offered the First Consul no
less a sum than two hundred thousand guineas for the purchase of the St.
Peter Martyr_. Would that he had! and that Napoleon had taken him at his
word!—which we think not unlikely. With two hundred thousand guineas he
might have taken some almost impregnable fortress. ‘Magdeburg,’ said
Buonaparte, ‘is worth a hundred queens:’ and he would have thought such
another stronghold worth at least one Saint. As it is, what an
opportunity have we lost of giving the public an account of this
picture! Yet why not describe it, as we see it still ‘in our mind’s
eye,’ standing on the floor of the Thuilleries, with none of its
brightness impaired, through the long perspective of waning years? There
it stands, and will for ever stand in our imagination, with the dark,
scowling, terrific face of the murdered monk looking up to his assassin,
the horror-struck features of the flying priest, and the skirts of his
vest waving in the wind, the shattered branches of the autumnal trees
that feel the coming gale, with that cold convent spire rising in the
distance amidst the sapphire hills and golden sky—and over-head are seen
the cherubim bringing the crown of martyrdom with rosy fingers; and
(such is the feeling of truth, the soul of faith in the picture) you
hear floating near, in dim harmonies, the pealing anthem, and the
heavenly choir! Surely, the St. Peter Martyr surpasses all Titian’s
other works, as he himself did all other painters. Had this picture been
transferred to the present collection (or any picture like it) what a
trail of glory would it have left behind it! for what a length of way
would it have haunted the imagination! how often should we have wished
to revisit it, and how fondly would the eye have turned back to the
stately tower of Fonthill Abbey, that from the western horizon gives the
setting sun to other climes, as the beacon and guide to the knowledge
and the love of high Art!

The Duke of Wellington, it is said, has declared Fonthill to be ‘the
finest thing in Europe.’ If so, it is since the dispersion of the
Louvre. It is also said, that the King is to visit it. We do not mean to
say it is not a fit place for the King to visit, or for the Duke to
praise: but we know this, that it is a very bad one for us to describe.
The father of Mr. Christie was supposed to be ‘equally great on a ribbon
or a Raphael.’ This is unfortunately not our case. We are not ‘great’ at
all, but least of all in little things. We have tried in various ways:
we can make nothing of it. Look here—this is the Catalogue. Now what can
we say (who are not auctioneers, but critics) to

  Six Japan heron-pattern embossed dishes; or,

  Twelve burnt-in dishes in compartments; or,

  Sixteen ditto, enamelled with insects and birds; or,

  Seven embossed soup-plates, with plants and rich borders; or,

  Nine chocolate cups and saucers of egg-shell China, blue lotus
    pattern; or,

  Two butter pots on feet, and a bason, cover, and stand, of Japan; or,

  Two basons and covers, sea-green mandarin; or,

  A very rare specimen of the basket-work Japan, ornamented with flowers
    in relief, of the finest kind, the inside gilt, from the Ragland
    Museum; or,

  Two fine enamelled dishes scalloped; or,

  Two _blue bottles_ and two red and gold cups—extra fine; or,

  A very curious egg-shell lantern; or,

  Two very rare Japan cups mounted as milk buckets, with silver rims,
    gilt and chased; or,

  Two matchless Japan dishes; or,

  A very singular tray, the ground _of a curious wood artificially
    waved_, with storks in various attitudes on the shore, mosaic
    border, and avanturine back; or,

  Two extremely rare bottles with chimæras and plants, mounted in silver
    gilt; or,

  Twenty-four fine OLD SÈVE dessert plates; or,

  Two precious enamelled bowl dishes, with silver handles;—

Or, to stick to the capital letters in this Paradise of Dainty Devices,
lest we should be suspected of singling out the meanest articles, we
will just transcribe a few of them, for the satisfaction of the curious
reader:—

  A RICH and HIGHLY ORNAMENTED CASKET of the very rare gold JAPAN,
    completely covered with figures.

  An ORIENTAL SCULPTURED TASSA OF LAPIS LAZULI, mounted in silver gilt,
    and set with lapis lazuli intaglios. From the Garde Meuble of the
    late King of France.

  A PERSIAN JAD VASE and COVER, inlaid with flowers and ornaments,
    composed of _oriental rubies, and emeralds on stems of fine gold_.

  A LARGE OVAL ENGRAVED ROCK CRYSTAL CUP, with the figure of a Syren,
    carved from the block, and embracing a part of the vessel with her
    wings, so as to form a handle; from the ROYAL COLLECTION OF FRANCE.

  An OVAL CUP and COVER OF ORIENTAL MAMILLATED AGATE, richly marked in
    arborescent mocoa, elaborately chased and engraved in a very
    superior manner. _An unique article._

Shall we go on with this fooling? We cannot. The reader must be tired of
such an uninteresting account of empty jars and caskets—it reads so like
Della Cruscan poetry. They are not even _Nugæ Canoræ_. The pictures are
much in the same _mimminèe-pimminèe_ taste. For instance, in the first
and second days’ sale we meet with the following:—

  A high-finished miniature drawing of a Holy Family, and a portrait:
    one of those with which the patents of the Venetian nobility were
    usually embellished.

  A small landscape, by Breughel.

  A small miniature painting after Titian, by Stella.

  A curious painting, by Peter Peters Breughel, the conflagration of
    Troy—a choice specimen of this scarce master.

  A picture by Franks, representing the temptation of St. Anthony.

  A picture by old Breughel, representing a fête—a singular specimen of
    his first manner.

  Lucas Cranach—The Madonna and Child—highly finished.

  A crucifixion, painted upon a gold ground, by Andrea Orcagna, a rare
    and early specimen of Italian art. From the Campo Santo di Pisa.

  A lady’s portrait, by Cosway.

  Netecher—a lady seated, playing on the harpsichord, &c.

Who cares any thing about such frippery, time out of mind the stale
ornaments of a pawnbroker’s shop; or about old Breughel, or Stella, or
Franks, or Lucas Cranach, or Netecher, or Cosway?—But at that last name
we pause, and must be excused if we consecrate to him a _petit souvenir_
in our best manner: for he was Fancy’s child. All other collectors are
fools to him: they go about with painful anxiety to find out the
realities:—he _said_ he had them—and in a moment made them of the breath
of his nostrils and the fumes of a lively imagination. His was the
crucifix that Abelard prayed to—the original manuscript of the Rape of
the Lock—the dagger with which Felton stabbed the Duke of Buckingham—the
first finished sketch of the Jocunda—Titian’s large colossal portrait of
Peter Aretine—a mummy of an Egyptian king—an alligator stuffed. Were the
articles authentic?—no matter—his faith in them was true. What a fairy
palace was his of specimens of art, antiquarianism, and _virtù_, jumbled
all together in the richest disorder, dusty, shadowy, obscure, with much
left to the imagination (how different from the finical, polished,
petty, perfect, modernised air of Fonthill!) and with copies of the old
masters, cracked and damaged, which he touched and retouched with his
own hand, and yet swore they were the genuine, the pure originals! He
was gifted with a _second-sight_ in such matters: he believed whatever
was incredible. Happy mortal! Fancy bore sway in him, and so vivid were
his impressions that they included the reality in them. The agreeable
and the true with him were one. He believed in Swedenborgianism—he
believed in animal magnetism—he had conversed with more than one person
of the Trinity—he could talk with his lady at Mantua through some fine
vehicle of sense, as we speak to a servant down stairs through an
ear-pipe.—Richard Cosway was not the man to flinch from an _ideal_
proposition. Once, at an Academy dinner, when some question was made,
whether the story of Lambert’s leap was true, he started up, and said it
was, for he was the man that performed it;—he once assured us, that the
knee-pan of King James I. at Whitehall was nine feet across (he had
measured it in concert with Mr. Cipriani); he could read in the book of
Revelations without spectacles, and foretold the return of Buonaparte
from Elba and from St. Helena. His wife, the most lady-like of
Englishwomen, being asked, in Paris, what sort of a man her husband was,
answered, _Toujours riant, toujours gai_. This was true. He must have
been of French extraction. His soul had the life of a bird; and such was
the jauntiness of his air and manner that, to see him sit to have his
half-boots laced on, you would fancy (with the help of a figure) that,
instead of a little withered elderly gentleman, it was Venus attired by
the Graces. His miniatures were not fashionable—they were fashion
itself. When more than ninety, he retired from his profession, and used
to hold up the palsied right hand that had painted lords and ladies for
upwards of sixty years, and smiled, with unabated good humour, at the
vanity of human wishes. Take him with all his faults or follies, ‘we
scarce shall look upon his like again!’

After speaking of him, we are ashamed to go back to Fonthill, lest one
drop of gall should fall from our pen. No, for the rest of our way, we
will dip it in the milk of human kindness, and deliver all with charity.
There are four or five very curious cabinets—a triple jewel cabinet of
opaque, with panels of transparent amber, dazzles the eye like a temple
of the New Jerusalem—the Nautilus’s shell, with the triumph of Neptune
and Amphitrite, is elegant, and the table on which it stands superb—the
cups, vases, and sculptures, by Cellini, Berg, and John of Bologna, are
as admirable as they are rare—the Berghem (a sea-port) is a fair
specimen of that master—the Poulterer’s Shop, by G. Douw, is
passable—there are some middling Bassans—the Sibylla Libyca, of L.
Caracci, is in the grand style of composition—there is a good copy of a
head by Parmegiano—the painted windows in the centre of the Abbey have a
surprising effect—the form of the building (which was raised by
torch-light) is fantastical, to say the least—and the grounds, which are
extensive and fine from situation, are laid out with the hand of a
master. A quantity of coot, teal, and wild fowl sport in a crystal
stream that winds along the park; and their dark brown coats, seen in
the green shadows of the water, have a most picturesque effect. Upon the
whole, if we were not much pleased by our excursion to Fonthill, we were
very little disappointed; and the place altogether is consistent and
characteristic.



                          JUDGING OF PICTURES


Painters assume that none can judge of pictures but themselves. Many do
this avowedly, some by implication, and all in practice. They exclaim
against any one writing about art who has not served his apprenticeship
to the craft, who is not versed in the detail of its mechanism. This has
often put me a little out of patience—but I will take patience, and say
why.

In the first place, with regard to the productions of living artists,
painters have no right to speak at all. The way in which they are
devoured and consumed by envy would be ludicrous if it were not
lamentable. It is folly to talk of the divisions and backbitings of
authors and poets while there are such people as painters in the world.
I never in the whole course of my life heard one speak in hearty praise
of another. Generally they blame downrightly—but at all events their
utmost applause is with a damning reservation. Authors—even poets, the
_genus irritabile_—do taste and acknowledge the beauties of the
productions of their competitors; but painters either cannot see them
through the green spectacles of envy, or seeing, they hate and deny them
the more. In conformity with this, painters are more greedy of praise
than any other order of men. ‘They gorge the little fame they get all
raw’—they are gluttonous of it in their own persons in the proportion in
which they would starve others.

I once knew a very remarkable instance of this. A friend of mine had
written a criticism of an exhibition. In this were mentioned in terms of
the highest praise the works of two brothers—sufficiently so, indeed, to
have satisfied, one would have thought, the most insatiate. I was going
down into the country to the place where these brothers lived, and I was
asked to be the bearer of the work in which the critique appeared. I was
so, and sent a copy to each of them. Some days afterwards I called on
one of them, who began to speak of the review of his pictures. He
expressed some thanks for what was said of them, but complained that the
writer of it had fallen into a very common error under which he had
often suffered—the confounding, namely, his pictures with his brother’s.
‘Now, my dear sir,’ continued he, ‘what is said of me is all very well,
but here,’ turning to the high-wrought panegyric on his brother, ‘this
is all in allusion to my style—this is all with reference to my
pictures—this is all meant for me.’ I could hardly help exclaiming
before the man’s face. The praise which was given to himself was such as
would have called a blush to any but a painter’s face to speak of; but,
not content with this, he insisted on appropriating his brother’s also:
How insatiate is the pictorial man!

But to come to the more general subject—I deny _in toto_ and at once the
exclusive right and power of painters to judge of pictures. What is a
picture meant for? To convey certain ideas to the mind of painters? that
is, of one man in ten thousand?—No, but to make them apparent to the eye
and mind of all. If a picture be admired by none but painters, I think
it is strong presumption that the picture is bad. A painter is no more a
judge, I suppose, than another man of how people feel and look under
certain passions and events. Every body sees as well as him whether
certain figures on the canvas are like such a man, or like a cow, a
tree, a bridge, or a windmill. All that the painter can do more than the
_lay_ spectator, is to tell _why_ and _how_ the merits and defects of a
picture are produced. I see that such a figure is ungraceful and out of
nature—he shows me that the drawing is faulty, or the foreshortening
incorrect. He then points out to me whence the blemish arises; but he is
not a bit more aware of the existence of the blemish than I am. In
Hogarth’s ‘Frontispiece’ I see that the whole business is absurd, for a
man on a hill two miles off could not light his pipe at a candle held
out of a window close to me—he tells me that it is from a want of
perspective, that is, of certain rules by which certain effects are
obtained. He shows me _why_ the picture is bad, but I am just as well
capable of saying ‘The picture is bad’ as he is. To take a coarse
illustration, but one most exactly apposite, I can tell whether a made
dish be good or bad,—whether its taste be pleasant or disagreeable.—It
is dressed for the palate of uninitiated people, and not alone for the
disciples of Dr. Kitchener and Mr. Ude. But it needs a cook to tell one
_why_ it is bad; that there is a grain too much of this, or a drop too
much of t’other—that it has been boiled rather too much, or stewed
rather too little—these things, the wherefores, as ‘Squire Western would
say, I require an artist to tell me,—but the point in debate—the worth
or the bad quality of the painting or potage, I am as well able to
decide upon as any he who ever brandished a pallet or a pan, a brush or
a skimming-ladle.

To go into the higher branches of the art—the poetry of painting—I deny
still more peremptorily the exclusiveness of the initiated. It might be
as well said, that none but those who could write a play have any right
to sit on the third row in the pit, on the first night of a new tragedy.
Nay, there is more plausibility in the one than the other. No man can
judge of poetry without possessing in some measure a poetical mind. It
need not be of that degree necessary to create, but it must be equal to
taste and to analyze. Now in painting there is a directly mechanical
power required to render those imaginations, to the judging of which the
mind may be perfectly competent. I may know what is a just or a
beautiful representation of love, anger, madness, despair, without being
able to draw a straight line—and I do not see how that faculty adds to
the capability of so judging. A very great proportion of painting is
mechanical. The higher kinds of painting need first a poet’s mind to
conceive:—Very well, but then they need a draughtsman’s hand to execute.
Now he who possesses the mind alone is fully able to judge of what is
produced, even though he is by no means endowed with the mechanical
power of producing it himself. I am far from saying that _any_ one is
capable of duly judging pictures of the higher class. It requires a mind
capable of estimating the noble, or touching, or terrible, or sublime
subjects which they present—but there is no sort of necessity that we
should be able to put them upon the canvas ourselves.

There is one point, even, on which painters usually judge worse of
pictures than the general spectator; I say usually, for there are _some_
painters who are too thoroughly intellectual to run into the error of
which I am about to speak. I mean that they are apt to overlook the
higher and more mental parts of a picture, in their haste to criticise
its mechanical properties. They forget the _expression_, in being too
mindful of what is more strictly manual. They talk of such a colour
being skilfully or unskillfully put in opposition to another, rather
than of the moral contrast of the countenances of a group. They say that
the flesh-tints are well brought out, before they speak of the face
which the flesh forms. To use a French term of much condensation, they
think of the _physique_ before they bestow any attention on the
_morale_.

I am the farthest in the world from falling into the absurdity of
upholding that painters should neglect the mechanical parts of their
profession; for without a mastery in them it would be impossible to body
forth any imaginations, however strong or beautiful. I only wish that
they should not overlook the end to which these are the means—and give
them an undue preference over that end itself. Still more I object to
their arrogating to the possessors of these qualities of hand and eye
all power of judging that which is conveyed through the physical vision
into the inward soul.

On looking over what I have written, I find that I have used some
expressions with regard to painters as a body which may make it appear
that I hold them in light esteem; whereas no one can admire their art,
or appreciate their pursuit of it, more highly than I do. Of what I have
said, however, with regard to their paltry denial of each other’s
merits, I cannot bate them an ace. I appeal to all those who are in the
habit of associating with painters to say whether my assertion be not
correct. And why should they do this?—surely the field is wide enough.
Haydon and Wilkie can travel to fame together without ever jostling each
other by the way. Surely there are parallel roads which may be followed,
each leading to the same point—but neither crossing or trenching upon
one another.

The Art of Painting is one equally delightful to the eye and to the
mind. It has very nearly the reality of dramatic exhibition, and has
permanence, which that is wholly without. We may gaze at a picture, and
pause to think, and turn and gaze again. The art is inferior to poetry
in magnitude of extent and succession of detail—but its power over any
one point is far superior: it seizes it, and figures it forth in
corporeal existence if not in bodily life. It gives to the eye the
physical semblance of those figures which have floated in vagueness in
the mind. It condenses indistinct and gauzy visions into palpable
forms—as, in the story, the morning mist gathered into the embodying a
spirit. But shall it be said that the enchanter alone can judge of the
enchantment—that none shall have an eye to see, and a heart to feel,
unless he have also a hand to execute? Alas, our inherent perceptions
give the lie to this. As I used to go to the Louvre, day after day, to
glut myself and revel in the congregated genius of pictorial ages, would
any one convince me that it was necessary to be able to paint that I
might duly appreciate a picture?



                              THE VATICAN


_L._ The Vatican did not quite answer your expectation?

_H._ To say the truth, it was not such a blow as the Louvre; but then it
came after it, and what is more, at the distance of twenty years. To
have made the same impression, it should have been twenty times as fine;
though that was scarcely possible, since all that there is fine in the
Vatican, in Italy, or in the world, was in the Louvre when I first saw
it, except the frescoes of Raphael and Michael Angelo, which could not
be transported, without taking the walls of the building, across the
Alps.

_L._ And what, may I ask (for I am curious to hear,) did you think of
these same frescoes?

_H._ Much the same as before I saw them. As far as I could judge, they
are very like the prints. I do not think the spectator’s idea of them is
enhanced beyond this. The Raphaels, of which you have a distinct and
admirable view, are somewhat faded—I do not mean in colour, but the
outline is injured—and the Sibyls and Prophets in the Sistine Chapel are
painted on the ceiling at too great a height for the eye to distinguish
the faces as accurately as one would wish. The features and expressions
of the figures near the bottom of the ‘Last Judgment’ are sufficiently
plain, and horrible enough they are.

_L._ What was your opinion of the ‘Last Judgment’ itself?

_H._ It is literally too big to be seen. It is like an immense field of
battle, or charnel-house, strewed with carcases and naked bodies: or it
is a shambles of Art. You have huge limbs apparently torn from their
bodies and stuck against the wall: anatomical dissections, backs and
diaphragms, tumbling ‘with hideous ruin and combustion down,’ neither
intelligible groups, nor perspective, nor colour; you distinguish the
principal figure, that of Christ, only from its standing in the centre
of the picture, on a sort of island of earth, separated from the rest of
the subject by an inlet of sky. The whole is a scene of enormous,
ghastly confusion, in which you can only make out quantity and number,
and vast, uncouth masses of bones and muscles. It has the incoherence
and distortion of a troubled dream, without the shadowiness; everything
is here corporeal and of solid dimensions.

_L._ But surely there must be something fine in the Sibyls and Prophets,
from the copies we have of them; justifying the high encomiums of Sir
Joshua Reynolds, and of so many others.

_H._ It appears to me that nothing can be finer as to form, attitude,
and outline. The whole conception is so far inimitably noble and just;
and all that is felt as wanting, is a proportionable degree of
expression in the countenances, though of this I am not sure, for the
height (as I said before) baffles a nice scrutiny. They look to me
unfinished, vague, and general. Like some fabulous figure from the
antique, the heads were brutal, the bodies divine. Or at most, the faces
were only continuations of and on a par with the physical form, large
and bold, and with great breadth of drawing, but no more the seat of a
vivifying spirit, or with a more powerful and marked intelligence
emanating from them, than from the rest of the limbs, the hands, or even
drapery. The filling up of the mind is, I suspect, wanting, the _divinæ
particula auræ_: there is prodigious and mighty prominence and grandeur
and simplicity in the features, but they are not surcharged with
meaning, with thought or passion, like Raphael’s, ‘the rapt soul sitting
in the eyes.’ On the contrary, they seem only to be half-informed, and
might be almost thought asleep. They are fine moulds, and contain a
capacity of expression, but are not bursting, teeming with it. The
outward material shrine, or tabernacle, is unexceptionable; but there is
not superadded to it a revelation of the workings of the mind within.
The forms in Michael Angelo are objects to admire in themselves: those
of Raphael are merely a language pointing to something beyond, and full
of this ultimate import.

_L._ But does not the difference arise from the nature of the subjects?

_H._ I should think, not. Surely, a Sibyl in the height of her phrensy,
or an inspired Prophet—‘seer blest’—in the act of receiving or of
announcing the will of the Almighty, is not a less fit subject for the
most exalted and impassioned expression than an Apostle, a Pope, a
Saint, or a common man. If you say that these persons are not
represented in the act of inspired communication, but in their ordinary
quiescent state,—granted; but such preternatural workings, as well as
the character and frame of mind proper for them, must leave their
shadowings and lofty traces behind them. The face that has once held
communion with the Most High, or been wrought to madness by deep thought
and passion, or that inly broods over its sacred or its magic lore, must
be ‘as a book where one may read strange matters,’ that cannot be opened
without a correspondent awe and reverence. But here is ‘neither the
cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night:’ neither the blaze of
immediate inspiration nor the hallowed radiance, the mystic gloomy light
that follows it, so far as I was able to perceive. I think it idle to
say that Michael Angelo painted man in the abstract, and so left the
expression indeterminate, when he painted prophets and other given
characters in particular. He has painted them on a larger scale, and
cast their limbs in a gigantic mould to give a dignity and command
answering to their situations and high calling, but I do not see the
same high character and intensity of thought or purpose impressed upon
their countenances. Thus, nothing can be nobler or more characteristic
than the figure of the prophet Jeremiah. It is not abstracted, but
symbolical of the history and functions of the individual. The whole
figure bends and droops under a weight of woe, like a large willow tree
surcharged with showers. Yet there is no peculiar expression of grief in
one part more than another; the head hangs down despondingly indeed, but
so do the hands, the clothes, and every part seems to labour under and
be involved in a complication of distress. Again, the prophet Ezra is
represented reading in a striking attitude of attention, and with the
book held close to him as if to lose no part of its contents in empty
space:—all this is finely imagined and designed, but then the book
reflects back none of its pregnant, hieroglyphic meaning on the face,
which, though large and stately, is an ordinary, unimpassioned, and even
_unideal_ one. Daniel, again, is meant for a face of inward thought and
musing, but it might seem as if the compression of the features were
produced by external force as much as by involuntary perplexity. I might
extend these remarks to this artist’s other works; for instance, to the
Moses, of which the form and attitude express the utmost dignity and
energy of purpose, but the face wants a something of the intelligence
and expansive views of the Hebrew legislator. It is cut from the same
block, and by the same bold sweeping hand, as the sandals or the
drapery.

_L._ Do you think there is any truth or value in the distinction which
assigns to Raphael the dramatic, and to Michael Angelo the epic
department of the art?

_H._ Very little, I confess. It is so far true, that Michael Angelo
painted single figures, and Raphael chiefly groups; but Michael Angelo
gave life and action to his figures, though not the same expression to
the face. I think this arose from two circumstances. First, from his
habits as a sculptor, in which form predominates, and in which the fixed
lineaments are more attended to than the passing inflections, which are
neither so easily caught nor so well given in sculpture as in painting.
Secondly, it strikes me that Michael Angelo, who was a strong,
iron-built man, sympathised more with the organic structure, with bones
and muscles, than with the more subtle and sensitive workings of that
fine medullary substance called the brain. He compounded man admirably
of brass or clay, but did not succeed equally in breathing into his
nostrils the breath of life, of thought or feeling. He has less humanity
than Raphael, and I think that he is also less divine, unless it be
asserted that the body is less allied to earth than the mind. Expression
is, after all, the principal thing. If Michael Angelo’s forms have, as I
allow, an intellectual character about them and a greatness of gusto, so
that you would almost say ‘his bodies thought;’ his faces, on the other
hand, have a drossy and material one. For example, in the figure of Adam
coming from the hand of his Creator, the composition, which goes on the
idea of a being starting into life at the touch of Omnipotence, is
sublime:—the figure of Adam, reclined at ease with manly freedom and
independence, is worthy of the original founder of our race; and the
expression of the face, implying passive resignation and the first
consciousness of existence, is in thorough keeping—but I see nothing in
the countenance of the Deity denoting supreme might and majesty. The
Eve, too, lying extended at the foot of the Forbidden Tree, has an
elasticity and buoyancy about it, that seems as if it could bound up
from the earth of its own accord, like a bow that has been bent. It is
all life and grace. The action of the head thrown back, and the upward
look, correspond to the rest. The artist was here at home. In like
manner, in the allegorical figures of Night and Morn at Florence, the
faces are ugly or distorted, but the contour and actions of the limbs
express dignity and power, in the very highest degree. The legs of the
figure of Night, in particular, are twisted into the involutions of a
serpent’s folds; the neck is curved like the horse’s, and is clothed
with thunder.

_L._ What, then, is the precise difference between him and Raphael,
according to your conception?

_H._ As far as I can explain the matter, it seems to me that Michael
Angelo’s forms are finer, but that Raphael’s are more fraught with
meaning; that the rigid outline and disposable masses in the first are
more grand and imposing, but that Raphael puts a greater proportion of
sentiment into his, and calls into play every faculty of mind and body
of which his characters are susceptible, with greater subtilty and
intensity of feeling. Dryden’s lines—

                ‘A fiery soul that working out its way
                Fretted the pigmy body to decay,
                And o’er-inform’d the tenement of clay’—

do not exactly answer to Raphael’s character, which is mild and
thoughtful rather than fiery; nor is there any want either of grace or
grandeur in his figures; but the passage describes the ‘o’er-informing’
spirit that breathes through them, and the unequal struggle of the
expression to vent itself by more than ordinary physical means. Raphael
lived a much shorter time than Michael Angelo, who also lived long after
him; and there is no comparison between the number, the variety, or the
finished elegance of their works.[53] Michael Angelo possibly lost
himself in the material and instrumental part of art, in embodying a
technical theory, or in acquiring the grammar of different branches of
study, excelling in knowledge and in gravity of pretension; whereas
Raphael gave himself up to the diviner or lovelier impulse that breathes
its soul over the face of things, being governed by a sense of reality
and of general truth. There is nothing exclusive or repulsive in
Raphael; he is open to all impressions alike, and seems to identify
himself with whatever he saw that arrested his attention or could
interest others. Michael Angelo studied for himself, and raised objects
to the standards of his conception, by a _formula_ or system: Raphael
invented for others, and was guided only by sympathy with them. Michael
Angelo was painter, sculptor, architect; but he might be said to make of
each art a shrine in which to build up the stately and gigantic stature
of his own mind:—Raphael was only a painter, but in that one art he
seemed to pour out all the treasures and various excellence of nature,
grandeur and scope of design, exquisite finishing, force, grace,
delicacy, the strength of man, the softness of woman, the playfulness of
infancy, thought, feeling, invention, imitation, labour, ease, and every
quality that can distinguish a picture, except colour. Michael Angelo,
in a word, stamped his own character on his works, or recast Nature in a
mould of his own, leaving out much that was excellent: Raphael received
his inspiration from without, and his genius caught the lambent flame of
grace, of truth, and grandeur, which are reflected in his works with a
light clear, transparent and unfading.

_L._ Will you mention one or two things that particularly struck you?

_H._ There is a figure of a man leading a horse in the Attila, which I
think peculiarly characteristic. It is an ordinary face and figure, in a
somewhat awkward dress: but he seems as if he had literally walked into
the picture at that instant; he is looking forward with a mixture of
earnestness and curiosity, as if the scene were passing before him, and
every part of his figure and dress is flexible and in motion, pliant to
the painter’s plastic touch. This figure, so unconstrained and free,
animated, salient, put me in mind, compared with the usual stiffness and
shackles of the art, of chain-armour used by the knights of old instead
of coat-of-mail. Raphael’s fresco figures seem the least of all others
taken from plaster-casts; this is more than can be said of Michael
Angelo’s, which might be taken from, or would serve for very noble ones.
The horses in the same picture also delight me. Though dumb, they appear
as though they could speak, and were privy to the import of the scene.
Their inflated nostrils and speckled skins are like a kind of proud
flesh; or they are animals spiritualised. In the Miracle of Bolsano is
that group of children, round-faced, smiling, with large-orbed eyes,
like infancy nestling in the arms of affection; the studied elegance of
the choir of tender novices, with all their sense of the godliness of
their function and the beauty of holiness; and the hard, liny,
individual portraits of priests and cardinals on the right-hand, which
have the same life, spirit, boldness, and marked character, as if you
could have looked in upon the assembled conclave. Neither painting nor
popery ever produced anything finer. There is the utmost hardness and
materiality of outline, with a spirit of fire. The School of Athens is
full of striking parts and ingenious contrasts; but I prefer to it the
Convocation of Saints, with that noble circle of Prophets and Apostles
in the sky, on whose bent foreheads and downcast eyes you see written
the City of the Blest, the beatific presence of the Most High and the
Glory hereafter to be revealed, a solemn brightness and a fearful dream,
and that scarce less inspired circle of sages canonised here on earth,
poets, heroes, and philosophers, with the painter himself, entering on
one side like the recording angel, smiling in youthful beauty, and
scarce conscious of the scene he has embodied. If there is a failure in
any of these frescoes, it is, I think, in the Parnassus, in which there
is something quaint and affected. In the St. Peter delivered from
prison, he has burst with Rembrandt into the dark chambers of night, and
thrown a glory round them. In the story of Cupid and Psyche, at the
Little Farnese, he has, I think, even surpassed himself in a certain
swelling and voluptuous grace, as if beauty grew and ripened under his
touch, and the very genius of ancient fable hovered over his enamoured
pencil.

_L._ I believe you when you praise, not always when you condemn. Was
there anything else that you saw to give you a higher idea of him than
the specimens we have in this country?

_H._ Nothing superior to the Cartoons for boldness of design and
execution; but I think his best oil pictures are abroad, though I had
seen most of them before in the Louvre. I had not, however, seen the
Crowning of the Virgin, which is in the Picture-gallery of the Vatican,
and appears to me one of his very highest-wrought pictures. The Virgin
in the clouds is of an admirable sedateness and dignity, and over the
throng of breathing faces below there is poured a stream of joy and
fervid devotion that can be compared to nothing but the golden light
that evening skies pour on the edges of the surging waves. ‘Hope
elevates, and joy brightens their every feature.’ The Foligno Virgin was
at Paris, in which I cannot say I am quite satisfied with the Madonna;
it has rather a _précieuse_ expression; but I know not enough how to
admire the innumerable heads of cherubs surrounding her, touched in with
such care and delicacy, yet so as scarcely to be perceptible except on
close inspection, nor that figure of the winged cherub below, offering
the casket, and with his round, chubby face and limbs as full of rosy
health and joy, as the cup is full of the juice of the purple vine.
There is another picture of his I will mention, the Leo X. in the Palace
Pitti, ‘on his front engraven thought and public care; ‘and again, that
little portrait in a cup in the Louvre, muffled in thought and buried in
a kind of mental _chiaro scuro_. When I think of these and so many other
of his inimitable works, ‘scattered like stray-gifts o’er the earth,’
meeting our thoughts half-way, and yet carrying them farther than we
should have been able of ourselves, enriching, refining, exalting all
around, I am at a loss to find motives for equal admiration or gratitude
in what Michael Angelo has left, though his Prophets and Sibyls on the
walls of the Sistine Chapel are _thumping make-weights_ thrown into the
opposite scale. It is nearly impossible to weigh or measure their
different merits. Perhaps Michael Angelo’s works, in their vastness and
unity, may give a greater blow to some imaginations and lift the mind
more out of itself, though accompanied with less delight or food for
reflection, resembling the rocky precipice, whose ‘stately height though
bare’ overlooks the various excellence and beauty of subjected art.

_L._ I do not think your premises warrant your conclusion. If what you
have said of each is true, I should give the undoubted preference to
Raphael as at least the greater painter, if not the greater man. I must
prefer the finest face to the largest mask.

_H._ I wish you could see and judge for yourself.

_L._ I prythee do not mock me. Proceed with your account. Was there
nothing else worth mentioning after Raphael and Michael Angelo?

_H._ So much, that it has slipped from my memory. There are the finest
statues in the world there, and they are scattered and put into niches
or separate little rooms for effect, and not congregated together like a
meeting of the marble gods of mythology, as was the case in the Louvre.
There are some of Canova’s, worked up to a high pitch of perfection,
which might just as well have been left alone—and there are none, I
think, equal to the Elgin marbles. A bath of one of the Antonines, of
solid porphyry and as large as a good-sized room, struck me as the
strongest proof of ancient magnificence. The busts are innumerable,
inimitable, have a breathing clearness and transparency, revive ancient
history, and are very like actual English heads and characters. The
inscriptions alone on fragments of antique marble would furnish years of
study to the curious or learned in that way. The vases are most
elegant—of proportions and materials unrivalled in taste and in value.
There are some tapestry copies of the Cartoons, very glaring and
unpleasant to look at. The room containing the coloured maps of Italy,
done about three hundred years ago, is one of the longest and most
striking; and the passing through it with the green hillocks, rivers,
and mountains on its spotty sides, is like going a delightful and
various journey. You recall or anticipate the most interesting scenes
and objects. Out of the windows of these long straggling galleries, you
look down into a labyrinth of inner and of outer courts, or catch the
Dome of St Peter’s adjoining (like a huge shadow), or gaze at the
distant amphitheatre of hills surrounding the Sacred City, which excite
a pleasing awe, whether considered as the haunts of banditti or from a
recollection of the wondrous scene, the hallowed spot, on which they
have overlooked for ages, Imperial or Papal Rome, or her commonwealth,
more august than either. Here also in one chamber of the Vatican is a
room stuffed full of artists, copying the Transfiguration, or the St.
Jerome of Domenichino, spitting, shrugging, and taking snuff, admiring
their own performances and sneering at those of their neighbours; and on
certain days of the week the whole range of the rooms is thrown open
without reserve to the entire population of Rome and its environs,
priests and peasants, with heads not unlike those that gleam from the
walls, perfect in expression and in costume, and young peasant girls in
clouted shoes with looks of pleasure, timidity and wonder, such as those
with which Raphael himself, from the portraits of him, might be supposed
to have hailed the dawn of heaven-born art. There is also (to mention
small works with great) a portrait of George the Fourth in his robes (a
present to his Holiness) turned into an outer room; and a tablet erected
by him in St. Peter’s, to the memory of James III. Would you believe it?
Cosmo Comyne Bradwardine, when he saw the averted looks of the good
people of England as they proclaimed his Majesty James III. in any of
the towns through which they passed, would not have believed it. Fergus
Maclvor, when in answer to the crier of the court, who repeated ‘Long
live King George!’ he retorted, ‘Long live King James!’ would not have
believed it possible!

_L._ Hang your politics.

_H._ Never mind, if they do not hang me.



                        ENGLISH STUDENTS AT ROME

     ‘No wher so besy a man as he ther n’as,
     And yet he semed besier than he was.’
                               _Prologue to the Canterbury Tales._


Rome is of all places the worst to study in, for the same reason that it
is the best to lounge in. There is no end of objects to divert and
distract the mind. If a person has no other view than to pass away his
time, to fill his portfolio or common-place book, or to improve his
general taste and knowledge, he may find employment and amusement here
for ever: if ever he wishes to do any thing, he should fly from it as he
would from the plague. There is a species of _malaria_ hanging over it,
which infects both the mind and the body. It has been the seat of too
much activity and luxury formerly, not to have produced a correspondent
torpor and stagnation (both in the physical and moral world) as the
natural consequence at present. If Necessity is the mother of Invention
it must be stifled in the birth here, where every thing is already done
and provided to your hand that you could possibly wish for or think of.
You have no stimulus to exertion, for you have but to open your eyes and
see, in order to live in a continued round of delight and admiration.
The doors of a splendid banquet of all that is rare and rich in art
stand ready open to you, you are invited to enter in and feast your
senses and your imagination _gratis_; and it is not likely that, under
these circumstances, you will try to earn a scanty meal by hard labour,
or even to gain an appetite by wholesome exercise. The same thing occurs
here that is objected to the inhabitants of great cities in general.
They have too many objects always passing before them, that engage their
attention and fill up their time, to allow them either much leisure or
inclination for thought or study. Rome is the great metropolis of Art;
and it is somewhat to be feared that those who take up their abode there
will become, like other _cockneys_, ignorant, conceited, and
superficial.

The queen and mistress of the ancient and the modern world claims such a
transcendent superiority over the mind, that you look down as it were
from this eminence on the rest of mankind; and from the contempt you
feel for others, come to have a mighty good opinion of yourself. The
_being_ at Rome (both from the sound of the name and the monuments of
genius and magnificence she has to show) is of itself a sufficient
distinction without _doing_ anything there. After viewing some splendid
relic of antiquity, the efforts of contemporary art sink into
insignificance and nothingness: but we are disposed to occupy the vacant
space, the clear ground thus created, with our own puny pretensions and
aspiring fancies. As this indulgence of alternate enthusiasm and
reflected self-complacency is a never-failing source of gratification,
and a much less laborious one than the embodying our vain imaginations
in practice, we easily rest in the means as the end; and without making
any farther progress, are perfectly satisfied with what others have
done, and what we _are_ to do. We indeed wear the livery, and follow in
the train of greatness; and, like other livery-servants, despise the
rabble, growing more lazy, affected, luxurious, insolent, trifling, and
incapable of gaining an honest livelihood every hour. We are the dupes
of flattering appearances and of false comparisons between ourselves and
others. We think that a familiarity with great names and great works is
an approach to an equality with them; or fondly proceed to establish our
own pretensions on the ruins of others, not considering that if it were
not what we _do_, but what we _see_, that is the standard of
proficiency, thousands of spectators might give themselves the same airs
of self-importance on the same idle score, and treat us as barbarians
and poor creatures, if they had our impertinence and presumption. We
stand before a picture of some great master, and fancy there is nothing
between him and us: we walk under the Dome of St. Peter’s, and it seems
to grow larger with a consciousness of our presence and with the
amplitude of our conceptions. All this is fine as well as easy work; nor
can it be supposed that we shall be in any haste to exchange this waking
dream for the drudgery of mechanical exertion, or for the mortifying
evidence of the disparity between our theory and our practice. All the
great names and schools of art stand proxy for us, till we choose to
take the responsibility on our own shoulders; and as it happens in other
cases, we have no objection to make our faith in the merits of others a
convenient substitute for good works and zealous exertions in the cause.
Yet a common stone-mason or sign-painter, who understands the use of his
tools and sticks close to his business, has more resemblance to Raphael
or Michael Angelo, and stands a better chance of achieving something
great, than those who visit the Corridors of the Vatican or St. Peter’s
once a day, return home, spend the evening in extolling what they have
witnessed, begin a sketch or a plan and lay it aside, and saunter out
again the next day in search of fresh objects to dissipate _ennui_ and
kill the time without being obliged to draw for one instant on their own
resources or resolution.

Numberless are the instances of those who go on thus, while vanity and
indolence together are confirmed into an incurable disease, the sleek,
pampered tone of which they mistake for the marks of taste and genius.
What other result can be expected? If they do any thing, it is all over
with them. They not only strip off the mask from their own self-love,
but expose themselves to the pity and derision of their competitors,
whom they before affected to despise. Within ‘the vast, the unbounded’
circle of pretension, of vapouring, and inuendo, they are safe: the
future _would-be_ Raphaels, Correggios, &c. have nothing to dread from
criticism while they hatch their embryo conquests and prepare a distant
triumph: no one can apply Ithuriel’s spear to detect what is confessedly
a shadow. But they must waive this privilege when they descend into the
common lists; and in proportion as they have committed themselves in
conversation or in idle fancy, they are ashamed to commit themselves in
reality, because any thing they could do at first must unavoidably fall
short of that high standard of excellence, which (if at all) can only be
attained by the labour and experience of a whole life. Their real
incapacity shrinks from the pomp of their professions. The magnificence
of the air-drawn edifice of their reputation prevents them from laying
the first stone in downright earnest; and they have no other mode of
excusing the delay, and the indecision it betokens, than by assuming
still greater delicacy of taste and loftiness of ambition, and by thus
aggrandising their unfounded schemes, rendering their execution more
hopeless and impossible. Should they begin something, a new thought
strikes them, and they throw aside a very promising sketch to enlarge
their canvass and proceed upon a scale more worthy of them: to this
enlarged design some object is indispensably necessary, which is
unluckily wanting:—thus time is gained, a new lease of credit is
granted, and instead of putting the last hand to the original sketch,
they take merit to themselves for the enlargement of their views and the
determined pursuit of the higher walk of art. Meantime, the smaller
picture stands unfinished on the easel, and nominal commissions pour in
for new and more extended projects. Then comes a new secret of
colouring, a new principle of grouping, a new theory, a new book—always
something to draw off the attention from its proper object, and to
substitute laborious idleness for true pains and profitable study. Then
a picture is to be copied as a preparation for undertaking a given
subject, or a library to be ransacked to ascertain the precise truth of
the historical facts or the exact conception of the characters; and
after a year thus lost in desultory and scrupulous researches, the whole
plan is given up, either because no one comes forward effectually to
patronise it, or because some more tempting prospect is opened into the
realms of art and high renown. Then again friends are to be consulted;
some admire one thing, some another; some recommend the study of nature,
others are all for the antique; some insist on the utmost finishing,
others explode all attention to _minutiæ_; artists find one fault, the
uninstructed spectator another; and in going backwards and forwards from
one to another, listening to new reasons and new objections, in
reconciling all parties and pleasing none, life is passed in endless
doubts and difficulties, and we discover that our most valuable years
have fled in busy preparations to do—nothing. It is then too late, and
we consume the remainder in vain regrets and querulous repinings, as we
did the flower and marrow of our time in fanciful speculation and
egregious trifling. The student should of all things steer clear of the
character of the dilettanti—it is the rock on which he is most likely to
split. Pleasure, or extravagance, or positive idleness, are less
dangerous; for these he knows to be fatal to his success, and he
indulges in them with his eyes open. But in the other case, he is thrown
off his guard by the most plausible appearances. Vanity here puts on the
garb of humility, indecision of long-sighted perseverance, and habitual
sloth of constant industry. Few will reproach us, while we are
accumulating the means of ultimate success, with neglecting the end; or
remind us that though art is long, life is short. It is true, that art
is a long and steep ascent, but we must learn to scale it by regular,
practical stages, and not by a hasty wish or still more futile
calculations and measurements of the height. We can only indeed be
sensible of its real height by the actual progress we have made, and by
the glorious views that gradually dawn upon us, the cheerers of our way,
and the harbingers of our success. It is only by attempting something
that we feel where our strength lies, and if we have what travellers
call a _forte journée_ to perform, it is the more indispensable that we
should set out betimes and not loiter on the road. What is well done is
the consequence of doing much—perfection is the reward of numberless
attempts and failures. The chief requisites are a practised hand and
eye, and an active imagination. Indolent taste and passive acquirements
are not enough. They will neither supply our wants while living, nor
enable us to leave a name behind us after we are dead. Farther, the
brooding over excellence with a feverish importunity, and stimulating
ourselves to great things by an abstract love of fame, can do little
good, and may do much harm. It is, no doubt, a very delightful and
enviable state of mind to be in, but neither a very arduous nor a very
profitable one. Nothing remarkable was ever done, except by following up
the impulse of our own minds, by grappling with difficulties and
improving our advantages, not by dreaming over our own premature
triumphs or doating on the achievements of others.

If it were nothing else, the having the works of the great masters of
former times always before us is enough to discourage and defeat all
ordinary attempts. How many elegant designs and meritorious conceptions
must lie buried under the high arched porticoes of the Vatican! The
walls of the Sistine Chapel must fall upon the head of inferior
pretensions and crush them. What minor pencil can stand in competition
with the ‘petrific mace’ that painted the Last Judgment? What fancy can
expand into blooming grace and beauty by the side of the Heliodorus?
What is it _we_ could add, or what occasion, what need, what pretence is
there to add anything to the art after this? Who in the presence of such
glorious works does not wish to shrink into himself, or to live only for
them? Is it not a profanation to think he can hope to do any thing like
them? And who, having once seen, can think with common patience or with
zealous enthusiasm of doing aught but treading in their footsteps? If
the artist has a genius and turn of mind at all similar, they baulk and
damp him by their imposing stately height: if his talent lies in a
different and humbler walk, they divert and unsettle his mind. If he is
contented to look on and admire, a vague and unattainable idea of
excellence floats before his imagination, and tantalises him with
equally vain hopes and wishes. If he copies, he becomes a mechanic; and
besides, runs another risk. He finds he can with ease produce in three
days an incomparably finer effect than he could do with all his efforts,
and after any length of time, in working without assistance. He is
therefore disheartened and put out of countenance, and returns with
reluctance to original composition: for where is the sense of taking ten
times the pains and undergoing ten times the anxiety to produce not one
hundredth part of the effect? When I was young, I made one or two
studies of strong contrasts of light and shade in the manner of
Rembrandt with great care and (as it was thought) with some success. But
after I had once copied some of Titian’s portraits in the Louvre, my
ambition took a higher flight. Nothing would serve my turn but heads
like Titian—Titian expressions, Titian complexions, Titian dresses; and
as I could not find these where I was, after one or two abortive
attempts to engraft Italian art on English nature, I flung away my
pencil in disgust and despair. Otherwise I might have done as well as
others, I dare say, but from a desire to do too well. I did not consider
that Nature is always the great thing, or that ‘Pan is a god, Apollo is
no more!’—Nor is the student repelled and staggered in his progress only
by the degree of excellence, but distracted and puzzled by the variety
of incompatible claims upon his ingenuous and sincere enthusiasm. While
any one attends to what circumstances bring in his way, or keeps in the
path that is prompted by his own genius (such as it may be), he stands a
fair chance, by directing all his efforts to one point, to compass the
utmost object of his ambition. But what likelihood is there of this from
the moment that all the great schools, and all the most precious
_chef-d’œuvres_ of art, at once unveil their diversified attractions to
his astonished sight? What Protestant, for instance, can be properly and
permanently imbued with the fervent devotion or saint-like purity of the
Catholic religion, or hope to transfer the pride, pomp, and pageantry of
that detested superstition to his own canvass, with real feeling and
_con amore_? What modern can enter fully into the spirit of the ancient
Greek mythology, or rival the symmetry of its naked forms? What single
individual will presume to unite ‘the colouring of Titian, the drawing
of Raphael, the airs of Guido, the learning of Poussin, the purity of
Domenichino, the _correggiescity_ of Correggio, and the grand contour of
Michael Angelo,’ in the same composition? Yet those who are familiar
with all these different styles and their excellences, require them all.
Mere originality will not suffice, it is quaint and Gothic—common-place
perfection is still more intolerable, it is insipid and mechanical.
Modern Art is indeed like the fabled Sphinx, that imposes impossible
tasks on her votaries, and as she clasps them to her bosom pierces them
to the heart. Let a man have a turn and taste for landscape, she
whispers him that nothing is truly interesting but the human face: if he
makes a successful _debut_ in portrait, he soon (under the same
auspices) aspires to history; but if painting in its highest walks seems
within his reach, she then plays off the solid forms and shining
surfaces of sculpture before his eyes, urging him to combine the simple
grandeur of the Antique with Canova’s polished elegance; or he is
haunted with the majestic effects and scientific rules of architecture,
and ruined temples and broken fragments nod in his bewildered
imagination! What is to be done in this case? What generally is
done—Nothing. Amidst so many pretensions, how is choice possible? Or
where all are equally objects of taste and knowledge, how rest satisfied
without giving some proofs of our practical proficiency in all? To mould
a clay-figure that if finished might surpass the Venus; to make a
pen-and-ink drawing after a splendid piece of colouring by Titian; to
give the picturesque effect of the arch of some ancient aqueduct as seen
by moonlight; some such meagre abstractions and flimsy refinements in
art are among the _spolia opima_ and patchwork trophies offered to the
presiding Goddess of spleen, idleness, and affectation!—

Nothing can be conceived more unpropitious to ‘the high endeavour and
the glad success,’ than the whole aspect and character of ancient Rome,
both what remains as well as what is lost of it. Is this the Eternal
City? Is this she that (amazon or votaress) was twice mistress of the
world? Is this the country of the Scipios, the Cincinnati and the
Gracchi, of Cato and of Brutus, of Pompey and of Sylla, is this the
Capitol where Julius Cæsar fell, where Cicero thundered against
Catiline, the scene of combats and of triumphs, and through whose gates
kings and nations were led captive by the side of their conquerors’
chariot-wheels? All is vanished. The names alone remain to haunt the
memory: the spirits of the mighty dead mock us, as we pass. The genius
of Antiquity bestrides the place like a Colossus. Ruin here sits on her
pedestal of pride, and reads a mortifying lecture to human vanity. We
see all that ages, nations, a subjected world conspired to build up to
magnificence, overthrown or hastening fast into decay; empire, religion,
freedom, Gods and men trampled in the dust or consigned to the regions
of lasting oblivion or of shadowy renown; and what are we that in this
mighty wreck we should think of cultivating our petty talents and
advancing our individual pretensions? Rome is the very tomb of ancient
greatness, the grave of modern presumption. The mere consciousness of
the presence in which we stand ought to abash and overawe our
pragmatical self-conceit. Men here seem no better than insects crawling
about: everything has a Lilliputian and insignificant appearance. Our
big projects, our bloated egotism, shrink up within the enormous shadow
of transitory power and splendour: the sinews of desire relax and
moulder away, and the fever of youthful ambition is turned into a cold
ague-fit. There is a languor in the air; and the contagion of listless
apathy infects the hopes that are yet unborn.—As to what remains of
actual power and spiritual authority, Hobbes said well, that ‘Popery was
the ghost of the Roman Empire, sitting upon the ruins of Rome.’ The only
flourishing thing in Rome (and that is only half flourishing) is an old
woman; and who would wish to be an old woman? Greatness here is
greatness in masquerade—one knows not whether to pity or laugh at it—and
the Cardinals’ red legs peeping out like the legs of some outlandish
stuffed bird in a Museum, excite much the same curiosity and surprise.
No one (no Englishman at least) can be much edified by the array of
distinctions, that denote a consummation of art or weakness. Still,
perhaps, to the idle and frivolous there may be something alluring in
this meretricious mummery and splendour, as moths are attracted to the
taper’s blaze, and perish in it!

There is a great deal of gossiping and stuff going on at Rome. There are
_Conversationes_, where the Cardinals go and admire the fair complexions
and innocent smiles of the young Englishwomen; and where the English
students who have the _entrée_ look at the former with astonishment as a
sort of nondescripts, and are not the less taken with their pretty
countrywomen for being the objects of attention to Popish Cardinals.
Then come the tittle-tattle of who and who’s together, the quaint and
piquant inter-national gallantries, and the story of the greatest beauty
in Rome said to be married to an English gentleman—how odd and at the
same time how encouraging! Then the manners and customs of Rome excite a
buzz of curiosity, and the English imagination is always recurring to
and teazed with that luckless question of _cicisbeism_. Some affect to
be candid, while others persist in their original blindness, and would
set on foot a reform of the Roman metropolis—on the model of the British
one! In short, there is a great deal too much tampering and dalliance
with subjects, with which we have little acquaintance and less business.
All this passes the time, and relieves the mind either after the fatigue
or in the absence of more serious study. Then there is to be an Academy
Meeting at night, and a debate is to take place whether the Academy
ought not to have a President, and if so, whether the President of the
Academy at Rome ought not (out of respect) to be a Royal Academician,
thus extending the links in the chain of professional intrigue and cabal
from one side of the Continent to the other. A speech is accordingly to
be made, a motion seconded, which requires time and preparation—or a
sudden thought strikes the more raw and heedless adventurer, but is lost
for want of words to express it—_Vox faucibus hæsit_, and the cast of
the Theseus looks dull and lumpish as the disappointed candidate for
popular applause surveys it by the light of his lamp in retiring to his
chamber, _Sedet infelix Theseus_, &c. So the next day Gibbon is bought
and studied with great avidity to give him a command of tropes and
figures at their next meeting. The arrival of some new lord or squire of
high degree or clerical virtuoso is announced, and a cabal immediately
commences, who is to share his patronage, who is to guide his taste, who
is to show him the _lions_, who is to pasquinade, epigrammatise or
caricature him, and fix his pretensions to taste and liberality as
culminating from the zenith or sunk below zero. Everything here is
transparent and matter of instant notoriety: nothing can be done in a
corner. The English are comparatively few in number, and from their
being in a foreign country are objects of importance to one another as
well as of curiosity to the natives. All ranks and classes are blended
together for mutual attack or defence. The patron sinks into the
companion; the _protegé_ plays off the great man upon occasion. Indeed
the grand airs and haughty reserve of English manners are a little
ridiculous and out of place at Rome. You are glad to meet with any one
who will bestow his compassion and ‘his tediousness’ upon you. You want
some shelter from the insolence and indifference of the inhabitants,
which are very much calculated to repel the feelings, and throw you back
on your resources in common humanity or the partiality of your
fellow-countrymen. Nor is this the least inconvenience of a stranger’s
residence at Rome. You have to squabble with every one about you to
prevent being cheated, to drive a hard bargain in order to live, to keep
your hands and your tongue within strict bounds, for fear of being
stilettoed, or thrown into the Tower of St. Angelo, or remanded home.
You have much to do to avoid the contempt of the inhabitants; if you
fancy you can ingratiate yourself with them and play off _the amiable_,
you have a still more charming pursuit and bait for vanity and idleness.
You must run the gauntlet of sarcastic words or looks for a whole
street, of laughter or want of comprehension in reply to all the
questions you ask; or if a pretty black-browed girl puts on a gracious
aspect, and seems to interest herself in your perplexity, you think
yourself in high luck, and well repaid for a thousand affronts. A smile
from a Roman beauty must be well nigh fatal to many an English student
at Rome. In short, while abroad, and while our self-love is continually
coming into collision with that of others, and neither knows what to
make of the other, we are necessarily thinking of ourselves and of them,
and in no pleasant or profitable way. Every thing is strange and new; we
seem beginning life over again, and feel like children or rustics. We
have not learned the alphabet of civilization and humanity: how, then,
should we aspire to the height of Art? We are taken up with ourselves as
English travellers and English students, when we should be thinking of
something else. All the petty intrigue, vexation, and _tracasserie_ of
ordinary dealings, should be banished as much as possible from the mind
of the student, who requires to have his whole time and faculties to
himself; all ordinary matters should go on mechanically of themselves,
without giving him a moment’s uneasiness or interruption; but here they
are forced upon him with tenfold sharpness and frequency, hurting his
temper and hindering his time. Instead of ‘tearing from his memory all
trivial, fond records,’ that he may devote himself to the service of
Art, and that ‘_her_ commandment all alone may live within the book and
volume of his brain, unmixed with baser matter,’ he is never free from
the most pitiful annoyances—they follow him into the country, sit down
with him at home, meet him in the street, take him by the button,
whisper in his ear, prevent his sleeping, waken him before the dawn, and
plague him out of his very life, making it resemble a restless dream or
an ill-written romance. Under such disadvantages, should an artist do
anything, the Academy which has sent him out should lose no time in
sending for him back again; for there is nothing that may not be
expected from an English student at Rome who has not become an idler, a
_petit-maitre_, and a busy-body! Or if he is still unwilling to quit
classic ground, is chained by the soft fetters of the climate or of a
fair face, or likes to see the morning mist rise from the Marshes of the
Campagna and circle round the Dome of St. Peter’s, and that to sever him
from these would be to sever soul from body, let him go to Gensano, stop
there for five years, visiting Rome only at intervals, wander by
Albano’s gleaming lake and wizard grottoes, make studies of the heads
and dresses of the peasant-girls in the neighbourhood, those Goddesses
of health and good-temper, embody them to the life, and show (as the
result) what the world never saw before!



                               FINE ARTS


OBJECTS OF THE ARTICLE.—In the _Encyclopædia_ there is some account,
under the head ARTS, of the general theory and history of the _Fine
Arts_, including Poetry, Eloquence, Painting, Statuary, and
Architecture. The term, in its widest application, would also embrace
Music, Dancing, Theatrical Exhibition; and in general, all those arts,
in which the powers of imitation or invention are exerted, chiefly with
a view to the production of pleasure, by the immediate impression which
they make on the mind. The phrase has of late, we think, been restricted
to a narrower and more technical signification; namely, to Painting,
Sculpture, Engraving, and Architecture, which appeal to the eye as the
medium of pleasure; and by way of eminence, to the two first of these
arts. In the present article, we shall adopt this limited sense of the
term; and shall endeavour to develope the principles upon which the
great Masters have proceeded, and also to inquire, in a more particular
manner, into the state and probable advancement of these arts in this
Country.

RULING PRINCIPLE OF THE FINE ARTS.—The great works of art, at present
extant, and which may be regarded as models of perfection in their
several kinds, are the Greek statues—the pictures of the celebrated
Italian Masters—those of the Dutch and Flemish schools—to which we may
add the comic productions of our own countryman, Hogarth. These all
stand unrivalled in the history of art; and they owe their pre-eminence
and perfection to one and the same principle,—_the immediate imitation
of nature_. This principle predominated equally in the classical forms
of the antique, and in the grotesque figures of Hogarth; the perfection
of art in each arose from the truth and identity of the imitation with
the reality; the difference was in the subjects; there was none in the
mode of imitation. Yet the advocates for the _ideal system of art_ would
persuade their disciples, that the difference between Hogarth and the
antique does not consist in the different forms of nature which they
imitated, but in this, that the one is like, and the other unlike
nature. This is an error, the most detrimental, perhaps, of all others,
both to the theory and practice of art. As, however, the prejudice is
very strong and general, and supported by the highest authority, it will
be necessary to go somewhat elaborately into the question in order to
produce an impression on the other side.

What has given rise to the common notion of the _ideal_, as something
quite distinct from _actual_ nature, is probably the perfection of the
Greek statues. Not seeing among ourselves any thing to correspond in
beauty and grandeur, either with the features or form of the limbs in
these exquisite remains of antiquity, it was an obvious, but a
superficial conclusion, that they must have been created from the idea
existing in the artist’s mind, and could not have been copied from
anything existing in nature. The contrary, however, is the fact. The
general form, both of the face and figure, which we observe in the old
statues, is not an ideal abstraction, is not a fanciful invention of the
sculptor, but is as completely local and national (though it happens to
be more beautiful) as the figures on a Chinese screen, or a copperplate
engraving of a negro chieftain in a book of travels. It will not be
denied that there is a difference of physiognomy as well as of
complexion in different races of men. The Greek form appears to have
been naturally beautiful, and they had, besides, every advantage of
climate, of dress, of exercise, and modes of life to improve it. The
artist had also every facility afforded him in the study and knowledge
of the human form, and their religious and public institutions gave him
every encouragement in the prosecution of his art. All these causes
contributed to the perfection of these noble productions; but we should
be inclined principally to attribute the superior symmetry of form
common to the Greek statues, in the first place, to the superior
symmetry of the models in nature, and in the second, to the more
constant opportunities for studying them. If we allow, also, for the
superior genius of the people, we shall not be wrong; but this
superiority consisted in their peculiar susceptibility to the
impressions of what is beautiful and grand in nature. It may be thought
an objection to what has just been said, that the antique figures of
animals, &c., are as fine, and proceed on the same principles as their
statues of gods or men. But all that follows from this seems to be, that
their art had been perfected in the study of the human form, the test
and proof of power and skill; and was then transferred easily to the
general imitation of all other objects, according to their true
characters, proportions, and appearances. As a confirmation of these
remarks, the antique portraits of individuals were often superior even
to the personifications of their gods. We think that no unprejudiced
spectator of real taste can hesitate for a moment in preferring the head
of the Antinous, for example, to that of the Apollo. And in general, it
may be laid down as a rule, that the most perfect of the antiques are
the most simple;—those which affect the least action, or violence of
passion;—which repose the most on natural beauty of form, and a certain
expression of sweetness and dignity, that is, which remain most nearly
in that state in which they could be copied from nature without
straining the limbs or features of the individual, or racking the
invention of the artist. This tendency of Greek art to repose has indeed
been reproached with insipidity by those who had not a true feeling of
beauty and sentiment. We, however, prefer these models of habitual grace
or internal grandeur to the violent distortions of suffering in the
Laocoon, or even to the supercilious air of the Apollo. The Niobe, more
than any other antique head, combines truth and beauty with deep
passion. But here the passion is fixed, intense, habitual;—it is not a
sudden or violent gesticulation, but a settled mould of features; the
grief it expresses is such as might almost turn the human countenance
itself _into marble_!

In general, then, we would be understood to maintain, that the beauty
and grandeur so much admired in the Greek statues were not a voluntary
fiction of the brain of the artist, but existed substantially in the
forms from which they were copied, and by which the artist was
surrounded. A striking authority in support of these observations, which
has in some measure been lately discovered, is to be found in the _Elgin
marbles_, taken from the Acropolis at Athens, and supposed to be the
works of the celebrated Phidias. The process of fastidious refinement
and indefinite abstraction is certainly not visible there. The figures
have all the ease, the simplicity, and variety, of individual nature.
Even the details of the subordinate parts, the loose hanging folds in
the skin, the veins under the belly or on the sides of the horses, more
or less swelled as the animal is more or less in action, are given with
scrupulous exactness. This is true nature and true art. In a word, these
invaluable remains of antiquity are precisely like casts taken from
life. The _ideal_ is not the preference of that which exists only in the
mind, to that which exists in nature; but the preference of that which
is fine in nature to that which is less so. There is nothing fine in art
but what is taken almost immediately, and, as it were, in the mass, from
what is finer in nature. Where there have been the finest models in
nature, there have been the finest works of art.

As the Greek statues were copied from Greek forms, so Raphael’s
expressions were taken from Italian faces; and we have heard it
remarked, that the women in the streets at Rome seem to have walked out
of his pictures in the Vatican.

Sir Joshua Reynolds constantly refers to Raphael as the highest example
in modern times (at least with one exception) of the grand or ideal
style; and yet he makes the essence of that style to consist in the
embodying of an abstract or general idea, formed in the mind of the
artist by rejecting the peculiarities of individuals, and retaining only
what is common to the species. Nothing can be more inconsistent than the
style of Raphael with this definition. In his Cartoons and in his
groupes in the Vatican, there is hardly a face or figure which is any
thing more than fine individual nature finely disposed and copied. The
late Mr. Barry, who could not be suspected of a prejudice on this side
of the question, speaks thus of them: “In Raphael’s pictures (at the
Vatican) of the _Dispute of the Sacrament_, and the _School of Athens_,
one sees all the heads to be entirely copied from particular characters
in nature, nearly proper for the persons and situations which he adapts
them to; and he seems to me only to add and take away what may answer
his purpose in little parts, features, &c.; conceiving, while he had the
head before him, ideal characters and expressions, which he adapts these
features and peculiarities of face to. This attention to the particulars
which distinguish all the different faces, persons, and characters, the
one from the other, gives his pictures quite the verity and unaffected
dignity of nature, which stamp the distinguishing differences betwixt
one man’s face and body and another’s.”

If any thing is wanting to the conclusiveness of this testimony, it is
only to look at the pictures themselves; particularly the _Miracle of
the Conversion_, and the _Assembly of Saints_, which are little else
than a collection of divine portraits, in natural and expressive
attitudes, full of the loftiest thought and feeling, and as varied as
they are fine. It is this reliance on the power of nature which has
produced those masterpieces by the prince of painters, in which
expression is all in all;—where one spirit,—that of truth,—pervades
every part, brings down Heaven to Earth, mingles Cardinals and Popes
with Angels and Apostles,—and yet blends and harmonizes the whole by the
true touches and intense feeling of what is beautiful and grand in
nature. It is no wonder that Sir Joshua, when he first saw Raphael’s
pictures in the Vatican, was at a loss to discover any great excellence
in them, if he was looking out for his theory of the _ideal_,—of neutral
character and middle forms.

There is more an appearance of abstract grandeur of form in Michael
Angelo. He has followed up, has enforced, and expanded, as it were, a
preconceived idea, till he sometimes seems to tread on the verge of
caricature. His forms, however, are not _middle_, but _extreme_ forms,
massy, gigantic, supernatural. They convey the idea of the greatest size
and strength in the figure, and in all the parts of the figure. Every
muscle is swollen and turgid. This tendency to exaggeration would have
been avoided, if Michael Angelo had recurred more constantly to nature,
and had proceeded less on a scientific knowledge of the structure of the
human body; for science gives only the positive form of the different
parts, which the imagination may afterwards magnify, as it pleases, but
it is nature alone which combines them with perfect truth and delicacy,
in all the varieties of motion and expression. It is fortunate that we
can refer, in illustration of our doctrine, to the admirable fragment of
the Theseus at Lord Elgin’s, which shows the possibility of uniting the
grand and natural style in the highest degree. The form of the limbs, as
affected by pressure or action, and the general sway of the body, are
preserved with the most consummate mastery. We should prefer this statue
as a model for forming the style of the student to the Apollo, which
strikes us as having something of a theatrical appearance, or to the
Hercules, in which there is an ostentatious and over-laboured display of
anatomy. This last figure is so overloaded with sinews, that it has been
suggested as a doubt, whether, if life could be put into it, it would be
able to move. Grandeur of conception, truth of nature, and purity of
taste, seem to have been at their height when the masterpieces which
adorned the temple of Minerva at Athens, of which we have only these
imperfect fragments, were produced. Compared with these, the later Greek
statues display a more elaborate workmanship, more of the artifices of
style. The several parts are more uniformly balanced, made more to tally
like modern periods: each muscle is more equally brought out, and more
highly finished as a part, but not with the same subordination of each
part to the whole. If some of these wonderful productions have a fault,
it is the want of that entire and naked simplicity which pervades the
whole of the _Elgin marbles_.

WORKS OF THE GRECIAN AND ITALIAN ARTISTS.—Having spoken here of the
Greek statues, and of the works of Raphael and Michael Angelo, as far as
relates to the imitation of nature, we shall attempt to point out, to
the best of our ability, and as concisely as possible, what we conceive
to be their general and characteristic excellences. The ancients
excelled in beauty of form; Michael Angelo in grandeur of conception;
Raphael in expression. In Raphael’s faces, particularly his women, the
expression is very superior to the form; in the ancient statues the form
is the principal thing. The interest which the latter excite, is in a
manner external; it depends on a certain grace and lightness of
appearance, joined with exquisite symmetry and refined susceptibility to
voluptuous emotions; but there is in general a want of pathos. In their
looks, we do not read the workings of the heart; by their beauty they
seem raised above the sufferings of humanity, by their beauty they are
deified. The pathos which they exhibit is rather that of present and
physical distress, than of deep internal sentiment. What has been
remarked of Leonardo da Vinci, is also true of Raphael, that there is an
angelic sweetness and tenderness in his faces, in which human frailty
and passion are purified by the sanctity of religion. The ancient
statues are finer objects for the eye to contemplate; they represent a
more perfect race of physical beings, but we have little sympathy with
them. In Raphael, all our natural sensibilities are heightened and
refined by the sentiments of faith and hope, pointing mysteriously to
the interests of another world. The same intensity of passion appears
also to distinguish Raphael from Michael Angelo. Michael Angelo’s forms
are grander, but they are not so informed with expression. Raphael’s,
however ordinary in themselves, are full of expression, ‘even to
o’erflowing;’ every nerve and muscle is impregnated with
feeling,—bursting with meaning. In Michael Angelo, on the contrary, the
powers of body and mind appear superior to any events that can happen to
them; the capacity of thought and feeling is never full, never strained
or tasked to the extremity of what it will bear. All is in a lofty
repose and solitary grandeur, which no human interest can shake or
disturb. It has been said that Michael Angelo painted _man_, and Raphael
_men_; that the one was an epic, the other a dramatic painter. But the
distinction we have stated is, perhaps, truer and more intelligible,
_viz._ that the one gave greater dignity of form, and the other greater
force and refinement of expression. Michael Angelo, in fact, borrowed
his style from sculpture. He represented, in general, only single
figures (with subordinate accompaniments), and had not to express the
conflicting actions and passions of a multitude of persons. It is
therefore a mere truism to say that his compositions are not dramatic.
He is much more picturesque than Raphael. The whole figure of his
_Jeremiah_ droops and hangs down like a majestic tree surcharged with
showers. His drawing of the human form has the characteristic freedom
and boldness of Titian’s landscapes.

After Michael Angelo and Raphael, there is no doubt that Leonardo da
Vinci, and Correggio, are the two painters, in modern times, who have
carried historical expression to the highest ideal perfection; and yet
it is equally certain that their heads are carefully copied from faces
and expressions in nature. Leonardo excelled principally in his women
and children. We find, in his female heads, a peculiar charm of
expression; a character of natural sweetness and tender playfulness,
mixed up with the pride of conscious intellect, and the graceful reserve
of personal dignity. He blends purity with voluptuousness; and the
expression of his women is equally characteristic of ‘the mistress or
the saint.’ His pictures are worked up to the height of the idea he had
conceived, with an elaborate, felicity; but this idea was evidently
first suggested, and afterwards religiously compared with nature. This
was his excellence. His fault is, that his style of execution is too
mathematical; that is, his pencil does not follow the graceful variety
of the details of objects, but substitutes certain refined gradations,
both of form and colour, producing equal changes in equal distances,
with a mechanical uniformity. Leonardo was a man of profound learning as
well as genius, and perhaps transferred too much of the formality of
science to his favourite art.

The masterpieces of Correggio have the same identity with nature, the
same stamp of truth. He has indeed given to his pictures the utmost
softness and refinement of outline and expression; but this idea, at
which he constantly aimed, is filled up with all the details and
varieties which such heads would have in nature. So far from any thing
like a naked abstract idea, or middle form, the _individuality_ of his
faces has something peculiar in it, even approaching the grotesque. He
has endeavoured to impress habitually on the countenance, those
undulating outlines which rapture or tenderness leave there, and has
chosen for this purpose those forms and proportions which most obviously
assisted his design.

As to the colouring of Correggio, it is nature itself. Not only the
general tone is perfectly true, but every speck and particle is varied
in colour, in relief, in texture, with a care, a felicity, and an
effect, which is almost magical. His light and shade are equally
admirable. No one else, perhaps, ever gave the same harmony and
roundness to his compositions. So true are his shadows,—equally free
from coldness, opacity, or false glare;—so clear, so broken, so airy,
and yet so deep, that if you hold your hand so as to cast a shadow on
any part of the flesh which is in the light, this part, so shaded, will
present exactly the same appearance which the painter has given to the
shadowed part of the picture. Correggio, indeed, possessed a greater
variety of excellences in the different departments of his art, than any
other painter; and yet it is remarkable, that the impression which his
pictures leave upon the mind of the common spectator, is monotonous and
comparatively feeble. His style is in some degree mannered and confined.
For instance, he is without the force, passion, and grandeur of Raphael,
who, however, possessed his softness of expression, but of expression
only; and in colour, in light and shade, and other qualities, was quite
inferior to Correggio. We may, perhaps, solve this apparent
contradiction by saying, that he applied the power of his mind to a
greater variety of objects than others; but that this power was still of
the same character; consisting in a certain exquisite sense of the
harmonious, the soft and graceful in form, colour, and sentiment, but
with a deficiency of strength, and a tendency to effeminacy in all
these.

After the names of Raphael and Correggio, we shall mention that of
Guido, whose female faces are exceedingly beautiful and ideal, but
altogether commonplace and vapid, compared with those of Raphael or
Correggio; and they are so, for no other reason but that the general
idea they convey is not enriched and strengthened by an intense
contemplation of nature. For the same reason, we can conceive nothing
more unlike the antique than the figures of Nicholas Poussin, except as
to the preservation of the costume; and it is perhaps chiefly owing to
the habit of studying his art at second-hand, or by means of scientific
rules, that the great merits of that able painter, whose understanding
and genius are unquestionable, are confined to his choice of subjects
for his pictures, and his manner of telling the story. His landscapes,
which he probably took from nature, are superior as paintings to his
historical pieces. The faces of Poussin want natural expression, as his
figures want grace; but the back grounds of his historical compositions
can scarcely be surpassed. In his plague of Athens, the very buildings
seem stiff with horror. His giants, seated on the top of their fabled
mountains, and playing on their Pan’s pipes, are as familiar and natural
as if they were the ordinary inhabitants of the scene. The finest of his
landscapes is his picture of the Deluge. The sun is just seen, wan and
drooping in his course. The sky is bowed down with a weight of waters,
and Heaven and earth seem mingling together.

Titian is at the head of the Venetian school. He is the first of all
colourists. In delicacy and purity Correggio is equal to him, but his
colouring has not the same warmth and gusto in it. Titian’s flesh-colour
partakes of the glowing nature of the climate, and of the luxuriousness
of the manners of his country. He represents objects not through a
merely lucid medium, but as if tinged with a golden light. Yet it is
wonderful in how low a tone of local colouring his pictures are
painted,—how rigidly his means are husbanded. His most gorgeous effects
are produced, not less by keeping down, than by heightening his colours;
the fineness of his gradations adds to their variety and force; and,
with him, truth is the same thing as splendour. Every thing is done by
the severity of his eye, by the patience of his touch. He is enabled to
keep pace with nature, by never hurrying on before her; and as he forms
the broadest masses out of innumerable varying parts and minute strokes
of the pencil, so he unites and harmonises the strongest contrasts by
the most imperceptible transitions. Every distinction is relieved and
broken by some other intermediate distinction, like half notes in music;
and yet all this accumulation of endless variety is so managed, as only
to produce the majestic simplicity of nature; so that to a common eye
there is nothing extraordinary in his pictures, any more than in nature
itself. It is, we believe, owing to what has been here stated, that
Titian is, of all painters, at once the easiest and the most difficult
to copy. He is the most difficult to copy perfectly, for the artifice of
his colouring and execution is hid in its apparent simplicity; and yet
the knowledge of nature, and the arrangement of the forms and masses in
his pictures, is so masterly, that any copy made from them, even the
rudest outline or sketch, can hardly fail to have a look of high art.
Because he was the greatest colourist in the world, this, which was his
most prominent, has, for shortness, been considered as his only
excellence; and he has been said to have been ignorant of drawing. What
he was, generally speaking, deficient in, was invention or composition,
though even this appears to have been more from habit than want of
power; but his drawing of actual forms, where they were not to be put
into momentary action, or adapted to a particular expression, was as
fine as possible. His drawing of the forms of inanimate objects is
unrivalled. His trees have a marked character and physiognomy of their
own, and exhibit an appearance of strength or flexibility, solidity or
lightness, as if they were endued with conscious power and purpose.
Character was another excellence which Titian possessed in the highest
degree. It is scarcely speaking too highly of his portraits to say, that
they have as much expression, that is, convey as fine an idea of
intellect and feeling, as the historical heads of Raphael. The chief
difference appears to be, that the expression in Raphael is more
imaginary and contemplative, and in Titian more personal and
constitutional. The heads of the one seem thinking more of some event or
subject, those of the other to be thinking more of themselves. In the
portraits of Titian, as might be expected, the Italian character always
predominates; there is a look of piercing sagacity, of commanding
intellect, of acute sensibility, which it would be in vain to seek for
in any other portraits. The daring spirit and irritable passions of the
age and country, are distinctly stamped upon their countenances, and can
be as little mistaken as the costume which they wear. The portraits of
Raphael, though full of profound thought and feeling, have more of
common humanity about them. Titian’s portraits are the most historical
that ever were painted; and they are so, for this reason, that they have
most consistency of form and expression. His portraits of Hippolito de
Medici, and of a young Neapolitan nobleman, lately in the gallery of the
Louvre, are a striking contrast in this respect. All the lines of the
face in the one, the eye-brows, the nose, the corners of the mouth, the
contour of the face, present the same sharp angles, the same acute,
edgy, contracted, violent expression. The other portrait has the finest
expansion of feature and outline, and conveys the most exquisite idea
possible, of mild, thoughtful sentiment. The consistency of the
expression constitutes as great a charm in Titian’s portraits, as the
harmony of the colouring. The similarity sometimes objected to his
heads, is partly national, and partly arises from the class of persons
whom he painted. He painted only Italians; and in his time it rarely
happened, that any but persons of the highest rank, Senators or
Cardinals, sat for their pictures. The similarity of costume of the
dress, the beard, &c. also adds to the similarity of their appearance.
It adds, at the same time, to their picturesque effect; and the
alteration in this respect, is one circumstance among others that has
been injurious, not to say fatal, to modern art. This observation is not
confined to portrait; for the hired dresses with which our historical
painters clothe their figures sit no more easily on the imagination of
the artist, than they do gracefully on the lay-figures over which they
are thrown.

Giorgioni, Paul Veronese, Tintoret, and the Bassans, are the remaining
great names of the Venetian school. The excellence of all of them
consisted in the bold, masterly, and striking imitation of nature. Their
want of _ideal form_ and elevated character is, indeed, a constant
subject of reproach against them. Giorgioni takes the first place among
them; for he was in some measure the master of Titian, whereas the
others were only his disciples. The Carraccis, Domenichino, and the rest
of the Bolognese school, formed themselves on a principle of combining
the excellences of the Roman and Venetian painters, in which they for a
while succeeded to a considerable degree; but they degenerated and
dwindled away into absolute insignificance, in proportion as they
departed from nature, or the gr