« VorigeDoorgaan »
the countenances of those personages whom he represents in his pictures. It frequently happens that the figures of medals are allegorical. Some of the emblems on Roman medals are particularly beautiful. Sophia, shall I impose too hard a task upon you, to ask you to repeat those you heard described?
SOPHIA. I will endeavour to call them to my memory. Happiness has sometimes the caduceus, or wand of Mercury, which was thought to procure whatever was desired. In a gold coin of Severus she has the heads of poppies, to express that the greatest bliss consists in the forgetfulness of misfortunes. Hope is represented as a sprightly girl, walking quickly, and looking straight forward: with her left hand she holds up her garments, that they may not impede her pace; whilst in her right hand she displays the bud of a flower, as an emblem of future good. Abundance is imaged as a sedate matron, scattering fruits out of a cornucopia. Security stands leaning upon a pillar, by which is signified her being free from all designs or pursuits: the posture in which she appears, corresponds with her
name. A ship sailing before a prosperous breeze, was the symbol of national happiness. Much taste and ingenuity are displayed in several others,- but I am not able to recollect them.
MRS. HARCOURT. It was not unusual to personify the provinces of the Roman empire on medals, as well as their principal rivers. There is one colonial medal of Augustus and Agrippa, so remarkable for the display of poetical imagery, that I cannot resist giving you a description of it. The conquest of Africa is represented on the reverse, by the metaphor of a crocodile, an animal then supposed to be peculiar to that country, which is chained to a palm-tree, at once a native of the country, and symbolic of victory.
CHARLES. Before this subject is dismissed, permit me to express the pride I felt at being shown several of the earliest imperial medals, upon which my native island was represented as a woman sitting upon a globe, with a labarum, which was an emblem of military power, in her hand, and the ocean rolling under her feet.
MR. HARCOURT. May her influence in future be exerted in promoting peace and useful knowledge in Europe, and her superiority in naval strength, be applied to the purpose of distributing justice to the human species; she will then be entitled to be figured under symbols more intrinsically valuable.
HENRY. Had I an opportunity of choosing a cabinet of medals, I should prefer those which were the most beautiful to the largest, even if they were of gold.
You would show your
taste more than your judgment in this choice. Scarcity is the quality that stamps a value upon medals; for connoisseurs, or people who understand the science, totally disregard their size, or the richness of the metal which composes them.
MRS. HARCOURT. With design to multiply the impressions of those that are scarce, many ingenious contrivances have been used to take them off. Sophia, repeat that simple, easy method, with isinglass, which may be practised by any of you, with very little trouble.
SOPHIA. Melt a little isinglass glue, made with brandy, and pour it thinly over the medal, so as to cover its whole surface; let it remain for a day or two, till it is thoroughly dry and hardened: when it is taken off, it will be fine, clear, and hard as horn, and will give an elegant impression of the medal or coin.
MR. HARCOURT. I call upon you, Henry, to name the different coins in gold, silver, and copper, that are now current in Great Britain.
HENRY. In gold, we have double sovereigns, sovereigns, and half sovereigns, guineas, half guineas, quarter guineas, and sevenshilling-pieces; in silver, crowns, half-crowns, shillings, and sixpences; and in copper, pennypieces, halfpence, and farthings.
MRS. HARCOURT. Very well answered. Money is the general name for that medium which the inhabitants of different nations exchange for commodities, and is an invention so ancient, that the commencement of its use cannot be ascertained. When mankind spread over the face of the earth, and were no longer one family, they were obliged to exchange their possessions, in order that each
one should obtain a share of the necessaries of life, and to reap the advantages that arise from the division of labour. But to avoid the inconvenience that would have arisen to each party, from bartering one bulky commodity for another, every thing was exchanged for one particular article, which possessed the advantages of occupying comparatively but little space, of being conveniently subdivided into small portions, and of remaining for a long time uninjured. A certain quantity of this medium of exchange, under the name of money, being possessed by every one, he parted with it for other commodities, of which he stood in need, and received it in exchange for the fruit of his own labour. CHARLES. Pray, am I to consider gold, silver, or copper, as this article.
MR. HARCOURT. Gold in England is the only standard of value, but in other parts of Europe silver is the standard. If a gentleman purchase an estate, the law of this country compels a payment in gold. Silver and copper are only lawful money, where the sum to be paid is less than two guineas. Although several na