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relates to poetry, in a recent number of produce anything great; can never raise and this review,* we shall not re-open that enlarge the conceptions, or warm the heart of question, but shall proceed to examine the the spectator. The wish of the genuine paintspirit manifested in our contemporary er must be more extensive : instead of endeav
amuse mankind with the minute painting, drama, and fiction, as compared oring to
neatness of his imitations, he must endeavor rrith the English tradition of these arts, to improve them by the grandeur of his ideas; with a view to discovering what light is instead of seeking praise by deceiving the thereby thrown upon the present political superficial sense of the spectator, he must temper of the nation.
strive for fame by captivating the imaginaAs to painting, we want no better expo- tion. nent of the English conception of that art than the greatest painter that England has of his hearers the necessity of aiming at
Hence he always kept before the mind produced, Sir Joshua Reynolds. Nothing the great style." can be more constitutional than Sir Joshua's instructions to the students at the This great ideal perfection and beauty are Royal Academy. The prevailing note in not to be sought in the heavens but upon the his admirable " Discourses” is an indig. earth. They are about us and upon every side nant repudiation of the doctrine that gen. deformed in nature, or, in other words, what is
of us. But the power of discovering what is ius implies absolute power. The highest particular and uncommon, can be acquired genius, he says over and over again, pro, only by experience; and the whole beauty and ceeds in obedience to the highest law, and grandeur of the art consists, in my opinion, in it is only because the majority of mankind being able to get above all singular forms, are insensible of the limits of law, that local customs, particularities, and details of they impute the actions of genius to capri- every kind. cious inspiration. “The summit of excel
How far, then, has the tradition establence seems to be an assemblage of con- lished by the first president of the Royal trary qualities, but mixed in such pro- Academy been preserved by the modern portions that no one part is found to counteract the other.” The nearest ap- attempt to answer this question, we ought
representatives of his art? But before we proach to this excellence is found in the to make certain deductions from his theory works of the greatest masters, and Sir that have been rendered necessary by time Joshua therefore recommends his audience and circumstance. Painting, he thought, to render to these a rational obedience, and not even to be afraid of being called their in so far as it expresses itself by means of
should speak an universal language, and, imitators.
form and color, it is plain that this art has When [says he] we have had continually a more extended sphere than poetry, the before us the great works of art to impregnate limits of which are defined by the diversiour minds with kindred ideas, we are then, and ties of human speech. But this common not till then, fit to produce something of the language could only remain intelligible so same species. We behold all about us with long as it expressed common thought and the eyes of those penetrating observers, whose
sentiment, a truth which Sir Joshua very works we contemplate; and our minds, accus. tomed to think the thoughts of the noblest and clearly understood. brightest intellects, are prepared for the dis. Strictly speaking [says he], no subject can covery and selection of all that is great and be of universal, hardly can it be of general, noble in nature. The greatest natural genius concern; but there are events and characters cannot subsist on its own stock: he who re
so popularly known in those countries where solves never to ransack any mind but his own our art is in request, that they may be consid. will be soon reduced from mere barrenness to ered as sufficiently general for all our purposes. the poorest of all imitations; he will be Such are the great events of Greek and Roman obliged to imitate himself, and to repeat what fable and history, which early education and he has before often repeated. When we know the usual course of reading have made familiar the subject designed by such men, it will never and interesting to all Europe, without being be difficult to guess what kind of work is to be degraded by the vulgarism of ordinary life in produced.
any country. Such too are the capital subjects Yet, with all his sense of the necessity of Scripture history, which, besides their gen. of authority, he was an ardent lover of eral notoriety, become venerable by their con
nection with our religion. liberty.
While a system of European authority A mere copier of nature (we cannot in these days quote Sir Joshua too often], can never prevailed, which prescribed the limits of
religious faith and secular education, it * “State of English Poetry,” Quarterly Review, was possible to treat the subjects named July, 1973.
by Sir Joshua in the universal style he
Still it may
desired. Scholarship widely diffused un-| reflect the English character and constituder the protection of princes and nobles tion. For, with all their force and origifamiliarized the people with the stories of pality, they still show a general way of heathen mythology, The authoritative looking at things and a willing obedience doctrine of the Catholic Church, and the to the unwritten law of experience and continuous development of Italian art, tradition. But can it be said that the tra. gave a traditional character to religious ditions of the “ characteristic”. English painting, throughout Europe, and only al style still prevail? Let us endeavor to lowed the subject under treatment to be determine this by a few recollections of characterized by such variety as appeared the last Academy. in the national tendencies of the Floren- To represent action in some form or tine and Roman schools on the one side, another is the aim of every great painter. and by the Venetian and Flemish on the in landscape, for example; how full of other. But ever since the triumph of the action is the painting of Turner, who may French Revolution, the tradition of the be truly said to have invented the “great classical Renaissance has been on the de- style" in this branch of the art. The dif. cline, nor cap it any longer be said, that fused light and the far distances of his “the great events of Greek and Roman pictures blend in extraordinary sympathy fable and history have been made familiar with the human associations of the scenes and interesting to all Europe by the usual represented. His “ Rise” and “Decline course of reading." So too the authority of Carthage,” and his “ Fighting Témé. of the Catholic tradition in painting was raire,” though the representation of human mortally wounded by the great disruption life in them is entirely subordinate, have of Christendom at the Reformation. all the feeling of a great tragic poet; they
The framework of Europe has in fact seize the unseen truth or " character” of changed; and the mediæval ideal of uni- the subject, versal empire in Church and State has
The light that never was on sea or land, been replaced by the doctrines of national
The consecration, and the poet's dream. ity and the balance of power. be thought that the art of painting has But Turner's influence is apparently on received compensation for the decline of the wane. Undoubtedly the most popular authority by the increase of liberty, and landscape in the last Academy was Mr. that what it bas lost in grandeur and sub. Brett's “ Cornish Lions." A dazzling blue limity it may have gained in originality sea shone beneath a cloudless blue sky, in and character. If it no longer speaks in a sunlight so brilliant that each cranny and telligibly an universal language, it may indentation in the cliffs was visible.' Evspeak with more force the language of ery particular in the actual landscape was nations and individuals. Sir Joshua bim- exhibited; yet the general effect of the self, while subordinating what he calls the picture appeared to us to be that of sus“ characteristical” style to the " great” pended life. There was no central idea of style, fully recognizes the claims of the action to blend the various parts into a. former to be a genuine province of paiot- harmonious whole; nevertheless the very ing
particularity of the imitation secured far
more favor from the public than the genThere is another style [he says), which, eralization of Mr. 'Vicat Cole, whose though inferior to the former, has still great “Showery Day" seemed to us to have merit, because it shows that those who cultirated it were men of lively and vigorous imag- admirably caught the character” of that ination. This, which may be called the origi. soft shining atmosphere which gives their nal or characteristical style, being less referred chief beauty to so many spring days in to any true archetype existing either in general England. or particular nature, must be supported by the Another picture in which action was painter's consistency in the principles which sacrificed to imitation was Mr. Frith's he has assumed, and in the union and harmony “ Road to Ruin.” The idea of this work of his whole design. The excellency of every was evidently suggested by Hogarth, but style, but of the subordinate styles more espe. had the crowds who filed in front of the cially, will very much depend on preserving picture proceeded afterwards to compare that union and harmony between all the como their impressions of it with Hogarth's ponent parts, that they may appear to hang vel together, as if the whole proceeded from “Marriage à la Mode,” they would have one mind
seen that between the method of the inas.
ter and the disciple there was absolutely Such were the styles of Hogarth, Gains- nothing in common. Hogarth's style is full borough, Wilkie, and Turner, which truly of the sæva indignatio of the satir
ist; every incident and detail conspires to has commenced his work with a central point the general moral; the action of the idea, which gives life and balance to the drama grows naturally out of its original whole composition. The action of the source; the very lines of the various coun- picture, in the one case, starts from the tenances seem to indicate the painter's sweep of the fiddler's bow, and the specabhorrence of the vices wbich he makes tator seems to hear the sound, and to unthem reflect. Hogarth would have done derstand the various passions which this justice to Mr. Frith's subject. There is excites in each particular member of the scarcely a corner of English society that audience. So, in “ Blind Man's Buff,” the has not been contaminated by the univer- action is grouped round the cautious, grop. sal passion for gambling. What scope for ing figure of the blind man, and nothing invention, what revelations of manners, can be more beautiful than the balance are possible to a painter in an age which which the painter has obtained out of the has seen the fortunes of historic houses varied attitudes of coquetry and mock wasted on a racecourse, and has listened terror which the situation has produced in to the tales of public credulity related by the rustic groups. Mr. Herkomer, on the a Benson! But Mr. Frith is no satirist. other hand, had apparently chosen his subThe moral of his picture was indeed ject, not so much because he was humanly strong enough for a transpontine theatre, interested in it, as because it enabled him but the story in which the moral was con- to make an exhibition of his rare mastery veyed was an ingenuous fable. If we are over light and color. to believe him, it is customary for com- Composition, imagination, and invention, monplace young gentlemen, who play cards at all events, it may be said, were manifest at the university, eventually to shoot them in the work of Mr. Long; and in the selves in a garret from extremity of want; graceful attitudes of the figures, the exand this, even though they may have been pressive humor of the faces, and the lifeoriginally possessed of large estates, and like clinging of the cat-model, the idea of presumably of good connections. The pub- action was more visible in the “Making lic which besieged Mr. Fritb's picture must of the Gods,” than in any other picture in have been perfectly well aware that this is the Academy. We had but one ground of not the road to ruin in our days; they must quarrel with Mr. Long: Why were not all have perceived, if they had reflected, that this grace, humor, and vitality, devoted to the various compartments of the picture the representation of some living interest, had no other connection with the apparent instead of being employed in realizing the subject, or with each other, than a common idea of an obsolete superstition? So, too, frame; but so enchanted were they with a touch of regret mingled with our amusethe undeniable skill of the painter in re- ment at the admirably comic “Convocaproducing commonplace objects with which tion” of Mr. Marks, to think that such they were familiar, that they remained in- dramatic power should not find expression sensible to his deflections from truth and in the representation of human action. nature.
Putting aside, however, a few exceptional Mr. Herkomer, another representative pictures of a similar character to those we painter, is not, like Mr. Frith, a stranger have just mentioned, it may be said that to poetry. In his “ Evening in the West. the prevailing note in the work of the minster Workhouse,” it appeared to us Academy was domesticity. Few of the there were many fine strokes of imagina- exhibitors let their imagination travel far tion, and those who studied that picture from home; the majority remained content will not easily forget the poetical manner with the careful imitation of familiar obin which light and shadow were made to jects. Very different in character is that accentuate the characteristics of old age, curious phase of modern art which reprein the figures obscurely seen cowering in sents the revolt of a certain section of the firelight, or advancing feebly with a society from the modes of thought preva. staff from the far end of the room. But lent among the middle classes. Those, how came a painter of such capacity to try who last summer visited the Grosvenor and interest the spectator in his group of Gallery, found themselves in a region from old women, in the forepart of a long bare which the vulgar and the familiar were room, drinking tea, reading, and cutting fastidiously banished. If they had been out linen? It is not that common subjects offended in the Academy with the someare incapable of_beautiful treatment; what slavish imitation of particulars, they Wilkie's “ Blind Fiddler” and “ Blind might here solace themselves with pure Man's Buff" are standing instances to the abstraction; if, in Burlington House, they contrary; but in these pictures the painter | had breathed with some difficulty the con
ventional atmosphere of modern society, the Great." And if he had wanted a text here at least they might retire into the from which to inveigh against the maMiddle Ages; they might listen to the terialistic spirit which inspired the voyages pastoral pipe of the Renaissance, roam of Raleigh, he might have found' it in the among rocks and mountains that appeared dying speech of the great Scythian shepto have strayed out of the pictures of herd, where he bids his son follow his Benozzo Gozzoli, or ransack their memo- conquests on the map : ries before the faces of knights and angels, wbose acquaintance they fancied they had Look here, my boys; see, what a world of made long ago on some canvas of Gior. Lies westward from the midst of Cancer's line
ground gione or Sandro Botticelli. Surely here, Unto the rising of this earthly globe, if anywhere, was to be found that artistic Whereas the sun declining from our sight generalization, that imaginative energy, Begins the day with our antipodes ! which Sir Joshua Reynolds declared to be and shall I die with this unconquered ? the characteristic of the “ great style.” Lo, here, my sons, are all the golden mines, Alas, no! The representative painters of Inestimable' drugs, and precious stones, the Grosvenor Gallery had even less con- More worth than Asia and the world beside ; ception of action than the painters of the And from the antarctic pole eastward behold Academy. For if the latter restricted As much more land which never was descried, themselves to imitation, at least they imi- Wherein are rocks of pearl that shine as bright tated actual life, but the former merely As all the lamps that beautify the sky – imitated certain peculiarities in the style Here, lovely boys ; what death forbids my life,
And shall I die and this unconquered ? of the old masters. Mr. Burne Jones is That let your lives command in spite of death. the chief master of this school. His pictore entitled "Laus Veneris ” represented But Mr. Gladstone may take comfort if a number of ladies sitting in the fore he turns to the Victorian stage, and reground gorgeously attired, and in the flects that the public, of whose aggressive background some knights in white armor, spirit he is so much afraid, have for thirlooking in at a window as they rode by teen hundred successive nights been folThe women in the chief group were doing lowing with rapt attention the fortunes of - nothing. They had even stopped sing. two young men, whom true love has in. ing the praises of Venus, which it appears duced to throw up all the advantages of was their sole resource for passing the wealth, and to work for their living in a gartime. They had all one type of face, one ret. From “Tamburlane” to “Our Boys morbid kind of complexion, one monot. is a long journey, but the artistic stages on onous expression, which culminated in the the way are as clearly marked as those of figure of the queen, who, with her seat our political constitution. The spirit of thrust back from the rest, her crown on the drama under Elizabeth was at once her knees, and her feet far extended in monarchical and national, for the cause of front of her, seemed to have resigned her. the throne was completely identified with self to the dominion of ennui. A similar that of the people. During the civil wars somnolent languor pervaded Mr. Jones's dramatic representation was naturally susChant d'Amour; ” indeed so potent was pended. After the Restoration it took its influence, that a Cupid, who had been from the court a tone that was entirely apparently borrowed from Botticelli for the opposed to the national character. When purpose of blowing the bellows of an organ taste had been purified and regulated by -- which for some reason the female mu- the great critics of the early part of the sician has chosen to play on the top of a eighteenth century, the stage reflected for fall - bad actually fallen asleep at his a long period the more temperate manners work. In like manner the abstractions of the aristocracy. The Reform Bill of day and night and the four seasons again initiated a fresh epoch; the aristocindicated not the action of light and dark- racy after that date gradually ceased to dess, nor the variety of generation and visit the theatre; and the course of the production, but the perpetual presence in drama has, up to the present day, been the painter's mind of thoughts on revolu- almost completely controlled by the taste tion and decay.
of the middle classes. The tendencies which we have noticed At each of these stages we may observe in our painting are equally observable in a restriction of the national idea of action. our drama. Had Mr. Gladstone lived Founded as the Elizabethan drama was on in the reign of Elizabeth, he would no purely national principles, it was natural doubt have swelled the outcry of the that its poetical tradition should have been critics against Marlowe's “Tamburlane lost during the period when the nation
was divided against itself. The spirit of interjections and inversions which are the old tragedians never really reappears proper only to poetry: after the Restoration. But comedy sur- Kept within due limits, the Puritanic vived, and — as every comedy turns more element in the English nation exercised or less upon a love-plot - flourished in a a salutary influence on the stage. Many society which still retained traces of chiv- excellent comedies were produced during alrous gallantry and an aristocratic free. the eighteenth century, but in none of dom of manners. Again, however, the them is there a trace of the licentiousness genius of the old comedy receded before which disfigured the work of the dramathe advance of the middle classes. Bred tists after the Restoration. At the same as these classes had been on Puritanic time, the moralizing class of dramas, like principles, which had for a long time con. “ The Gamester” and “The Road to Ruin," demned all kinds of dramatic representa- which followed in the steps of “George tion, it was not to be expected that they Barnwell,” caught a certain style and vivacshould be tolerant of the somewhat easy ity from the aristocratic tone of society. morals which bad hitherto regulated the But when, after the first Reform Bill, the comic stage. They were moreover far middle-class element prevailed over the more austere and serious in their general aristocratic, life and action began to lanviews of life than the aristocracy, and before guish on the stage. The descendants of the age of their political supremacy had the old Puritans brought with them to the now and then uttered a note of tragic ear: theatre strong domestic feelings, but a limnestness, which sounded strangely amid ited experience and a narrow imagination. the gay vivacity and good breeding of the The influence of their taste soon became fashionable dramatists of the eighteenth apparent. In the first place, the poetic century. As early as 1732 George Lillo, drama languished, and then died. In the a tradesman, surprised the town by his second place, the taste and sentiments of tragedy, “The True Story of George Barn- that part of the audience which the dra. well." "On its being announced for pub- matist felt himself chiefly obliged to court, lication,” says Mrs. Inchhald in a preface being very restricted in their range, he to the play, “ the well-known title made a was forced to borrow many of his situavery unfavorable impression on the refined tions from abroad. The comedies of the part of the town and they condemned the last century are evidently of native origin ; presumption of the author in hoping to but we suppose we are within the mark in make them sympathize in the sorrows of saying that at least two-thirds of the plays any beneath the rank of an emperor, king, produced in this generation are taken or statesman." Nevertheless“ George from the French. As the character and Barnwell” made an impression. “ The traditions of the two nations are totally play was performed twenty nights succes- different, it is evident that no truly represively on its first appearance, nor did it sentative dramatic situation can be translose its attraction in the winter season, planted from the one to the other without being frequently acted to crowded houses, losing all its life and spirit. We remember and warmly patronized by merchants and a year or two ago witnessing a play called other opulent citizens.”
Peril,” which had been adapted from a All this is highly significant as an antici- French original, turning of course on cerpation of the change hereafter to be tain ill-adjusted relations of the marriage effected in dramatic taste. It shows us state. In Paris such a drama would have that the society of that period was still been written, acted, and criticised, by men familiar with the conceptions of extended to the manner born, and would doubtless action which had prevailed in the poetical have succeeded accordingly. In England drama, and that it was shocked at the idea it produced indeed a comic effect, but not of domestic tragedy: The play itself re- of the kind intended by the writer; the veals, on the other hand, the unimagina. comedy consisted in the ineffectual strugtive realistic quality of middle-class taste, gle of the author with materials which he in its idea of action strong but harsh, and could not master, the embarrassment of strictly limited to the range of a narrow the actors in assuming characters with experience. Its moral tone, impressive which they failed to sympathize, and the from a genuine earnestness, is yet slightly uneasiness of the audience at finding themridiculous; for though, in conformity with selves interested in a situation which they its domestic character, the tragedy is were bound to disapprove. written in prose, the desire of the author Of the dramatists of this generation to be lofty and eloquent has made him put who have relied on their native powers of into the mouths of the meanest persons invention, the two most thoroughly repre