« ZurückWeiter »
humblest cot, or in the cave of the desert, their labours being entirely intellectual ; but what could the young painter or sculptor do in art if his residence were fixed on the rock of St. Kilda, among the forests of Canada, or the ruins of Palmyra? The artist is the creature of society, he flourishes only in an advanced stage of civilization, and his lot being so cast, it is absurd for him to expect that he must not adapt himself in some respect to its conventional customs.
The necessities of the fortuneless artist, at present, seem to be the cause of his looking up to a patron or to patronage, in other words, to dependance on the support of some wealthy personage. The contemplated national gallery will tend to make the public the patron of the artist, which it is not now, because it does not yet possess sufficient taste, feeling, and regard for his pursuit. Patronage is a species of degradation, which, bestowed often with the most honourable motives, is fatal to the high sense of independence which the artist should feel. The institutions of England require that her artists should take higher ground than those of other nations have ever done, because they are more advanced in that freedom which at present elevates the national character to a high point of civilization, glory, and power. The 'school of England, which is yet to be formed, should alone be distinguished by an original, bold, unshackled style of art. A refined public is the great patron for the British artist, who, while he advances the national glory under its fostering auspices, is cheered on by an applause that cannot be partial, and of which he may be justly vain. I would not here disparage the motives and kindness of those noblemen and gentlemen, by whose aid (often most discriminating and always honourable to themselves) the fine arts have arrived at the stage in which they now are in this country. I only mention what experience has proved to be correct, as far as respects our literature, which was once to a certain degree dependent upon patronage, that what British artists will do for the national glory cannot be estimated until a national feeling for art raises them to a perfect independence of all but public encouragement, and until the public is qualified to become their judge, and they can look upon public opinion as an unerring guide. This state of things, I firmly believe, will one day arrive, and the empire of art in England will be a republic as well as that of letters, and the English school of art take its place as high as that of Italy. Already we see, except in the labours of minor chiselers and painters, the marble monsters of sculpture, and the allegories of painting of the like character, diminishing before the censorship of the public, and more adherence exhibited to truth and nature. The base flatteries of the best artists of the age of Louis XIV. far as the present man-degrading serviles of the French court will go, would hardly pass current there now; and in England would long ago be scorned and scouted by the good sense of every rank. The route to the formation of a pure national feeling for art is tedious and slow of ascent, but it is probable that it will ultimately lead to an eminence in this country more lofty and commanding, than the proudest nations of past time have attained, in proportion as it is more free. The jargon that under a despotism the arts are always most flourishing, is utterly unworthy of notice. was a republic, and in the great age of modern art the government was mild for the age. Commerce, wealth, as has been observed already,
and the support of nobles, merchants, and ecclesiastics, elicited a blaze which was indeed of unparalleled splendour for a moment, and declined under a succeeding tyranny and barbarism, fatal to a continuation of the race of great artists antecedently produced--I refer, as before, to Italy between 1452 and 1530.
With these plain facts before us, it is surprising that any should be found who censure the conduct of Government, in purchasing Mr. Angerstein's collection; it is rather censurable for not having made similar purchases before. Many cannot see how high art will benefit a community, who can expend thousands in the most groveling objects. Where understanding is not given by nature, it is useless to endeavour to produce an impression by argument. Such, it is to be hoped, are but few, obscure in society, shallow in intellect, gross in feeling, and narrow in influence. By ourselves the event is hailed with unmingled satisfaction; we look upon it as the barbinger of greater things, that will confer additional glory upon this country,--to whose real glory he must be fallen low indeed who is indifferent,--and raise a mighty superstructure of national celebrity which the lapses and changes of time can never deteriorate. In spite of the reserved manners of the members of some modern governments-of their pretended indifference to praise or dispraise, or their coy reception of popular commendation,-it is in reality with the better portion of them a secret source of pleasure--a sensation of delight which they know how to value highly, and which is the most honourable and the proudest testimony they can receive for the fulfilment of their duties. In the present instance, Ministers have acted, we are sure, in union with public opinion, in the proper sense of the term, and have felt gratified in having so acted—the beneficial results will by and by manifest themselves.
THE VILLAGE CHILD.
'Scaped from his cottage threshold see how wild
When thou shalt see my friend again,
And hear the voice I cannot hear,
Once more thy favour'd soul shall cheer
Most dearly, would her wishes be?
Say, “ These, and more, I bring to thee."
The envious thought which sometimes came, To think thine eye should see her thus,
Thine ear should hear her name my name. Ask her if ever thought of me
Hath conje, o'ershaded by a fear, Lest present things and passing joys
Should make her memory less dear. And if it haththou know'st me well,
I say not, chide her for that thought; But tell her all thou canst of me,
And charge her that she wrong me not. And if she ask thee, what report
Thou bring'st of these my passing hours, Tell her I never look'd to find
The path of life bestrew'd with Aowers. Yet say in duty's path, though rough,
Is sweetness. She hath found it true ; And tell her more and more my heart
Admits, believes, and feels it too. Nor let her fear a boastful thought
With thoughts like this is close entwined; She knows the heart may acquiesce
When “practice grovels far behind.” More would I say-of hopes to meet
Some distant day on earth again, To number up our blessings past,
And count the joys that still remain ; And more-of hopes yet brighter-hopes
That when the work of life is done, Our differing paths, diverging wide,
At last may meet, may blend in one. But thou may'st tell her all thy heart,
And I may cease my own to tell; Go then, with blessings on thy path,
To her I love-g0,--fare thee well !
CONVERSATIONS or LORD BYRON. This work possesses three sources of attraction, either of them sufficient to insure a general circulation. First, it concerns Lord Byron, the minutest details of whose " whereabouts” are anxiously sought after by every body; secondly, the book is discursive and full of anecdotes, and its pages teem with all the great names of the age : and ast, though not least, it spares neither friend nor foe. When first we heard the promise of such a publication, we were a little startled. We were somewhat acquainted with the style and matter of Lord Byron's familiar conversations. We knew that he was noble, and had been habituated by his caste to idle gossiping about persons; we knew that his feelings were quick and susceptible, and therefore that he was likely to be unguarded in speech; we knew too that he was prone to change his“ favour” according to the accidental light in which he regarded an object at the moment, and therefore might be tempted to say things of his best friends, that he would be sorry to have repeated, much less “set down in print” against them. Different from Dr. Johnson, he courted not extensive circles of admiring auditors; he spoke not " per far effetto,"—his colloquy was not an harangue, in which the thought was as apprêté”, as the language. Dr. Johnson's discourses to the club, and at the tea-table of Mrs. Piozzi, were a sort of publication: and Boswell in printing them gave them but a second edition. But Lord Byron's conversations, the conversations of a man whose whole life was but one “ laissez uller," who spoke as he wrote, and who sought in society nothing beyond its own intrinsic enjoyments !+ how could this be done without high treason to friendship, without scandal. izing all the subjects of his casual remarks ? As far, however, as Lord Byron is concerned, we are, on perusal, satisfied that the author has acquitted himself with tolerable felicity, and we are persuaded he may sleep in peace without any fear of a visitation from his Lordship’s offended ghost. The noble poet was too frank and facile in his literary intercourse with the world, was too apt to display the weaknesses, no less than the strength of his mind, with an almost cynical indifference to his reader, to care much about this species of exposure; and though there are many details more especially of matters of opinion, which we are persuaded he uttered more out of wantonness than that he even at the time thought as he spoke,-details which he would have been sorry to pass current as the expression of his real sentiments; yet, as far as he was himself concerned, we have no doubt he would have been more grateful than displeased at the publication. If credit may be given to this journal, Lord Byron was most desirous for the posthumous printing of his memoirs; and he seems, indeed, to have intrusted them to Mr. Moore, as a safeguard against that very accident into which the high-wrought notions of delicacy of the trustee, and his deference to relations and friends, eventually betrayed them. Lord Byron seems to have been aware of the prudery of his own immediate connexions, and in the way in which he bestowed the MS. to have consulted at once his generous disposition towards a friend, and his desire of security against mutilation
* Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron : noted during a residence with his Lordship at Pisa, in the years 1821 and 1822. By Thomas Medwin, Esq. 4to.
+ See Journal, p. 50.
or suppression. On this subject, the Journal makes Lord Byron speak as follows:
“ I am sorry not to have a copy of my Memoirs to show you. I gave them to Moore, or rather to Moore's little boy."
“I remember saying, ' Here are 2000l. for you, my young friend. I made one reservation in the gift,—that they were not to be published till after my death.
“I have not the least objection to their being circulated; in fact they have been read by some of mine, and several of Moore's friendsand acquaintances; among others, they were lent to Lady Burghersh. On returning the Ms. her Ladyship told Moore that she had transcribed the whole work. This was un peu fort, and he suggested the propriety of her destroying the copy. She did so, by putting it into the fire in his presence. Ever since this hapo pened, Douglas Kinnaird has been recominending me to resume possession of the MS., thinking to frighten me by saying that a spurious or a real copy, surreptitiously obtained, may go forth to the world. I am quite indifferent aboui the world knowing all that they contain. There are very few licentious adventures of my own, or scandalous anecdotes that will affect others, in the book. It is taken up from my earliest recollections, almost from childhood, - very incoherent, written in a very loose and familiar style. The second part
will prove a good lesson to young men ; for it treats of the irregular life led at one period, and the fatal consequences of dissipation. There are few parts that may not, and none that will not be read by women."
In this particular, Lord Byron's fate has been singular; and a superstitious person might be startled at the coincidence of so many causes all tending to hide the secret of his character from the public. That scandal and envy should have been at work with such a man is not very extraordinary; but the burning bis Memoirs and the subsequent injunction on the publication of his Letters to his Mother, seem as if something more than mere chance had operated to preserve unconfuted the calumnies of the day for the benefit of future biographers. Of these letters we were fortunate enough to obtain a glimpse; and never, we will ven. ture to say, was more innocent, and at the same time more valuable matter so withheld from the world. It is but an act of cold justice to Lord Byron's memory, to state that they appear the reflections of as generous a mind as ever committed its expression to paper. The traces of his temperament, and of his false position in society, are indeed there: but the sentiments are lofty and enthusiastic; and every line betrays the warmest sympathy with human suffering, and a scornful indignation at mean and disgraceful vice.
To the sacrificed Memoirs and the incarcerated Letters, the present Journal is a sort of supplement; and it is avowedly published as an attempt to supply some portion of the information, of which the public have been, as Mr. Medwin thinks, so injuriously deprived. Indeed, both from the matter, and the sostenuto style of some of the passages, we have been almost tempted to think them a leaf rescued from the fames. All men, however, are apt to speak much of themselves; and great men often do this well: it is not, therefore, very unlikely that Lord Byron's conversations might frequently be mere fragments of his written life, at least as far as concerns the sequence of thoughts; and we
Moore's son was not with him in Italy; there is consequently some trifling inaccuracy in this. It is, nevertheless true, as we happen to know, that this was the turn wbich Lord B. gave to his present, in order to make it more acceptable to his friend. Rev.