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It is then in the infusion of a taste for high art into the bulk of the nation, that the national collection which has been begun by Government, will do most for art. It is the public who may be induced to visit the Gallery, to make the visiting it a fashion, and to imbibe from it a discriminating judgment and a knowledge of what is correct, that will effectually encourage art by the taste it may acquire from the establishment. Artists may travel and see collections of the first paintings. They may study at Rome, and return with all the professional knowledge they can imbibe, but on arriving in their own country they will find no remuneration for their incessant toil, unless the mass of the people can see and feel the excellence of their productions, which at present only a few, comparatively a very few, are capable of doing. It is to the public rather than to the artist, in the higher walks of art especially, that we must look for the beneficial results of this national undertaking. There can be no fear of the progressive improvement of the artist if he have an adequate stimulus to urge him on. This need not be the love of fame only, the instances are very rare where artists, solely for the love of art and the hope of a future name, have laboured through life, contented with no other reward. In one respect it is evident that even excellence in art cannot be obtained by the most enthusiastic student in poverty and obscurity; high art has this disadvantage, that even to learn its rudiments requires expense. Models which must be incessantly studied will be paid; travelling from country to country demands a purse of no light weight; the artist must in the early part of life see and know all he can see and know relative to art, and this cannot be done for nothing. The great Italian artists did not want it so much they were in the centre of the circle in which all of art that had survived from antiquity, and the best that living nature could furnish, were to be found; still they never refused the just profit of their labours. How then are young men in northern countries, with very limited means, to reimburse themselves for their little all, expended in travelling and in study, but by receiving a proper price for their works? There are enthusiastic and wild students, who talk of fame and glory as a satisfactory reward. Though this may be fine in theory, yet even on the principle of reciprocity it is most fallacious in practice. The art must ingross the whole man and his pecuniary means. Artists must not set up for philosophers, and pretend to despise what the philosopher may, but they cannot do without, either as artists or members of that society in the midst of which they must labour. Nothing can be more odious than a grasping love of money in one by whom money, like marble to the sculptor, should be looked upon only as an instrument towards attaining excellence. But while an ingrossing thirst for money must be condemned, the acquirement of what is necessary for the comforts of life by the chisel or the pencil, is neither derogatory to the dignity of the artist nor of his art, the latter being but the fruit of a refined species of labour of hand, linked with high intellect, and by no means above pecuniary compensation even in the best. To look on money as a necessary mean in life and for study, is the way a high artist should regard it to love money is beneath him. Barry's disregard of it was noble, yet who but Barry would live as he did?-greater men than he would not if they had the power to live otherwise! The poet and the philosopher may live out of society if they please to do so, in solitude, in the
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. Greece 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 harbinger 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. L.
THE VILLAGE CHILD.
'SCAPED from his cottage threshold see how wild
Or woodland banks for blue-bell flowers he creeps;
He spies a nest, then down he throws his flowers,
WHEN thou shalt see my friend again,
And tell her how I strove to check
The envious thought which sometimes came,
Ask her if ever thought of me
Hath come, o'ershaded by a fear,
And if it hath-thou know'st me well,
And charge her that she wrong me not.
Thou bring'st of these my passing hours,-
The path of life bestrew'd with flowers.
More would I say-of hopes to meet
And more-of hopes yet brighter-hopes
At last may meet, may blend in one.
CONVERSATIONS OF 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 last, 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!t how could this be done without high treason to friendship, without scandalizing 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 per-` suaded 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.