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The Spirit of Winter arose on the air,
With gurgling sounds like a dying man.” This is decidedly the best passage in the book; yet it will scarcely satisfy one who has been accustomed to drink at the fountains of Spenser, Shakspere, and Milton. We fancy that Mr. Bennoch has in some portions of his poem imitated Scott. Now Scott is the very worst model for imitation. We say not this out of any feeling of disrespect to the Border Bard, since few poets have won their laurels so well; but because his style of versification, however beautiful under his management, is very apt, in less skilful hands, to favour redundancy, and flatter young authors into the hallucination that readiness of word-stringing is gracefulness of expression. Scott wrote inaoly sense and delicate poetry, but his imitators have seldom more than an easy flow of rhyme.
Mr. Bennoch's minor pieces (with the exception of “The Mourner's Hope," which is good) are indeed trifles; equally destitute of thought and of purpose, still, as is frequently the case with melodious nothings, they are sometimes pleasing; though the pleasure we take in them is very similar to the pleasure an infant takes in its rattle. The public mind, now, more than ever, demands strong aliment; and will soon altogether refuse the thin milk with which in its nonage it was not improperly fed. Thomson of Iver on the Heartsease. Edited by W. M‘Logan. London:
Miller, Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. 1841. This is the first number of a series of essays on the prime ornaments of the flower-garden, and, if the plan laid down by the editor, and acted upon in this first part, is carried out in the subsequent portions, it will prove equally valuable to the florist and the amateur. Each will derive from it amusement, and, which is of more importance, each may gain from it much valuable information, for every treatise will be written by a florist who has gained the prize for the best specimen of the flower which is the subject of it. This valuable feature of the work at once sets it far above anything of the kind that has been yet attempted; we have here in a narrow compass, and at a theap rate, sound, practical information, such as will enable any one to produce the best sort of flowers himself, either in town or in the country, for even in the narrow limits of a London life much may be done in the way of this pare and healthy occupation.
The number now before us, as it name imports, is devoted to the Hearts. ease, and a very able treatise it is, supplying all, and indeed more than we thought could be brought forward on the subject. It is accompanied by an excellent coloured engraving of the pansey in its most perfect form,-a form, indeed, in which we suspect it is not often seen. The notes by the editor are fiumerous and well selected, showing where and how others have differed from the celebrated florists of Iver, or in how far their views have corresponded with his own. To the ladies, as well as the florists, this work will be an acceptable present. The Origin, Progress, and present Condition of the Fine Arts in Great Britain
and Ireland. By W. B. SARSFIELD TAYLOR, Curator of the Living Model Academy, Translator of M. Meremée's Work on Oil Painting, Fresco, &c. &c. 2 vols. 8vo. Whittaker and Co.
This work is the first, and, indeed, only one, of its class, in which it has been attempted to collect, combine, and arrange an historical view of the Fine Arts in the British Isles, from the earliest records of their existence amongst us down to the present time ;-a task, as many of our readers must be well aware, of very considerable difficulty ; requiring not only very great labour and research, amongst the scattered materials to be sought for in our public and private libraries, but also an intimate knowledge of all the sources from which the hitherto unpublished modern history of the arts could be obtained ; and along with these qualifications, an intimate practical knowledge of the arts was absolutely requisite, to enable an author to form a just estimate of the positive and comparative value of the various species of information obtainable for this purpose, and to select from a great mass of materials only those parts which bore directly and clearly upon the various topics to be submitted in elucidation of this interesting subject, and for the instruction of the public mind..
Of the qualifications of the author for this “ labour of love," the work before us gives very substantial evidence, not only in the surprising number of facts which he has brought together in support of his view of the question, but for the order and arrangement with which they are distributed throughout the work, which prevents any confusion of ideas, and makes the chain of circumstances pass on in chronological order, without interruption, from the commencement to the completion of the work.
But these are not the only remarkable points in the character of these volumes; for besides the decided originality of the plan, the author's views of the subject are equally so ; he has not followed any leader, nor suffered any of the old established prejudices to influence him in his researches after the truth; and he sustains a very firm yet mild spirit of independent feeling throughout, which, although it may not in some instances be at all lattering to those who hold opposite views in these matters, yet cannot excite the ill will of any but the most narrow-minded and shallow pretenders to knowledge in this branch of literature.
One principal, and, indeed, meritorious object of the author has been to excite public attention in favour of the arts and artists of his country; a patriotic feeling in which we cordially coincide, and which we should think deserves not only the thanks, but the lasting gratitude, of the members of the intellectual professions, and the most cordial approbation of all those who admire and support the painting, sculpture, and architecture of the British Isles. But this worthy purpose is most intelligently put forward, and is based upon the absolute merits of the case, and Mr. Taylor argues it as a matter of right and justice to the artist, and not on the ground of generosity and expediency; which latter motives he considers as not at all applicable to the object; and he brings forward many strong arguments founded upon well authenticated facts, to show that the talents of our native artists have displayed a vigour of imagination, a knowledge of expression, colour, and effect, with a skill in the more mechanical operations of the art, quite equal
to, if not greater than ought to be expected from the confined nature of the encouragement which they have hitherto received.
The manner in which the progress of architecture has been described, is one of the most interesting, perspicuous, and correct portions of the work, and is further elucidated by diagrams to explain the differences of style between the Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman, early English or Pointed style, the Decorated, Perpendicular, and Tudor or Florid styles. These six distinct modes or fashions of Architecture are distinctly and technically described in the first volume; and the long-established but extraordinary error of ascribing the invention of our noble " early English ” edifices of the Pointed style to those barbarians, the Gothic tribes, is completely exposed and refuted.
The following extracts will convey to our readers a fair view of the manner in which this part of the work has been executed ;
“INTRODUCTION OF THE POINTED STYLE INTO ENGLAND. “Having explained, in the course of this work, the great distinction between the debased Roman architecture, properly called Anglo-Saxon, and the next style, or Anglo-Norman, the examples of which, though with marked features of the same parent, were essentially superior in size and character; we now come to that style, which soon superseded every other, and was the deserved favourite of all persons, whether learned or unlearned, for above three hundred years, during which period it underwent many changes, but they were all transitions—the alterations naturally suggesting themselves to the acute and intelligent minds of the eminent and learned men who had devoted their chief attention to the cultivation of the arts; and being, from their superior education and experience, the most competent judges of what was grand and elegant in architecture, they applied themselves, with ardour and constancy, to cultivate that art for great national purposes,
"The earliest authentic example of the pointed style we have in England, is the hospital of St. Cross, (Holy Cross,) near Winchester; this edifice was built in 1136, by Henry of Winchester : this prelate had been a monk in the abbey of Clugny; that Church and monastery had been found too small for the great increase of its members; Hugh, the abbot, found means to obtain fands,and in 1093, he commenced rebuilding the monastery, which, being of great extent, was not completed before 1131, just five years before the church of St. Cross was commenced by Henry of Winchester; and as Henry had been a resident of Clugny for some time, it is reasonable to suppose that he acquired his knowledge of the pointed architecture during his studies in that institution. There appears to be in these buildings a great similarity of style. The arches which support the naves are pointed, whilst the upper arches are semi-circular ; and in answer to those who have said that the pointed style came from the Crusades, it is fair to state, that the Crusades did not begin until more than three years after this abbey was commenced, It must be observed, however, that the arches of both nave and vestibule at Clugny are lofty and pointed, yet these arches spring from Corinthian capitals of columns and pilasters, which clearly proves that this new method had not long been adopted.” *
"Hitherto the history of the arts in England has not been one of much praise or profit to its professors; the trade of war was considered infinitely more honourable, although the latter appears to have been little else than making free with the lives and properties of others upon a large scale, and to these visitations even the artists were often subjected. The vigorous mind of the king having restored something like law and order, the public intellect soon began to display its wonted energies, and to show that though it had been terribly overlaid, it was far from being extinguished. On all sides there
* "From Alphonso of Castile.”
arose magnificent cathedrals and splendid abbey-churches, infinitely superior to any thing of the kind heretofore seen in England, and vying with the finest of their respective classes on the continent.
“The pointed or early English' style of architecture, as it is denominated, had abont the time of Henry'g* accession been adopted in the new ecclesiastical structures of the first and second classes, but not unmixed with its more massive but less elegant precursor's lineaments; and this not very harmonious combination continued, though gradually declining in frequency, through the reign of Richard I. to John, when the Anglo-Saxon and AngloNorman styles were entirely laid aside, and never have been resumed.
“Many of our fine cathedrals of this epoch afford very interesting examples of the apparent struggle that must have been then carried on between the patrons and architects of the pointed and the round styles ; the latter did not give way until a new generation had arisen, who, not having any prejudices in favour of the old massive modes of building, became fascinated with the superior appearance of the new method ; and also finding, by some ex. perience, that though from its elegant forms not promising so much endurance as the former manner, yet that it possessed the essential quality of permanence in at least an equal degree with its ponderous rival, the question of preference was finally set at rest.
*Thus established in the affections of all classes in society, 'the early Eng. lish style' of ecclesiastical Architecture took its proud station as the leader and guardian of the fine arts in England ; under its ample protection, Painting and Sculpture, its lovely sisters, found occupation for their intellectual energies, and encouragement for the exercise of their genius; a brighter day now dawned upon the native English school, which had long struggled for existence amidst the storms and gloom of political anarchy, which, with occasional though short cessations, had, for centuries, strewed calamity, in all its frightful forms, upon the soil of England."
“There must have existed at that time, and for some centuries later, a union of sentiment among these various classes of artists, a cordiality of feeling considerably greater, as it is generally supposed, than could be discovered in periods far more enlightened: the only point of contention amongst them appears to have been one highly honourable to themselves, and of the greatest advantage to the arts, and the sciences in connexion with them. This great object of their ambition was to elevate the character of their respective professions, and to emulate, or if possible to surpass, the best efforts of others, without looking upon them in any other light than as brethren engaged in the same noble and intellectual pursuits. They clearly perceived that the more cordially they were united in sentiment and feeling with each other, the greater likelihood there must be that works of superior character would be produced. The glories of art, and of their country, were the sole objects that kindled their enthusiasm, and not the sordid contentions of selfishness; and we need only appeal to the noble structures which they have left us in corroboration of these opinions."
"The principal public works which were commenced or completed in this monarch's reign were, the cathedrals of Bristol and Canterbury, rebuilt ; Carlisle, Norwich, restored, 1171; Peterborough, York, 1160; Rochester, Winchester, 1170. These are some of our pointed style, though not unmixed with Anglo-Norman portions, for it was not until after the accession of John, 1199, that all the parts of that heavy style were laid aside."
With respect to Painting, it appears to have been, like Sculpture, subordinate to Architecture until the reign of Henry VIII., when it gained an ascendancy, as the other two declined, as the following extract will show.
* “ It may be called the style of the 13th century, being perfect in the early part of that time, it merged in the Decorated about the close of that period."
HENRY VIII.-THE FLORID STYLE OF ARCHITECTURE. “The reign of this sovereign forms altogether a new epoch in the arts, as it did in the religion of England; with the latter part of the question, however, we have nothing to do, our business is merely to consider Henry's conduet in reference to the fine arts; and we cannot throw any new light upon the moral and political motives and actions of this extraordinary and very eccentric sovereign.
“ Henry appears to have had a natural partiality for the arts, but more especially for painting. Sculpture and architecture he also encouraged at the commencement of his reign; but the creations of the pencil appear to bare afforded him very high gratification, and to have been the only objects which maintained their ascendancy to the last in his capricious mind. This taste displayed itself most decidedly in the early part of his reign. He made liberal offers to Raffael and Primaticcio, inviting them to visit England and adorn his palaces with their works; and Cardinal Wolsey's influence was employed at Rome to promote this desirable object; but unfortunately it could not be effected.”
It was at this period that foreign artists began to be encouraged in England, and to interfere seriously against the development of native talents; they succeeded each other in great numbers for more than two centuries, and absorbed almost the entire of the profits and patronage of the country during that time, to the great injury of native talent, which was quite overlaid or neglected, through a foolish desire to employ foreign, though often inferior, artists.
Mr. Taylor, who expresses, justly, an indignant feeling on this important subject, has given a long list of their names and merits, to show how completely they blocked out our native artists from all participation in public favour; but he states that he has not given one half of those foreigners' names in his possession, “as it would be a mere loss of time;" and enough has been done to prove that unnatural state of the public taste, which, but for the indisputable facts produced, would at this time appear incredible.
The efforts of Charles I. to lay a good foundation for the arts and sciences in Britain, are very remarkable, though until now quite unknown to the public. From thence to the reign of George II., the downward course of the arts is traced with great precision, and the foreign charlatans, Kneller, the Riccis, Vanbrugh, &c. in the arts, are described with truth and humour.
“WILLIAM III. (1688 to 1705) "An entirely new vista in the arts now opens to our view,-a complete revolution in politics, religion and the arts; from a sybarite system of courts, to strict order, and even sternness of purpose. The successful hero of numerous battles, all fought in defence of the political existence of his native country, the dearest liberties of England, and the independence of Europedepending upon his own resources, and, as Mr. Walpole justly says, 'not content to acquire glory by proxy,' he had no leisure, like his antagonist, * to preside over the registers of his fame. William fought his own battles, instead of choosing mottoes for the medals that recorded them; he could have no time, even if he had inclination, to turn his thoughts to the arts that adorn civilization, and give one of its greatest charms to social life. The queen appears to have felt much more interest about them than her warlike husband; there was not, however, much encouragement at court for artists, but a desire to possess pictures had extended itself throughout society, whilst judgment and taste in the arts had not at all improved. Nothing can demonstrate this better than the simple fact, that Kneller took the lead, and kept
"Louis XIV., whose wild ambition caused the greater portion of Europe to be frightfully devastated by war, never trusted his sacred person within the range of shot or shell."