Imatges de pàgina

it for nearly half a century. To those who are highly conversant in the arts, this fact will be conclusive of the extraordinary famine of talent or judgment that must at that time have visited Europe. In no age of art, or under any circumstances, could Kneller have been a great artist; his highest title would have been 'a tolerable clever portrait painter ;' and even this only when be did his best, which was rarely the case in proportion to the quantity which he produced. Yet this man was unrivalled here in the arts; this star of the fourth magnitude entirely out-shone all the other stars pictorial in the northern hemisphere. Yet his best works do not display any of the higher qualities of portraiture ; and his worst, of which there is a numerous class, are but mediocre as works of art; nowhere does his pencil display the clear, full, and natural combination of tints which we see in the works of Rubens, Vandyck, Rembrandt, or Reynolds, and many of the Dutch and Flemish masters, and as compared to the Italian schools, he is still in a worse condition; yet we find that his father, who was chief surveyor of Lubeck, placed him in Bol's studio at Amsterdam ; he had also instructions from Rembrandt and Frank Hals, he resided two or three years at Venice, and at Rome was admitted into the schools of Bernini and Carlo Maratti: but all this instruction, which would have called great energies into action had they existed in the mind, only produced the chequered style, which we either approve or despise in his pictures, according to the treatment which their author has bestowed upon them,

“Even his great panegyrist, Walpole, says of him that he united the highest vanity, with the most consummate negligence of character; at least, where he offered one picture to fame, he sacrificed twenty to lucre: and he met with customers of so little judgment, that they were fond of being painted by a man, who would gladly have disowned his works the moment they were paid for. It is true, however, that he painted some good portraits, but it was only those persons of sense, spirit, or influence, who would not hare his bad ones: as, for instance, the beauties of King William's court, and the British admirals of the same reign, all at Hampton Court."

Mr. Taylor then describes the slow and very gradual recovery of the arts from their lethargic state during four successive reigns, until their grand development in the reign of George III., whom the author justly designates as “the Father of the Arts in Britain," and enters into a detail, which is highly interesting, to show the various means which were successively adopted by that monarch, as well as by enlightened nobleman, gentlemen, and the English artists of that period, to place the arts and their professors in the proper and elevated rank to which their intellectual qualities entitle them in civilized nations.

“ Having, with no small labour, been enabled to lay before our readers, a succinct, and, it is hoped, a clear view of the progress of the arts in England, with a list of the principal artists, whether natives or foreigners, who practised in this country, from the earliest authentic records up to this time, we now arrive at an epoch in the history of the arts, which is totally different from any of those by which it was preceded. Hitherto, their gloomy path has been occasionally illumined by brilliant, but transient lights, which excited hope only to increase the bitterness of disappointment; there was nothing steady, nothing consecutive in the pursuit or encouragement of art: it might be, and has been, compared to a chain, 'the chain of English art." All we have, however, been able to discover of this chain are the detached links, some of them doubtless extremely valuable; and could they have been joined together, would have been as lasting and useful as they were brilliant: but such a desirable circumstance did not take place. There was not any attempt made to promote a continuity of purpose amongst the artists, pr, indeed, any thing like unity of action, for the purpose of promoting and giving permanency to whatever principles of painting, sculpture, and architecture were known and practised in England, from the time when that noble race of English architects were obliged, from various causes in the time of Henry VIII., to break up their communities in England, and which had previously been academies of the arts, wherein the best principles of these professions were combined and disseminated by the union of many persons of talent in one social band, governed and directed by one great master mind, in whose superior sagacity, experience, and probity, all reposed the most perfect confidence. In these instances, we have the undeniable proofs of the advantages which the arts derive from well selected and harmonious communities of artists being cordially united for the purposes of instruction and improvement; but until the reign of George III., no attempt was made since the time of Charles I. to assemble in one regular body the men of acknowledged talent who were in good reputation. This great oversight was principally, if not entirely, occasioned by the strange neglect of successive governments, and their still more surprising and unnatural preference for every thing that had the stamp of foreign art, whether it had, or had not, any merit.

“That many of the foreign artists who came to England in the above period were men of excellent and various endowments in art, we have already given our testimony. Several of these artists realized fortunes in England, which they retired to enjoy on the continent, but

"Another and another still succeeds;' and thus it was from the commencement of the period above mentioned to the time at which we have just now arrived. The arts were progressing downwards gradually, and not very slowly, from the termination of King Charles the First's reign, through all the succeeding governments, until those of Queen Anne and King George I., when they had descended so low, even in the hands of most of the foreign adventurers, that they could not go any further in that direction, except by being altogether annihilated.

“This unhappy state of things arose from two very adequate causes; these were, neglect on one hand, and very injudicious patronage on the other : to these circumstances the rapid degeneracy of the art has been with great justice attributed. There were, at that time, British minds as nobly formed, of as fine a texture, and endowed with as decided energies, and elevated notions in art, as exist at the present day, or, perhaps, as ever did exist in any other nation : there was the marble quarry, there the golden ore, but deeply buried under an enormous load of that prejudice already alluded to, and its consequence, 'neglect. To encourage the cultivation of English art and artists, was not then 'fashionable;' the anti-English prejudice had been so thoroughly imbibed by our people of rank and wealth, that they believed, upreflectingly of course, that to attempt establishing any national system for that purpose, would only be a waste of time and means, and, in fact, nothing more than a practical absurdity. A few very brilliant and honourable exceptions to this unjust and unhappy feeling, we have already had the high gratification of recording, and that pleasure is likely to be considerably increased, by the addition of names and titles of persons equally as dear to the arts, and as true lovers of their country and its native talents, as the most estimable, high-minded, and intellectual of those gifted men, who were the champions of British art in the dreary season of its adversity. For the promulgation of the monstrous doctrines of British incapacity for the arts,' we are especially indebted to the ingenious reveries of the Abbés Winkelman and Du Bos, and the no less fantastic conceits of the President Montesquieu. On this subject they have put forth the most erroneous and even ridiculous assumptions, and from their false position they dogmatize with a solemnity which is perfectly amusing. We may smile now, it is true, at the ponderous levity of those pious priests, and the more plausible though not less absurd philosophizings of the worthy baron on this subject but empirical and void of intelligence as their observations are, we wil

suppose them guilty of wilfully perverting the truth. Their dreams, however, did serious mischief in their day, and were for a long time among the causes that helped to retard the progress of the arts in England. For these writers, strange to say, found British travellers, even those of rank and wealth, and who ought to have been better informed, giving their assent, probably without examination, to the crude assumptions of these authors, whose general learning and ability we do not call in question.

“ With their enemies, the British people know very well how to deal ; it is the management of their friends that has always been to them the most difficult task. The visions of the foreign writers above-named would have been soon interpreted, and their fallacies exposed, if the readers of those essays had exercised their common sense in examining the grounds of these gratuitous accusations against the intellectual capabilities of the English people : this not having been done, afforded strong presumptive evidence of the general correctness of those calumnies. But British capacity has in time vindicated itself from the aspersions of interested strangers and their travelled abettors. Leaving, therefore, this ungracious and ungrateful subject, which lay directly in our way, and upon which we were necessarily obliged to tread, however gently, we shall now return to one much more congenial to our own feelings, and, we trust, more gratifying and useful to our readers."

The author then proceeds to describe the origin of the Exhibition, the Royal Academy, the British Institution, the Architectural Societies, Academy for the Study of the Living Models, of the Royal Hibernian and Royal Scottish Academies of the Arts. In the course of these descriptions, many cir. cumstances of interest, connected with the leading British artists, coine in incidentally, and relieve the more descriptive parts of the narrative; and a sketch of the public and private galleries belonging to the nation, the sovereign, and the friends of art, closes agreeably the second volume.

The style of the work, as we think our extracts will show, is easy and natural, and the language well chosen to express clearly the various subjects of which it is composed; but it is to us a subject of regret that some parts of the work should be so much condensed as they evidently are. This is a fault we have rarely to complain of, though the opposite one is not uncommon. The author has, in fact, crowded into two volumes a body of information that might well have been dilated into three volumes, for it is clear enough that Mr. Taylor possesses a redundancy of information which the limited size of the work did not permit him to produce, or perhaps he found that his object, that of diffusing correct information on the arts extensively throughout society, would have been disappointed if he had made the work more expensive; but, at all events, it is the only compact and authentic record of the History of the Fine Arts in the British Empire. It is dedicated by permission to the President and Governors of the British Institution, Pall Mail, an association of noblemen and gentlemen, whose knowledge of the arts and of literature is of the highest order. A Lecture on the Writings, Prose and Poetical, and the Character, Public and

Personal, of John Milton. Delivered at several Metropolitan Literary Institutions. By ALFRED A. Fry, Esq., of Lincoln's Inn London: Hooper.

This lecture would be commendable, were not its style so singularly inelegant. The opinions expressed in it of Homer are decidedly wrong. The Golden Rules of Life, selected from the Works of the best Authors, Ancient

and Modern. By the Author of “ A Voice from the Poison Palaces." London : Simpkin and Marshall. Exceedingly well compiled.

Many other books stand over for review; but we will clear off all our old scores next month.

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THE DRAMA! THE DRAMA! THE DRAMA ! * At length, by dint of theoretical reasoning and practical experiment, the interests of the Drama are the theme of general controversy. An eminent actor attempted, with some success, the regeneration of the stage; and a poet of great genius has taken the first practical step towards the redemption of the Drama. Mr. Macready had two entire seasons for one experiment; Mr. Stephens has had but one little month for the other. As much has been accomplished by the poet, in his way, in one month, as by the actor, in his way, in two seasons. When the subject is thoroughly considered, neither has been able to advance more than a single step-Mr. Stephens has taken one step; Mr. Macready has not yet been able to take two. But the poet's one step is on an elevation to which the actor can only look with awe and terror. Thus it will ever be—the poet will ever be in advance. But inasmuch as this elevation is a moral one, and the level on which the other stands more popularly sensible, it will always require some exercise of the reason to place the subject in a proper light, and to prove to the common mind the rightful superiority, of which the poet, whatever his personal indiscretions, cannot be divested.

Take the statement of the different objects proposed by the Actor and the Poet in brief. Mr. Macready sought to prove against managers who had a penchant for spectacle and opera, that the legitimate drama, in the shape of revivals, might be made a commercial speculation. Mr. Stephens endeavoured to show that the unacted drama might be rendered actable. Mr. Macready's scheme, at the end of the first season, proved a failure,—he had lost two thousand pounds;

at the end of the second, by uniting opera and spectacle to tragic Tevivals, at an outlay exceeding all precedent, he contrived just to bring himself home. It yet remains, therefore, for him to prove, at Drury Lane, during the next and another season, that the plan pursued by him is commercially profitable. We know well how he has bought up the market of talent, so as to cripple the rival establish


Martinuzzi. A Tragedy, abridged from his Dramatic poem, entitled, “The Hungarian Daughter," by George Stephens. Second Edition, with Preface. London: C. Mitchell, Publisher to the Dramatic Authors' Theatre, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street, 1841. N.S.-VOL. VI.

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ment-nay, that, to the fullest possible extent, he has pursued the mere worldly policy of Mr. Bunn; and we feel assured—nay, it is demonstratively calculable—that it will prove equally ruinous. Not so with Mr. Stephens. All he sought to show, was shown on the first night of representation. In spite of an organized opposition, Martinuzzi was declared by a crowded audience to be not only an acting, but a successful drama. Subsequent and increasing audiences, for four and twenty successive nights, returned the same verdict. Had Mr. Stephens or his friends been in possession of a theatre, so as to run it for another month, the tragedy, beyond a doubt, would have returned an enormous profit.

Many things have to be taken into account, in considering the value and merit of Mr. Stephens's attempt. The refusal of the lord chamberlain, in the first instance, to permit the performance of the tragedy at the English Opera House as a legitimate drama, had placed the Council of Dramatic Authors hors de combat, and occasioned delay in its production. Mr. Stephens, however, saw, in this circumstance, a means of exposing the absurdity of the laws by which the minor theatres were precluded from the worthiest efforts, and so far promoting a beneficial alteration in them. He determined, therefore, to submit to, in order to aid in subverting, them. But this was not all; the Lyceum Theatre was only at liberty for a month, and it was foreseen that a month would not be sufficient time to subdue interested opposition and create a public taste, much less to make the venture profitable. With that chivalry which belongs to his character, Mr. Stephens determined to throw himself into the breach, at the risk of falling as the sacrifice, in a cause much misunderstood by many of its friends, insufferably maligned by its enemies, and unsupported as yet by popular syinpathy.

We have spoken of interested opposition. In the first place, managers looked upon the experiment as an appeal against their decisionthough it was, in fact, nothing more than an attempt to extend the dramatic arena. And in the second place, the company of playwrights were jealous of it as something that might endanger their craft. They therefore charged upon the poetic brethren a fanatical disdain for the technicalities of the scene; whereas, all that had ever been asserted, was, that while the mere playwright depended on such technicalities alone, the Dramatist would bring to them the life of genius capable of generating new developements. All he wanted, said we, was the opportunity of experience; give him that, and the dramatist will soon acquire all the mechanical skill of the playwright; while the mer playwright, not having poetic genius, never can arrive at the dignity of the dramatist. This opportunity of experience, therefore, is all that is demanded by the scheme—and this opportunity, Mr. Stephens was willing to purchase, though at a high rate; yet this the playwright clai would have denied, and forthwith entered into a crusade to prevent him from enjoying it. To observe the manner in which these techni. calists have treated the entire subject, one would think that for poets to become managers of a theatre, was to commit a crime of th: blackest character; instead of being, as it is, the only means for regenerating the stage, and redeeming the drama. . The newspaper

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