« AnteriorContinua »
with them out of doors, who state their complaints within the walls of Parliament, and who practically contend for a majority of the objects set forth in “ The People's Charter,” will probably soon marshal themselves into a regular parliamentary party; and it is not unlikely that some remnant of the old Tories may secede from the great Conservative party, while a portion of the Whigs may join the latter.
The House, then, is never wholly absorbed by the two great parties; the degree of attention, therefore, with which an orator is heard, depends not only upon who has elected him for their representative, but upon who, amongst his brother members, may have chosen him for their mouthpiece. An eloquent man is always listened to with pleasure; a man learned in public affairs receives a deferential hearing; an impartial, candid, disinterested speaker is so rare, that he is reverenced; the leader of even a small section enjoys a sort of reflected privilege, which his fellow members are not backward to acknowledge; a man of great wealth commands in every English assembly a high station ; the speech of one who gives good dinners is often cordially cheered ; and the oratory of a lord is necessarily more wise, more learned, more witty, more everything, than the speeches of mere untitled men.
In conversation, the question is often put, Why does one member obtain the ear of the House, when another is coughed down ? The reader who hears of such an occurrence may put to himself the following questions :-Does a given member hold a commanding position out of the House-is he a man of wealth or of family ? Has he, by his services and experience on committees, or in the discharge of official duties, earned the public respect? Is he a political adventurer, or a man of character and honour, or a mob-leader, or a bigot? Is he a man of the world ? or has he passed bis life in seclusion, like a special pleader, a conveyancer, or a college tutor? Is he too learned, or too vulgar, for his auditory? Reflect not over-much on his matter, but look to his manner. Has he the reputation of being better acquainted than those around him with the subject under consideration ? Is he called on to render any personal explanations, or to defend his own official conduct? Is he the accredited agent of any colony, or especially authorized to speak on behalf of any individual or any public body? Is he crotchetty, or affected, or prosy? Ponder over these things before you say that the House is unjust, or that the reporters for the public press have denied the honourable gentleman his due space in the columns of the newspaper. The representative body consists of six hundred and fifty-eight members; and not one in a hun. dred is heard solely on account of his being eloquent. More--much more than one per cent, are good speakers; but considerations, far removed from the art of oratory, obtain great weight with such an audience as the House of Commons. Nevertheless, it is amongst the popular delusions of the present day, to suppose that a large proportion of those who take a lead in the business of Parliament are necessarily men of high oratorical power. It is another, to suppose that the right honourable gentleman who fills the chair is much more than the moderator or president of the assembly. He was originally chosen to be the medium of communication between the Crown and the Lords on the one hand, and the Commons on the other ;-he is so still. He expresses also the approbation or the displeasure of the Commons; but these occurrences are rare. His every-day occupation is to preside over the daily business of the House, to restrain the jobbing propensities of those who are concerned in promoting private bills, to govern that establishment called “the Officers of the House,” to issue warrants, and periodically to give dinners to the members. Considering the matter as a technical formality, the Speaker may be called the mouth-piece of the House; but, substantially and politically, he does not expound their sentiments. This will be evident, when the reader brings to mind the following considerations :The ministerial party can never be fewer than half the House. The head of that party must bring them to his opinions, or himself to theirs, or effect a compromise, so as to produce harmony between the leader and his followers. For the time being those followers subscribe to whatever he says; vote for whatever he, or his subordinates, propose ; fight his battles in their respective counties; cheer him in debate, and support him on divisions. It is the universal rule of all public assemblies, that the vote of the majority should be the vote of the whole; the majority of the House, for all practical purposes, for all objects of legislation and government, is the House ;-the organ of the Ministry is therefore always the leader of the House; and, whatever may be the old constitutional theory, the real Speaker is not the right honourable gentleman who presides, —for he is the moderator-but the right honourable gentleman who talks; the man whoấon all questions of foreign or domestic policy, nominally addressing the House, but really, through the press, speaking in the name and on behalf of the House to England or to the world --vindicates, promises, threatens, or explains ; makes admissions, or demands; refuses or concedes all such matters as the House feels to be expedient, desirable, or necessary. From Lord John Russell up to our early constitutional writers, we find that the organ of the Ministry is called “the Leader of the House ;” and the views of that body are to be collected from the speeches which they assent to by cheers and support by votes. Their character and prevailing opinions are of course not to be learnt from the dry formalities, to which their chairman confines himself-differing, as he sometimes does, in politics from the majority—but are rather to be seen reflected in the vivid and copious expositions of successive leaders -of Peel, Russell, Althorp, Canning, Castlereagh, Perceval, Pitt, Fox, North, or Walpole. It is obvious, then, that to all practical purposes, a man must become the recognized organ of the House before he is eligible to the leadership of the Government; and that the organ of the House speaks in the name and on behalf of that House to England, to Europe, to the world, in a voice which the proudest potentate may not set at nought, or the most turbulent republic venture to disregard.
We are necessarily warned by the strict limits of a Magazine article, either to bring these lucubrations to an abrupt close, or to adopt the resolution of resuming the subject in a future number. To the latter course a preference is given, in the hope that something may be done to interest the reader by a comparison between the reformed and the unreformed House of Commons, and between the
reported and the unreported, namely, between the time of elective boroughs and nomination boroughs——the age of constituencies and almost no constituencies :-the days of Wyndham and Grenville and Whitbread, when reports were meagre outlines; and the period of Peel and Palmerston, when they are all but verbatim statements; the days when a leader on either side stood forward and fought the battle by way of single combat, and the early years of the Reformed Parliament, when every provincial oracle, setting up for himself, aspired to be a Demosthenes, and plunged into the general melée of debate, in which leathern lungs, and a dauntless front, for a time overbore common sense and fair play. Proceeding to an earlier date, some reference may be made to the incursion of the Irish, on the union which took place in 1800, to the character of the House at the commencement of the French revolutionary war, during the American war of independence, in the administrations of the elder Pitt, and of he never to be forgotten Sir Robert Walpole.
THE ART UNION PURCHASES AS EXHIBITED AT THE
SUFFOLK STREET GALLERY. This Exhibition will not fail to excite the attention of all who feel an interest in the State and Prospects of British Art. The Art Union of London numbers its twelve thousand subscribers; similar societies are prospering in Edinburgh and Dublin, and the large provincial towns are rapidly adding to the number of Institutions assuming to be for the advancement of art.
That these will greatly increase the amount of money expended on pictures is pretty certain. They will not deter the wealthy connoisseur from taking advantage of the private view, while they will give the poor but genuine admirer of painting a chance of gratifying his taste, and are sure to be supported by a vast number of persons who will always be ready to avail themselves of the advantage of a subscription, which, at the same time that it bestows upon them in some degree the character of patrons, gives them a chance of obtaining a work of art of higher value than they could otherwise indulge in the possession of.
Eight thousand nine hundred pounds is the sum laid out in the present Exhibition, from 12,9501. Ils. subscribed ; and as the committee of management have rendered an account in their printed report of the manner in which one third of the amount is deducted for working the machinery, we leave it to the reader to form his own conclusions upon the economy therein shown-at the same time we cannot refrain from recording it as our opinion, that from three subscriptions, deducting one to arrange the two, thereby depriving every third subscriber of any chance whatever for the amount of his subscription, is not, in our humble judgment, a well arranged division. Moreover we find that the pecuniary interests of the subscribers might be less interfered with if the fund in the hands of the committee, and stated in the above mentioned report to be 2651. 8s. 6d. arising from “interest on subscriptions invested in Exchequer bills, amount unexpended by prizeholders,” &c.—were thrown into the general expenditure. We trust that these hints will be assumed with the same degree of kindly feeling with which they are proffered ;-great credit is due to the committee for their exertions; at the same time their experience is young, being of the same age with the project-which we hope to see increase in strength and wellbeing.
The following remarks upon the pictures selected, are given with a desire of forming some opinion upon the influence of Art Unions on the present state and future prospect of the British School of Painting.
There has been much contention upon the good (or rather supposed good) that would arise, from a large sum being allotted for one prize, the inefficacy of which having been substantially proved by abler hands than ours, it is not our intention to reiterate the arguments; we were, however, much surprised that the experiment was ventured a second time,—the failure of last year being apparent to almost every one. Nevertheless the committee thought otherwise, and, doubtless, imagining the failure to arise, not from the bait being large, but from its being not large enough, added another hundred to the hook, and caught-a monster-a very ugly fish indeed.
A cursory glance round the room will, we doubt not, produce the impression, that the present Exhibition is far superior to the last, numerically as well as virtually. There is a better appreciation of excellence, displayed in the general choice,—the exceptions being, unfortunately, amongst a few of the highest prizes, and most signally with the highest. If the intentions of the Art Union were to obtain the greatest extent of canvass for 4001., they may have succeeded, with the greatest amount of colour to boot; and if No. 81,“ The Flight into Egypt,” J. Martin,-is to be regarded as a specimen of that high art which we are told requires protection and nurturing out of Christian charity to the world at large, and for the love of suckling Painters in general, do we earnestly recommend the nursery to be established
“ Afar in boundless waste, where not e'en hop3
A single step had ventured.” And if it be admitted, that
“ Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear," we only heartily wish that this “ Flight into Egypt” were numbered amongst the gems of solitude. There is no compensation for its utter destitution of quality,- it is a hard, metallic looking production, and in an attempt at graceful lines the painter has fallen deeply into mannerism,-giving the beholder a notion how far a subject of this sort may be performed by an act of penmanship-a large display of “ vive la plume" in a novel material,- the sublime of a charity-school boy, but an instantaneous nausea to any one possessing the slightest intellectual taste. In colour 100, unfortunately, the redemption is on
the wrong side,-a bilious sky, with a distance in the last stage of the cholera poisoning its way to a scarlet fever foreground. Turner, it has been urged, has wrought this mischief, by seducing the more sedate painter into his own fantastic paths. But in that we beg to differ, -because he, with a highly gifted pencil, imbued with the luscious colours of a poetic imagination, can produce a conflict of colour, but which, although amazing, has invariably a ruling principle founded in nature, and the application of Art to her beauties; the culpability of another's daring, and consequent failure, is not in justice to be attached to the successful original : the grace of the one is not to be condemned by the vulgar antics of the other : is Ramo Samee to be punished for managing a shower of knives, because a bungler gets cut and stabbed in an essay to rival him? We ask pardon of the painter (had we written Artist, the balancer must have been included) for bringing him into such an unintellectual arena; and should Mr. Martin not see the aptness of our elegant metaphor, we must recommend to bis study the moral of the fable of the donkey and the favourite lap-dog. "The Flight” into Egypt is a lamentable mistake; as a work of Art we have nothing more to say of it, but as an act of impudence we cannot say too much. We have dwelt at greater length upon this unpleasant theme than we should, under other circumstances, have deemed it deserving, from an earnest endeavour to impress the inconsistency of a prize to so large an amount, and that too indivisible, according to the regulations: there being no choice, the innocent prize-holder is led to believe he will be a loser by taking anything at a lower amount, though in this instance he must have been a gainer by almost any other act.
Good in matters of Art, as in other things, must eventually make
time. The worst of the present collection have been chosen from the Royal Academy; the purchaser, without doubt, having acted under the common impression that the materials of that Exhibition are altogether of the best order: thus, No. 7,“ Lady Rachel Russell entreating her Husband to petition the King for Pardon ; " No. 11,“ Florizel and Perdita ;” No. 59, “ And soft as dew her tones of music fell;" and No. 62, “A Young Greek contemplating the Ruins of his Country,”—are, indisputably, the most prominent disease spots in the collection. Again, the best chosen figure-subjects (those which, although not coming under the head of “high Art,” are of the highest order in their way) are the production of Painters who have not the dignified title R.A. or A.R.A. to their names, with one exception, in No. 270, which is a beautiful work by Charles Landseer, an Associate of the Royal Academy. No. 18,“ The Departure of Charles II. from Bentley, in Staffordshire, the House of Col. Lane;" the others, in most cases equally creditable, being No. 108, “ The Money Lender," R. M‘Innes; No. 101, “ The Stolen Interview of Charles I., when Prince of Wales, with the Infanta of Spain,” F. Stone; No. 114, “ Cromwell discovering his Chaplain, Jeremiah White, making love to his Daughter Frances," A. Egg; and No. 60, “ The Landing of Jeanie Deans at Roseneath,” Alexander Johnston.
The only selections from the pencils of positive R.A.'s are, a vulgar VOL. XCVI.