« PreviousContinue »
subject would have derived from the my advice. I have no doubt that licentious Poussin, and the hideous this picture was painted strictly under immorality of a modern quadrille. these conditions. Ribald critics may “Potiphar's Wife” is another illus perhaps object that, as atmospheres of trious instance of the power of Mr that extreme purpleness (as if mulD. Corum to give new life to old berry-juice were substituted for the subjects. The wife of the great ordinary vehicle) are very rare, and Egyptian noble holds in her hand that as the mere work of the picture a roll of papyrus covered with speci- must have occupied several weeks, mens of early Egyptian art, to which these infrequent opportunities must she seeks to direct Joseph's attention have extended over a great length (by the by, the style of these draw- of time, during which the deceased ings, especially the man in profile stonebreaker would have become a with two eyes, belongs to the time skeleton, while the weasel could of the later Pharaohs, and not to the scarcely be expected to remain so pre-Mosaic period); but without suc- long looking at the body. Neverthecess, for the youth, in whose counte- less I adhere entirely to my opinion; nance the struggle between curiosity and I am thus reminded of one parand bashfulness is exhibited in a very ticular count of the heavy indictremarkable manner, turns resolutely ment I formerly brought against that away from his kind instructress. perverter of nature and impostor in Altogether the treatment of the art, Claude Lorraine. I pointed out whole of these works reminds me that in a picture of his in the Nastrongly of the manner of Fra Puri- tional Gallery, the shadows of two tano.
different objects are falling in oppoNo. 603. - I formerly had some site directions; and this I noted as slight hopes of this artist, and conse- a blemish, or rather one amid a mass quently bestowed on him a word or of blemishes. I now perceive that two of advice. But as he seems sys- this was owing to the fact that, for tematically to defy every principle I once, Claude was honestly studying have ever laid down, and obstinately from nature out of doors ; and being to ignore every opinion I have ever absorbed in his miserable work (for enunciated, his whole method has of the absorption of the artist in his course become hopelessly and irre- efforts by no means depends on their deemably vile, and his works are in value), he did not perceive that the painting what ribaldry is in litera- sun, which was on his left hand when ture.
he began to paint in the morning, No. 650.—This artist had better had gone round to his right before go without delay to Venice. He he left off, and consequently threw will find in one of the vaults of one the shadows in the opposite direcof the churches there (I forget which) tion. This is the only occasion on a picture without a name, but which which I have ever found it necessary I know to be an indubitable Paul to alter an opinion I had once exVeronese. The whole composition pressed ; and I freely admit that is fine; but I would particularly note what I formerly censured I now conthe third hair from the top in the sider the sole merit to be found in right whisker of the cat in the corner, this painter's numerous works, and the painting of which is very precious. he is entitled to so much posthumous This he should study in a reverential fame as my approval in this solitary spirit, and I will answer for the instance can confer. result.
No. 902.-A fine example of what “The Dead Stonebreaker.” — On may be called the botanico-geologiconothing have I ever insisted more astronomico style of art. Here the strongly than on the absolute neces- primeval masses of the old red sandsity of painting altogether in the open stone, the granitic boulders, which, air, with all the accessories of the ere they became fixed for ever, hissed scene that are to be transferred to in fierce fusion round the sweltering the canvass actually present; and materials of the chaotic globe, the grey here I am happy to see an illustra- slate, the gneiss, the feldspar, and the tion of the good effect of following gypsum, lend their multiform variety of outline to the harmonious forms details from the Botanical Gardens of the foreground; while, in the coal- in the Regent's Park. I wish him a strata of the extreme distance, me- pleasant trip, a stout heart, walkingthinks I can descry the faint impress stick, and pair of shoes. of ferns and other vegetable deposits. “Red-deer," by Landseer.— I have Note the fossil tooth of the masto- already told Mademoiselle Rosa Bondon in the centre as particularly pre- heur, that as she has not yet satiscious, finely relieved as it is against factorily proved to me that she can the leathery texture of the wing of the paint a man's face, it is a delusion pterodactyle. These superb combi
to suppose that she paints horses nations of the dædal forms of the they are merely trotting bodies of earth are clothed in lavish magnifi. horses; so I tell Landseer, that as cence with all known and possible he has never (that I am aware of) specimens of herbaceous life, from painted a porcupine, it is a popular the stupendous Wellingtonia to the fallacy to suppose that he can paint small celandine of our native fields; red-deer. He merely paints their while over all are set the sentinel horns, hoofs, and hides. stars, Orion and the Pleiades, which I have now given the public all shed over the dawn of creation the that it is necessary for them to same sweet influences that still gild know, and more than they can apits decline. The naturalist may preciate, of my decisions on the Art study this picture with profit, only of this year. The above pictures are second to that derivable from a all that I have had leisure to look at. knowledge of the works of the late Still, the mere fact of my not having J. M. W. Turner, as expounded seen them, would not prevent me by myself. Still there are some from criticising all the rest, if it were natural features not to be found in expedient or necessary.
On the European landscape, of which I whole, I consider the works of this lament the absence. I should there- year decidedly in advance of those of fore recommend the artist to spend the last, as that was of its predecesthe summer on the top of the Peter sor, which I attribute to my annual Bott Mountain, while he may get a critiques ; and I doubt not that, after suitable foreground in the rich autum- diligent study of this little brochure, nal splendours of the trackless South considerable progress will be maniAmerican forests ; and may, on his fested next summer. return, paint in the less important
Printed by William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh.
A LONG work from the pen of Mr fertile thinker, and a rapid writer, Gladstone would contain, we might who never thoroughly examines the confidently predict, many ingenious premises from which he starts, and and many excellent observations, and is never quite consistent with himbe distinguished by much admirable self in the conclusions at which he writing, rising at times into elo- arrives—such is the character which quence; but we might almost as our author here most frequently susconfidently predict, from our perusal tains. That he can build—that the of his former works, and from the constructive faculty is within himdemands made upon him by his par- will be admitted by all ; but there is liamentary career, that such a work hardly any one we know who builds would betray many signs of haste so rapidly, and explores with so and imperfect study, that the inge- little care the foundation on which nious observation would not always he raises his superstructure. Haste carry conviction with it, that an air seems to be written everywhere, on of plausibility would be sometimes every page of the book. How far thrown around a theory or statement this is owing to natural disposition, which would not bear examination, or original mental character, and how and that the fluent pen of one on far to the distractions of a political whom the winged words," as Homer life, it is impossible for us to say. might say, wait so obediently, would We suppose that the blame must be be tempted into too rapid and too shared between them. We are quite voluminous exercise of its power. certain that a large share must be The reader of Mr Gladstone's Homer ascribed to the latter cause. The will find both these predictions real- literary man ought to have done his ised, and if he is of the same opinion work before he enters Parliament ; as ourselves, he will regret to say or he must retire from it, or from a that the imperfections he expected prominent part in its debates, if he are more signal and more numerous would prosecute any profound study than the merits and excellencies he or elaborate any great work. If it is was equally prepared to recognise. hard for the man of letters and of There is very much of loose and reflective habits to become an active hasty reasoning in these volumes. politician, it is still more difficult for There is great want of condensation, the active politician, engaged night of clear and explicit statement. A as well as day in parliamentary war
Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age. By the Right Hon. W. E. GLADSTONE, D.C.L.
VOL. LXXXIV.-NO. DXIV.
fare and party strifes, and in all the vigorous assailants. Very often those passing topics and urgent interests of premises from which he starts—trip the current year, to give himself with ping on with light ingenious alacrity the necessary concentration to any form the very key of the position, great literary task. We do not de- are the very matters on which his inmand impossibilities from any man. telligent contemporaries are inquirWe might perhaps fairly complain of ing and discussing. He perhaps those who attempt impossibilities. passes over with quiet, grave as
A parliamentary reputation, and a sumption, the real question over reputation in any of the higher de- which doubt and difficulty are hangpartments of literature, are two very ing, and then proceeds along his free different things, are won by very dif- current of ingenious, inventive arguferent qualities of mind, and by a ment; playing dexterously with the training or mental discipline of an facts of his case, disposing them in almost opposite character. Mr Glad- light and shadow as will best suit stone, as an orator of the House of the purpose of the moment; placing Commons, stands, by general con- his hand over the picture, and resent, pre-eminent. Mr Gladstone, as vealing just so much of it at a time a writer of books, is by no means as it is desirable that his gentle and pre-eminent. It is not that he tractable reader should see. Very cannot write almost as well as he gentle and very tractable must that speaks; there is at all events no de- reader be who continues satisfied ficiency to be complained of in the with Mr Gladstone as an expositor style, so far as this can be separated of truth, whether he is dealing with from the thought : it is that the the Church of England or with the thinking which is quite profound and gods of Olympus. accurate enough for a listening assem
We could select many passages bly, whose attention is gained by the from this work, and we hope we energy of the speaker, and secured shall be able to find room in our by their own interest in the success pages for some of them, which conof the debate, and who are at all tain separable observations both true times more struck with the readiness and admirably expressed ; but we and tact and the skilful fencing that are compelled to report that the keeps a position once taken up, than philosophical and historical criticism by the graver processes of reasoning which forms the substance of the which justify, and should precede, book is of a very slight, unstable the taking up of any position at all character-much of it fanciful and -it is that the thinking which is visionary: We do not say that a close and searching enough for the painstaking student of Homer will orator,
is too careless, hasty, and have gained nothing from a perusal fragmentary for the author, and will of these three volumes; but we do not supply solid material for a book think that, in the course of his schowhich is to be held in the hand, and larly reading, he will rarely have enturned backwards and forwards, and countered three such bulky volumes perused a second time, and read in from which he has gained so little. the silence and the leisure of the He presses his hand, and the more study. A facility of theorising, of tightly he grasps the less he retains. inventing arguments, detecting ana- So much escapes in mere froth, mere logies, a skill to put forward and fancy, vague and unaccredited asserconceal facts according to the exigen- tion. There is, too, a great deal of cies of the moment-all these we repetition ; time has not been taken have in the works of Mr Gladstone; to condense, and so to arrange the but we miss the honest, searching; material as to avoid this repetition. candid inquiry after truth. Even “Excuse the length of my letter, I when we agree with him on the pre- had not time to make it shorter," mises he has assumed, we do not writes the venerable John Wesley. find that our faith in them has been The excuse is permissible in a letter : strengthened : he has done nothing is it equally permissible in a book! to confirm us in the citadel we are Mr Gladstone, in his first volume, anxious to hold against, perhaps, escapes altogether from the question
of the authorship of the Homeric never gets back to the early undispoems (as we must all of us at least turbed faith of his ancestors, or of call them), of the Iliad and the his own school-days. Odyssey-flies from it, as one wearied The controversy is interminable, with the din of unprofitable contro- because each party will and must versy. We can quite participate in rely, in great measure, upon a certhis feeling, and we have no desire tain critical appreciation for which to enter into a debate which our he cannot altogether render a reason author has felt himself at liberty to to another. He feels that there is decline. And yet the controversy a different workmanship, a different has most assuredly been brought to tone of thought, in one part of a no satisfactory conclusion - to no great poem from the rest. It is imsuch result that a writer in the posi- possible to argue him out of this tion of Mr Gladstone can fold his feeling, and he finds it almost as imarms and retain the old faith in possible to communicate to another Homer, and quietly assume that all the grounds of his own conviction. the Iliad and all the Odyssey was Thus the two disputants are in a the composition of the same great hopeless state of antagonism. It poet- assume this for the purpose of happens, too, that the controversy is drawing subsequent deductions of an implicated with another controversy, historical character. He can waive on which very different opinions are the discussion, if he pleases, as we likely to be retained. At what time should be disposed to waive it, on was the use of writing introduced into the frank plea that we have nothing Greece ? and what are the inferences new to say—he can waive it as a we are to draw, if it is decided that the controversy which is apparently ex- use of writing was not introduced till hausted without being determined; after the composition of the Homeric but matters are unfortunately not in poems? The first of these questions such a condition that he can avoid may admit of a tolerably decisive the discussion, and yet assume that answer; it is at least generally conone party is right, and adopt that cluded that the poems were in existold faith in Homer which existed ence before the art of writing was before the controversy was stirred. known or practised in Greece. But That the great poet Homer really the second question—what are we to lived, and that we have many of conclude therefrom of the original his verses, is doubted by few ; but state in which these poems existed, there are almost as few who now or of the manner of their growth into hold what a hundred years ago was the form in which they have dethe unshaken creed of all the scho- scended to us ? — is not so readily lars of Europe. In the days of Pope answered—is answered in a very difand Addison there was no English ferent manner by different persons. scholar who did not believe that the It is, in fact, a matter for conjecture. Iliad and the Odyssey were as indis- To some of us it seems highly imputably the works of Homer as the probable that, where poems are Paradise Lost and the Paradise composed only to be recited, a poet Regained were the works of Milton. would have any motive for entering In our days there is scarcely an Eng- on a composition longer than could lish scholar who has the same unhe be recited on one occasion; and almost sitating faith. Perhaps he assigns as improbable that, without the aid the Iliad to one poet and the Odyssy of writing materials, he should have to another; and this becomes an im- the ability to design and execute so portant conclusion to the historian, long a work as the Iliad or the if the critic adds (as he generally Odyssey. But if one or several poets does) that the Odyssey was a later had written many pieces on the same production than the Iliad. Perhaps great subject, as the siege of Troy or he makes a distinction between the the adventures of Ulysses, then it is several books of the Iliad itself, and easily explicable how such separate finds in it a combination of two poems should afterwards have beor more poems originally distinct. come amalgamated into one.
Thus Whatever theory he rests in, he the Iliad and the Odyssey may both