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they have their share of regard, and let who will take the rest.
Thirdly the proportioning reward to merit, which will be done hereafter, is a sufficient expectation to remove envy.
The persuasion of such a regulation of honor is certainly the most solid principle for this purpose imaginable. For this way all the seeming partialities of birth and fortune are set aside ; and to speak familiarly every one has a fair turn to be as great, as he pleases. Here all people are upon equal terms of advantage ; the temple of honor stands open to all comers, and the peasant has an opportunity of being as great, as the prince. Thus station and happiness lie in every one's power. The management of the will determines the precedency. A slender share of present advantage will do no prejudice to future pretensions ; for men will not be valued by the size of their understandings, but their honesty ; not considered by the height of their character, but for the der cency of personation. When the scene of life is shut up, the slave will be above his master, if he has acted better. Thus nature and condition are once more brought to a balance ; and, as all men were equal at first, so they may be at last, if they take care. This consideration digs up envy by the roots ; because no man can be less, than another, without his own fault.
The way to prevent being envied in a privilege, for that should be thought of too, is to show it not undeserved ; that it is either transmitted from worthy ancestors, or acquired by qualities extraordinary. He, that rises above a common performance, and goes far in an honorable danger, may be thought to earn the distinction of his circumstances. In such cases people are more inclined to commend the merit, than repine at the success ; especially if the advantage be civilly managed. Conceit, and arrogance, and ostentation, spoil all. Pride and illnature will be hated in spite of all the worth in the world. But he, that is obliging in his exaltation, and makes a modest use of his superiority, may sit secure, and have the odds of good wishes on his side,
ON THE INFLUENCE OF RELIGION UPON
THE FINE ARTS.
Paris, August, 1804. I HAVE just quitted the remnants of ancient taste. I have been admiring the efforts of genius, and have been lost in contemplating the creative energies of man, as displayed in the beautiful and sublime beings, who inhabit the Louvre. The grand colossal statue of La Pallas de Velletri almost demanded adoration ; but that feeling was quickly lost, and confounded in the mysterious sensations, which originated from beholding the curves and contours of the Venus de Medici. The sentiment of perfect beauty, which enraptured my mind, and elevated my fancy, soon gave way to a kind of pity, a still sorrow, a silent reverence, and a profound admiration for the Laocoon. I turned from this group, and at the end of another hall I beheld the Apollo of Belvidere. There was no one with me in the room, and I was thus at liberty to commune with my own heart. My intellectual nature expanded, and my whole system underwent a revolution as extraordinary, as the change in the animal frame, when the lungs riot in the oxygenated gas of the chemists. I mean not now to describe this statue. I leave you to your imagination. But I may say without poetry, that I have been in the company of heroes, at the banquet of the gods, in the presence of Ve. nus and the Graces. Well might Hercules, Theseus, and the princes of Greece aspire to be the benefactors of mankind, when after death they were to be introduced to the society of immortals, to the councils of divinities; when they were to breathe the pure air of the Empyreum, and delight in the dance of the Hours, and listen to the song of the Muses, accompanied by the lyre of Apollo. Such was the fascinating mythology of the first ages. Such was the religion of Ionia and Achaia, which, however it might have been secretly des
pised by Socrates, explained by the philosophers, or derided in the dark celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries, inspired with courage and virtue the founders of the Grecian principalities, and animated the fancy of Homer to the sublimest elevation in epic poetry, and taught the grand lyre of Timotheus to fill the air with uncommon combinations of sound.
I am disposed to attribute much of the excellence of the fine arts and of poetry to the power of religion. In every age and country this has been a presiding cause over rude essays and finished inventions in all the departments of taste. The most barbarous nations paint and carve their divinities, before they attempt other subjects. This probably arises from superstition and idolatry. As they are seldom capable of abstraction, or rational conception of the unknown God, they are obliged to have recourse to their senses in order to form the most humble notions of his nature. Since they cannot raise their imagination to contemplate that unseen Being, who darkeneth the sun with eclipses, and who periodically roars in the tremendous tornado, they are forced to level him to their own brutish conceptions, which, being deformed and corrupted with every abomination of vice, sometimes cause him to be shown with the monkey face of Egyptian statues, and sometimes originate the most horrific representations, as when the gigantic and terrible Seeva of Hindostan seems starting from the walls in the infernal sculpture of the cayerns of Elephanta.
Let us reverse the medal. The mythology of the Greeks is inexplicable. I am afraid, that the moderns have little illuminated this dark subject. The world seems agreed, that the first settlers of Asia Minor and European Greece were emigrants from Egypt and Phoenicia. Although it is highly probable, that the rites, idolatry, and superstition of these two last countries were derived from the ancient polytheism of India, or from that nation, which Sir William Jones affirms, and nearly proves to have been the parent stock of the Arabians, Tartars, Hindoos, and Persians ; yet we cannot find, that they beautified their religion with the elegant part of the Indian polytheism. It is therefore difficult to explain, whence originated the Venus, the Graces, the Hebe, and Ganymede of the Greeks; for however these might have existed among the lovers of the Lotos and the worshippers of the Ganges, I find no substantial traces of such lovely personages in the horrid system of Egypt; and from Egypt alone and the bordering countries had the Greeks their origin, their alphabet, their first laws, and their first philosophy. On this subject I am no antiquarian. I care little for the systems of Bailly, of Bryant, or of Jones, because they do not necessarily interfere with my subject ; but when I was to write slightly on the sculpture of Greece, whose most perfect forms are displayed in models of celestial intelligences, it was natural to ask, whence the deities particularly of beauty and loveliness arose, and to start an objection, which is not completely destroyed by the elegant Jones in his dissertation on the gods of India, Greece, and Italy.
The origin of the Ionian Theogony may be very interesting to the classical antiquarian ; but the generality of connoisseurs and literati are very well contented in simply beholding and admiring the inhabitants of Olympus, who have now taken a lasting residence in the splendid palace of the Louvre. Yet whether they sprang from correspondent deities in India and Egypt, or arose from the fervid imaginations of poets and the sober musings of philosophers, I have no doubt, that religion had the most powerful effect in sublimating the conceptions of the artist, who painted, or chiselled them. Each of them was supremely beautiful in some particular perfection, which however completely corresponded with their ordinary excellences or attributes. Some of the inferior intelligences were an exception to this rule, and perhaps so were Vulcan, and those, who were more ancient, than Jupiter. The Greeks had no idea of any being, in whom resided all possible superiority over other divinities. But their system of polytheism was composed of a variety of celestial natures, who were distinguished and adored for certain peculiar powers. Thus Jupiter was supposed to possess awful majes
Vol. II. No. 2.
ty i Juno was the goddess of dignity ; Venus was nothing but love ; perfection of form reigned in Apollo, and Aglaia's motions were soft and beautiful, as those of the Heavenly Grace. Besides, the particular attributes of the divinities were enjoyed by all in ą very enlarged degree. It never would have been a system of consonance, had it been other, wise. Hence Minerva disputed with Venus the prize of beauty ; hence arose the jealousy of Juno.; Hebe was some times thought the sweetest image of virgin loveliness, and Euphrosyne might contend with her sisters for the tints of youth, the charms of gracefulness, and easy undulations of motion.
From this harmonious system of mythology it resulted, that the artists were facilitated in the conception and execu. tion of their work. They were not deterred from painting or sculpture by the difficulty of embodying, or substantiating the awful attributes of infinity, eternity, and omniscience. They believed, that their deities occupied definite space, and might therefore afford a representation, limited by lines, an. gles, and curves. At the same time religion warmed their fancy in the contemplation of their peculiar perfections. Their imagination was not satisfied in beholding the harmonious proportions of Grecian form. They were continually panting after the loveliness of the celestials, Earth could not confine their conceptions. “ L'ame des êtres pensans a le “ desir naturel de se dégager de la matière, pour s'elancer “ dans la sphère intellectuelle des idées ; et son vrai bonheur “ est depraduire des conceptions neuves et belles La beau“ té suprême réside en Dieu. L'idée de la beauté humaine “ se perfectionne à raison de sa conformité et de son harmo“ nie avec l'Etre suprême.” Religion had informed the artists, that perfect beauty reigned only in heaven, and animated them to eleyate their thoughts from the children of men to the immortal virgins of the skies, to the sister of Jupiter, to the queen of love, to Diana, pure, as the wild heath rose, and fresh, as the morning air. In these beings the artists could alone find that beauty, which the French call le beau