Page images

only wanted effect, and this picture looked through you. One of my old favourites was the head of an angel by Guido, nearly a profile, looking up, and with wings behind the back. It was hung lower than it used to be, and had, I thought, a look less aërial, less heavenly; but there was still a pulpy softness in it, a tender grace, an expression unutterable—which only the pencil, his pencil, could convey.

And are we not then beholden to the art for these glimpses of Paradise ? Surely, there is a sweetness in Guido's heads, as there is also a music in his name. If Raphael did more, it was not with the same ease. His heads have more meaning, but the others have a look of youthful innocence which his are without. As to the boasted picture of Christ by Carlo Dolce, if a well-painted table-cloth and silver-cup are worth three thousand guincas, the picture is, but not else. Yet one touch of Paul Veronese is worth all this enamelling twice over. The head has a wretched mawkish expression, utterly unbecoming the character it professes to represent. But I will say no more about it. The Bath of Seneca is one of Luca Jordano's best performances, and has considerable interest and effect. Among other historical designs, there is one of Jacob's Dream, with the angels ascending and descending on a kind of stairs. The conception is very answerable to the subject, but the execution is not in any high degree spirited or graceful. The mind goes away no gainer by the bargain. Rembrandt alone perhaps could add any thing to this subject. Of him it might be said, that “his light shone in darkness.” "The wreaths of flowers and foliage carved in wood on the wainscoats and ceiling of many of the rooms, by the celebrated Grinling Gibbons in Charles the Second's time, shew a wonderful lightness and facility of hand, and give pleasure to the eye. The other ornaments and curiosities I need not mention, as they are carefully pointed out by the housekeeper to the admiring visitor. There are two heads, however, (one of them happens to have a screen placed before it) which I would by no means have him to pass over, if he is an artist, or feels the slightest interest in the art. They are, I should suppose unquestionably, the original studies by Raphael of the heads of the Virgin and Joseph in his famous picture of the Madonna of the Cradle. The Virgin is particularly beautiful, and in the finest preservation, as indeed are all his genuine pictures. The canvass is not quite covered in some places ; the colours are as fresh as if newly laid on, and the execution is as firm and vigorous as if his hand had just left it. It shews how this artist wrought. The head is, no doubt, a highly-finished study from nature, done for a particular purpose, and worked up according to the painter's conception of that purpose, but still retaining all the force and truth of individuality. He got all he could from Nature, and gave all he could to her in return. If Raphael had merely sketched this divine face on the canvass from the idea in his own mind, why not stamp it on the larger composition at once ? He could work it up and refine upon it there just as well, and it would almost necessarily undergo some alteration in being transferred thither afterwards. But if it was done as a careful copy from Nature in the first instance, this was the only way in which he could proceed, or indeed by which he could arrive at such consummate excellence. The head of the Joseph (leaning on the hand and looking down) is fine, but

neither so fine as the companion to it, nor is it by any means so elaborately worked up in the present sketch. .

I am no teller of stories ; but there is one belonging to BurleighHouse, of which I happen to know some of the particulars. The late Earl of Exeter had been divorced from his first wife, a woman of fashion, and of somewhat more gaiety of manners than “ lords who love their ladies like." He determined to seek out second wife in a humbler sphere of life, and that it should be one who, having no knowledge of his rank, should love him for himself alone. For this purpose, he went and settled incognito (under the name of Mr. Jones) at Hodnet, an obscure village in Shropshire. He made overtures to one or two damsels in the neighbourhood, but they were too knowing to be taken in by him. His manners were not boorish, his mode of life was retired, it was odd how he got his livelihood, and at last, he began to be taken for a bighwayman. In this dilemma he turned to Miss Hoggins, the eldest daughter of a small farmer, at whose house he lodged. Miss Hoggins, it might seem, had not been used to romp with the clowns : there was something in the manners of their quiet, but eccentric guest that she liked. As he found that he had inspired her with that kind of regard which he wished for, he made honourable proposals to her, and at the end of some months, they were married, without his letting her know who he was. They set off in a post-chaise from her father's house, and travelled across the country. In this manner, they arrived at Stamford, and passed through the town without stopping till they came to the entrance of Burleigh-Park, which is on the outside of it. The gates flew open, the chaise entered, and drove down the long avenue of trees that leads up to the front of this fine old mansion. As they drew nearer to it, and she seemed a little surprised where they were going, he said, “Well, my dear, this is Burleigh-House, it is the home I have promised to bring you to, and you are the Countess of Exeter!" It is said the shock of this discovery was too much for this young creature, and that she never recovered it. It was a sensation worth dying for. The world we live in was worth making, had it been only for this. Ye Thousand and One Tales of the Arabiun Night's Entertainment! hide your diminished heads! I never wish to have been a lord, but when I think of this story,


DARKNESS! I love thee, for methinks


Steps from its earthly threshold forth at large

Into thee, fleet and free, as is the barge
To whom th' horizon is the only goal.
Darkness! I love thee, for thou art the birth

Of infant thought; and though thy hue be sad

And thy dusk form in sombre garment clad,
Still there are in thee worlds of dreamy mirth.

E'en when the weary thoughts are sleeping, then
The tingling minutes sound like tiny bell
From distant sheep-fold heard, and to the ken
Is dimly ministrant the vision's spell.
Darkness! I love thee, and to be all thine

In death, methinks I would not much repine.


2 G



“ I have done penance for contemning love;
Whose bigh imperious thoughts have punish'd me
With bitter fasts, and penitential groans,
With nightly tears, and daily heart-sore sighs :
For, in revenge of my contempt of love,
Love hath chased sleep from my enthralled eyes,
And made them watchers of my own heart's sorrow."

Old Play. And must I bring to an end the relation of this my first delightful excursion into the confines of Love's kingdom?' I would fain have left it where it is. I might then have half-fancied, as I more than half wish, that it never had ended. They might then have written on my tomb, “ He too was an Arcadian.” But this was not to be. I was reserved to write these Confessions, which is a little hard upon me, considering that, however sanguine I may be as to the good effect they will produce, I cannot believe the world will gain by them what I havelost -so that the sacrifice will not be an equitable one. But it is worse than useless to think of this now. This first-love ended, then, as all first-love should end, if at all,-namely, just where it began. These nightly meetings were repeated as often as I chose to seek them ; that is to say, every night, night after night, for months and months. I used to go to the corner of the little court at dusk every evening, as regularly as the dusk came ; and the stately daughter of the old fortune-teller used to look for the one as naturally as she did for the other. Spring, summer, or winter_hail, rain, or shine-there I was, as regular a watcher as the stars, and as happy a one. Whether the object for which I was watching came to me in person, or not, very soon became a matter almost of indifference to me. She always came to me in idea, and this was enough for me; for it was the idea of her that I had all along been loving. On fine warm moonlight nights in particular, this idea used to come to me of itself, and compass me all about, as the halo does the moon which it seems to love. And even on bitter cold or rainy nights, if the frost for a moment pinched this one self-existent ilea out of me, or the rain washed it away, one glance at her window when a light was flitting by it, or one moment of anxious listening at the door as her footstep was heard on the stairs, brought it back to me in all its strength and beauty*.

And when the time came for me to go home, I went contentedly, almost forgetting that I had not seen her.

How long my love could have sustained itself on this last seemingly meagre diet, there is no telling. I doubt, not long; for they say it cannot even “live on flowers.” How, then, must it have fared on the mere shadows of flowers? But about twice a week upon an average 1 was permitted to look on the fruit itself, in all its ripe fragrance; and one of these visitations was enough to feed even to fulness an imagination that has always had the power of sustaining itself for a long while

The reader will be good enough to bear in mind that these insights into love's mysteries have come to me since. Happily for me, I knew as little of the ratinute of them then, as the stock-dovc knows of the murmuring that it sends into the haunted air, after its absent mate.

together, on the cameleon's dish." And as to its hankering after any change of fare, what does the young unbacked colt seek for, but the green grass and the fresh spring? And do not these sustain his spirits and his strength, so that, naked as he is, he can hunt the wind for sport, and toss up his head and send forth his happy voice, to greet the descending rain-storm? But when he has been a little while in harness, alas ! the case is altered. He finds grass and water but washy fare; and if you would keep up his courage and his beauty, and have him do his work without flogging, young as he is, you must pamper him with heating hay, stimulating corn, and warm mashes; and his body must be "clothed in purple and fine linen," even in the hot stable.

Thus it was with me, and thus it is. But I am at present only to speak of what was. This thinking, and looking, and listening, varied as it now and then was by the sauce piquante of smilings and hand-pressings,

-this toujours perdrir-was to me dainty fare ; and I call love to witness that I could have been content with it all my days, without ever looking for better, or even fancying that there was better; which, indeed, I am far from being satisfied of to this day, unless the natural effect of better be to waste and wither one away to a mere anatomy, mind and body, leaving one no faith in goodness but as the absence of evil, no knowledge of joy but as the opposite of sorrow, no sense of life but that which consists in the fear of death.

No; sans question, mind is a kind of cameleon, in more respects than that of changing its colour in compliment to that with which it is in contact. “ Air, thin air,” is its natural and favourite food ; and without this it dies, or worse than dies—becoming absorbed and blended with its antagonist, body. True, it is a perfect epicure in this one dish, and loves to have it dressed in as many different fashions as the king's cook boasted that he could dress an old pair of boots; but air it must be still. For this it has a stronger affinity than for all other substances, and cons

onsequently attracts it from them all, as the metals attract oxygen.

And truth to say, in virtue of this affinity, it not seldom (like them) forms somewhat unseemly and intractable calxes, not much available for the common purposes of life, until they are again purged and purified (as it is called) by passing them through the fire of custom and society. This purification, such as it is, brings all right again, as the abettors of it would have us believe : and perhaps they are not very far from the truth after all; for by this process the vital air becomes again liberated, to be again absorbed by fresh aspirants after it ; and thus is fulfilled that perpetual change which seems to be the fiat of Nature-thus circles the wheel of human life—"thus runs the world away."

But my spirit is getting into its laboratory again, and, with a strange alchemy," is once more pursuing what it knows to be a fruitless search after the only elixir vitæ. And oh-to have been a real alchymist! In those days the hieroglyphical robe, and the velvet cap, were “your only wear.” To have been a sincere and confirmed alchymist must have been even better than to be a lover, in the proportion of a whole long life to a triad of short years. But to have been a lover for the first three years of youth, and an alchymist all the rest of one's days, must doubtless have been the ne plus ultra of

human existence : for I hold that to feel the indestructible hope of finding the philosopher's stone, and the elixir vitæ, was, in fact, already to possess them. Certes, an alchymist's laboratory was the only true Paradise of the mind, when science was young; and modern chemistry was the devil that tempted the innocent imagination to eat of the tree of knowledge--and die.

Once more I call home my wandering thoughts to the task which they have imposed on themselves. The French Academicians kindly inform us that “il n'est pas impossible qu'il-y-ait un amour exempt de grossièreté." - Indeed, Messieurs les Academiciens! In return, I will inform them, that love not merely muy exist exempt from "grossièreté," but that these are absolutely incompatible with each other, and cannot exist together. Rousseau knew a little better than his old enemies, on this subject--and, indeed, on most others. But luckily for a theory that I possess on this head, Rousseau was not a Frenchman. He probably knew more on the subject of love than any other man that ever lived, Shakspeare excepted. In his two great works, the Nouvelle Heloise and the Confessions, there is more actual knowledge on this subject than in any other works existing, or perhaps than all other works together-with the one exception I have named. I do not mean by this to state that Rousseau has not fallen into inconsistencies and contradictions ; for several might be pointed out in each of the above works. If a man possess a large fund of knowledge on any given subject, it by no means follows that he shall be able to bring it all to a rational and consistent bearing on any one point. On the contrary, the very weight and multiplicity of his stores may hamper and confuse him ; and thus in part neutralize the effect of their own power. But I do not mean, either, to say that this is frequently the case with Rousseau. It is, in fact, very seldom the case; and, on the whole, his writings may be regarded as containing a body of acquired, as well as intuitive knowledge on the subject of love, that will be looked for in vain elsewhere.— Now, as there is no denying that this my first youthful passion did, for some reason or other, come to an end in reality, and must therefore come to an end in this relation of it, I shall let Rousseau endeavour to account for its cessation ; for I have been dwelling so long and so bitter-sweetly on the remembrance of its existence, that I can scarcely bring myself to think of it as at an end, even now—much less try to penetrate into the cause of its untimely death.“On n'aime point si l'on n'est aimé; du moins on n'aime pas longtemps. Ces passions sans retour qui font, dit-on, tant de malheureux, ne sont fondées que sur les sens; si quelques-unes pénètrent jusqu'à l'âme, c'est par des rapports faux dont on est bientôt détrompé. L'amour sensuel ne peut se passer de la possession, et s'éteint par elle. Le véritable amour ne peut se passer du cæur."—Nouvelle Heloise. *

* “ Love cannot subsist unless it be mutual. At least, it cannot subsist for any great length of time. Those uprequited passions which are said to be the cause of such lasting misery, have their roots fixed in the senses : or if any of them penetrate into the soul, it is on false conclusions, in regard to which we are soon undeceived. Sensual love seeks for possession alone, and is extinguished by it; but that which truly merits the name of Love, craves the heart, and cannot subsist without it."

In the above passage Rousseau has not been so clear and perspicuous in his mode

« PreviousContinue »