Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

couragement, and debarred the means of improvement. Notwithstanding these obstacles, however, though compelled to adopt a trade, stabilitating a future and lasting maintenance, his moments of relaxation, during the apprenticeship, were employed agreeably to inclination, in depicting, with a piece of common chalk, the resemblances of his companions upon the wall, or with a stick delineating their features in the dust. At Harrisburg, where he commenced the copper-smith, the accidental circumstance of a few cattle collecting round his shop, drew forth some specimens of his talent. But, however gratified with the praises of a few friends, the unhealthiness of the situation, which had introduced sickness and disease into his family, induced his return to Lancaster—where, with a disposition somewhat versatile, he entered into the manufactory of tin. The pots and kettles which he then offered for sale, were generally ornamented with some fanciful painting of his own. But the celebrity such trifling daubs acquired among the phlegmatic Dutch, was not sufficient to satisfy a man like Eichold. He professed himself the limner. Nor was it till after the ill treatment of one, who obliged him almost to resort to legal compulsion, to extort a moderate compensation for his labour, that he perceived his incapacity, and dejectedly threw the brush away. The occupation of his shop now filled his mind entirely; and for some time his ingenuity wasted itself upon the construction and beauty of his tin vessels. Mr. Woolet not long after, made his appearance in Lancaster, and by his profiles obtained some reputation, and considerable money. Eichold visited him, attentively observed his method of proceeding, and again declared himself desirous of public patronage. His prices were small_his likeneşses great. He knew not to be sure the necessary art of mixing his colours and his oil--but though hitherto accustomed only to a boot-jack as a pallet, and any thing in the shape of a brush, he succeeded in turning the tide of approbation from Woolet to himself. This almost unhoped for victory encouraged perseverance and labour. His natural modesty united with an ardent, un feigned desire of amendment, invited amicable criticism for his improvement. Corrections in his pieces were willingly and obligingly made, and continuing to reap the beur

more,

fit of occasional, though defective instruction, he rapidly advanced to the first line of portrait painting. Eichold however, had heard of others. The fame of Stuart and Sully had reached the ears of this humble imitator, and though nature had done much, he thought the lessons of a master in the art might do

His wishes were gratified. Accident carried our favourite Sully to the tinman's shop, and with a liberality that does honour to his heart, the more so as it is uncommon, he encouraged, criticised, and amended. The glaring faults of intuition were developed, while the beauties of an original and peculiar style were applauded. Eichold now may well be called the pupil of nature and of Sully. As from that hour he has progressed with a rapidity scarcely credible, which promises an early arrival at perfection. Still, however, doubtful as to his eventual success, and resolved to resign the employment entirely, unless opinion shall support him, to his utmost expectations, he has never been prevailed upon to forsake his established trade. A visit will soon be made to Philadelphia, and some specimens of his powers placed at the Academy. So that it rests upon

its inhabitants, whether they will, by their patronage and approbation, confirm his predilection for an art that has done our country so much honour, or by their neglect drive him again to an ignoble and obscure profession.

RUSSEL,

FOR THE PORTFOLIO.

ON THE GENIUS OF THE CHINESE.

ESSAY I.

PART 1.

The history of nations, in the earliest periods of their existence, when knowledge is too limited, and prejudice too inveterate to allow Philosophy and Reason to dispel the mists of superstition and ignorance, is involved in difficulties almost insuperable: and blended with fiction so absurd and improbable, that astonishment

[ocr errors]

ceases, to find Argument engrossing the attention of the learned, and Credulity confounded at the suggestions of Reason.

As the remoteness of the real or pretended original of nations, has rendered it difficult or impossible to investigate facts, and arrive at truth, extravagant assertions have been hazarded without fear of exposure; and devout veneration, for the remains of antiquity, has obtained, and been inculcated, till the forefathers of a depraved generation, have been exalted in imagination, to the nature of the gods, and deified with prayers, sacrifices, and frankincense: so inveterate is that propensity of the mind, to indulge in conjecture, and invent fable, when it cannot attain fact; and resolve what is invisible and distant, into supernatural agency, and divine attributes.

The title of the Chinese to a higher antiquity than other nations, appears grounded on as much reason, and worthy of the same belief, as that of the Greeks and Romans to divine origin: and that they have no claims to more is shown, on the one hand, by their being destitute of consistent and reasonable facts, to substantiate their vague assertions, and on the other, because this ridiculous belief is perceived distinctly to flow from the same springs, Ignorance and Superstition. This, did no other reasons present themselves, for rejecting their assumption to so remote an antiquity, would sufficiently protect us from the imputation of skepticism, but others of a more positive nature may be adduced to corroborate our position, that the Chinese cannot be so ancient as many other people, among whom may be placed the Egyptians, and Assyrians. In the discussion of this subject, numerous arguments will be alleged to evince the fallacy of such a supposition, as that of the Chinese, which will show the infatuation of those, who implicitly believed in assertions, evidently the effects of a barbarous system, and contracted policy.

In the history of every people, who have attained civilization and made any progress in the arts, we can trace with sufficient accuracy, the steps of gradation, by which they 18cended, in the remains that may have been prcserved: and however tardy may have been their advancement, are at no loss to conclude the probable period, in which the dawn of Science and Reason, first irriba

diated the way to comfort and refinement. The humam faculties, unless impeded in their efforts, by other than physical causes, will be uniform in their progression to knowledge; and though nations may not be contemporary in fame, they may attain an eminent degree of knowledge in nearly the same period of time. Hence, we perceive that both ancient and modern nations, differ little in the period, in which they carried the arts and sciences to a moderate degree of perfection.

Tojudge, therefore, of the probable era of the Chinese, from the progress made by them in learning and the arts, ample allowance should be given for a state of political abasement, and profound superstition, which restrains genius from deviating into new and untrodden paths; and prevents the culture of liberal sentiments, by the fear of ideal degradation, or the dread of corporal chastisement. This will the more readily be granted, when it is considered, that their solitary and selfish maxims obstruct the entrance of foreign improvement and inventions, and shut out the possibility of correcting their errors, or adding refinement and taste to the fruits of native genius, and industry. And though their late acquisition of many foreign improvements, have been blended with their own imperfect and crude intentions, it is not hard to distinguish them, as their vanity induces, and their language compels them, to attach a peculiarity which cannot be lost, to every production and every article.

But making every reasonable deduction, for a state so unpropitious to the culture of science and the advancement of the arts, we shall still find the Chinese, far from so refined a condition, as other nations have reached, in a period not bearing any proportion Forallowing the emrire of China tu hare been founded or settled two thousand years antecedent to the christian era, which by the way we do not believe to liave been so early, how long a time would they have had to emerge from the darkness of barbarism, to the light of civilization and refinement? And how superior ought to be the lustre of their wisdom and learning, if their advancement had been commensurate with the improvement of other nations? we to form a judgment of their age from their wisdom, therefore we should aver, that they were more recently settled, than any

other primitive people. Setting aside the particular nature of their language, however, which cannot be denied to indicate antiquity, upon a superficial consideration, but which when we inquire into the causes that produced it, instead of surveying it as an effect of their age, we shall perceive the possibility to exist, of forming a language which bears no analogy to any other, without the supposition of antiquity, or superiority of reason.

The invention of letters is hid in such impenetrable obscurity, that to whom the honour of it properly belongs has never been decided. The introduction of the Phænician or Syrian letters into Greece by Cadmus, in the year of the world 2549, is the first we hear of them with certainty; though the Egyptians, from being the most learned nation at that period, claim the invention of them. Nor is it surprising that the author should remain unknown, if they were invented by one individual, which is very improbable; for letters being nothing but the constituent or eleinental parts of words, which words express ideas, it is apparent that they are pure arbitrary signs, at the option of individuals; and more likely to be formed by caprice or accident, than by facility of expression, or a sense of utility: and as the meaning of these symbols could never be conveyed by signs equally as strange and unintelligible, it is obvious that letters must have been subsequent to oral language, and that the universal adoption of them as signs, must have obtained gradually, from one man to another. These signs however, in the first stage of society, would represent ab. stractedly the thing itself, intended to be understood, as by hieroglyphic writing; yet would be superseded, as refinement was acquired by a more concocted and scientific character. Hence the alphabet must have been formed by some people, already advanced to refinement and literature, in a moderate degree. And that the language of nations destitute of an alphabet, must have been established, when their knowledge became so enlarged, and their inventions so numerous, as to render the use inconvenient, and the meaning obscure and confused, of hieroglyphic symbols, will appear very apparent, when it is remembered, that even in English, the most copious language known, most of the words to express ideas purcly mental, are borrowed froin some

2 Y

[ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »