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career is thus either punctually produced, or casually supplied, the promised interweaving with illustrious Old Testament stories, where done at all, is effected by the artifice of pictures in a series—the most digressive form in which they could be introduced. The embellishment, with remarkable Jewish or other antiquities, we cannot trace at all, unless Cowley intended his description of the college of the priests at Nob, and of the ceremony
of the celebration of the feast of the new moon, to pass current for such. Yet of the care visibly bestowed upon the work, no doubt can exist. There is no want of care, although there is much want of genius. And the general effect is painfully abortive. The paraphrases given of sacred lyrics might have formed an exception to the limping mass of the versification, in its general inferiority. But even these are unworthy the genius of Cowley as a paraphrast, scholar, and translator. Some of the lyrical excursions, too, are not sacred, but essentially profane. And yet it must have been this attempt at an epic poem which procured for Cowley the distinction of being censured by one of the most acute metaphysicians of his own time, Dr. William Coward, in his Licentia Poetica, along with the principal ancient and modern poets, Homer, Virgil, Milton, and Dryden.
A fuller and more minute criticism of the Davideis we had prepared, and had hoped to be able to present, but the limits assigned to us have been already trespassed, and we must close.
In this endeavour to define and illustrate the merits of Cowley, we are actuated by the desire of affording a more tangible notion of what is attached to his name as a poet, and his character as a man, than we can suppose the recurrence of a few occasional quotations from his works or bis peculiar soubriquet of the melancholy Cowley," to supply in the one instance or in the other. Apart from his metaphorical conceits, and quaint fancies, the literary attractions of his pages are faint and few; and whether we are to smile or sigh at the whimsicalities mistaken by his age for wit, we suspect that his labours are seldom now disturbed in the “ Tomb of the Capulets.” If, however, by shewing forth, as we have attempted to do, in simple terms and unadorned expression, the value proper to be attached to a name not yet extinct amongst the classics of English literature, our pains shall spare to others the task of wading through a mass of puerile and trashy verse, in order to attain some estimate of this poet, we are satisfied. That large and comprehensive designs mingled themselves in the conceptions of Cowley, and became lost and dissipated only through the humility of his powers of execution, no one who regards him as the originator of the English Ode, or merely as the projector of the Sacred Epic,
VOL. VI, NO. XII,
would venture to deny. His immediate friends and contemporaries would, therefore, perceive in Cowley's pursuits, traces and indications of a loftier genius than is recognised by us in the weak flow of a versification then considered fine, or in the quaintness of conceit then regarded as excellent. The man who shared the youthful studies of Harvey, and could exclaim, reverting to the scenes on which the student's midnight lamp shed its radiance in early days :
you saw us, ye immortal lights!
But search of deep philosophy,
Wit, eloquence, and poetry;
Arts which I loved, for they, my friend, were thine !" --this was a man of no ordinary promise. And surely he to whom Evelyn thought it necessary to apologize, as we read in his published correspondence, for having written in favour of active life, although he “loved and lived in retirement,” must have obtained more than ordinary deference from the leading spirits of his age. He who was admitted to philosophize with Hobbes, and to praise Vandyck, must have stood high in general estimation, alike for learning and for taste. And it was no common poet whom the most influential of England's nobles would cause to be interred in Westminster Abbey, betwixt Spenser and Milton. But for all this the date of Cowley is fled. The very beauties discerned in him now are half divested of their value from an archaic form of expression, which is neither old enough to be forgiven, nor modern enough to be appreciated. And if this poet finds readers still, they will be solitary explorers of a class to whom an old poet is a new region of intellect, where, be his barrenness never so bare, and his bleakness never so forbidding, some delight will still be afforded by the sensation of roaming at large and alone, where countless pilgrims have passed, though now beheld no more.
ART. IV.- Modern Painters. By a GRADUATE of Oxford.
2 vols. London, 1846. This is a very extraordinary and a very delightful book, full of truth and goodness, of power and beauty. If genius may be considered (and it is as serviceable a definition as is current) that power by which one man produces for the use or the pleasure of his fellow men, something at new and true, then have we liere its unmistakeable and inestimable handiwork. Let our readers take our word for it, and read these volumes thoroughly, giving themselves up to the guidance of this most original thinker, and most attractive writer, and they will find not only that they are richer in true knowledge, and quickened in pure and heavenly affections, but they will open their eyes upon a new world—walk under an ampler heaven, and breathe a diviner air. There are few things more delightful or more rare, than to feel such a kindling up of the whole faculties as is produced by such a work as this; it adds a “ precious seeing to the eye,"—makes the ear more quick of apprehension, and, opening our whole inner-man to a new discipline, it fills us with gratitude as well as admiration towards him to whom we owe so much enjoyment. And what is more, and better than all this, everywhere throughout this work, we trace evidences of a deep reverence and godly fear—a perpetual, though subdued acknowledgment of the Almighty, as the sum and substance, the beginning and the ending of all truth, of all power, of all goodness, and of all beauty.
Not the least valuable effect of such productions is the temper of mind into which they put, and in which they leave the readerthe point of sight to which they lead him being as precious as the particular sights which they disclose, so that he finds, in the unknown writer, a companion, a teacher, a friend, who makes him a sharer in his own strong feelings and quick thoughts—hurries him away in his own enthusiasm—opens to him the gate Beautiful, and shews him the earth and every common sight transfigured before him,—what is base, and personal, and evanescent, yielding to what is eternal, spiritual, divine,—and leaves him there more than delighted, instructed, strengthened, ennobled under the sense of having not only beheld a new scene, but of having held commnnion with a new mind, and having been endowed
for a time with the keen perception, and the impetuous emotion of a nobler and more penetrating intelligence.
We can have no stronger or more lamentable proof of the low state of the public understanding and taste, as regards painting and the other ideal arts, or of the ignorance that prevails as to their true scope and excellence, and the kind of faculties required for the intelligent enjoyment of their productions, than in the reception which this remarkable book has met with from what is called the literary world. The larger Reviews, as far as we have seen, have taken no notice of it whatever, though it contains more true philosophy, more information of a strictly scientific kind, more original thought and exact observation of nature, more enlightened and serious enthusiasm, and more eloquent writing than it would be easy to match, not merely in works of its own class, but in those of any class whatever. It gives us a new, and we think, the only true theory of beauty and sublimity-it asserts and proves the existence of a new element in landscape painting, placing its prince upon his rightful throneit unfolds and illustrates, with singular force, variety and beauty, the laws of art-it explains and enforces the true nature and specific function of the imagination, with the precision and fulness of one having authority,—and all this delivered in language which, for purity and strength and native richness, would not have dishonoured the early manhood of Jeremy Taylor, of Edmund Burke, or of the author's own favourite Richard Hooker.
On the other hand, those periodicals which are considered to represent the literature of the Fine Arts, and to watch over their progress and interests, almost without an exception, have treated it with the most marked injustice and the most shameful derision. We rejoice, in spite of all this neglect and maltreatment, that it is finding its way into the minds and hearts of men. This is better shown by the first volume having come to a third edition, than by any the most elaborate patronage from the press. The national literature is in this case a good index to the national mind and feeling; so that it is not to be wondered at, that such productions as Charles Lamb's Essays on the Genius of Hogarth, and on the Barrenness of the Imaginative Faculty in the
productions of Modern Art*-Hazlitt's works on
* We do not mean that our literature of art is deficient in, much less is destitute of, many excellent treatises on the art of painting, or the history and value of pictures, as commodities to be bought and sold. It would be to contradict tlie practical tendency of the English mind in all its multifarious doings. What we refer
Art—those of Sir Charles Bell and his brother John, should rarely occur, and be not much regarded, and little understood, when they do, in a country where Hogarth was looked upon by the majority as a caricaturist fully as coarse as clever--where Wilkie's Distraining for Rent could get no purchaser, because it was an unpleasant subject—where, to this day, Turner is better known as being unintelligible and untrue, than as being more truthful, more thoughtful, than any painter of inanimate nature, ancient or modern-where Maclise is accounted worthy to illustrate Shakspeare, and embody Macbeth and Hamlet, as having a kindred genius and where it was reserved to a few young self-relying unknown Scottish artists to purchase Etty's three pictures of Judith,* the Combat, and the Lion-like Man of
to, is the want of a true philosophy, of a central idea that explains everything, and satisfies all conditions, and displays that faculty or state of the mind which presides over the soul of painting both in the artist and in the spectator. There is more of this to be got in Charles Lamb's two essays, mentioned above, than anywhere else, and in a lesser degree in some of Hazlitt's criticism, though he was neither so just, so simple, so penetrating, nor so genial a thinker as poor wonderful exquisite Elia. Moreover, himself a man of genius, Lamb knew the secrets of his brethren, and could unlock their treasures as he listed. Witness the flashes of lightning, momentary, but searching and unforgettable, which he throws into the deep places of Shakspeare, of Hogarth, of Marlow, and Ford and Webster, and on some rare occasions, upon more sacred depths. He sets things before us in their essence, and with a rapidity, and, it may be, a fitful splendour, that fixes our attention, that astonishes even though lie peevishly stop short, and bring his bright thing quick to confusion, like that same lightning
6 That in a SPLEEN unfolds both earth and heaven.” There is one living writer, whom we must exempt from our charge of ignorance and indifference as to the nature of art ;-this is that most entertaining humourist, most vigorous writer, and most thoroughly humane man, Mr. Thackeray, better known as Michael Angelo Titmarsłı. He is the good genius of the incomparable “ Punch ;" his wit has no malice_his mirth no folly. He is himself an artist, and his pencil often conveys to the eye what his kindred pen cares not or is unable to express. But we refer at present specially to his serious, beautiful criticisms upon the pictures in the Louvre, or his Parisian Sketch-book, and to several notices of the London Exhibitions in Frazer's Magazine. They are slightly done, but indicate his knowledge, and his affection for all that is true and good in painting.
* It is perhaps not generally known, that to our Scottish Academy, and indeed to the intrepid forethought and clear judgment of four or five of its members, almost boys, at a time when it was struggling for existence, this country owes the possession, and the having ready access at all
times to the noblest series of pictures in their own class, and that one of the highest, that have appeared since the death of Rubens. Let such of our readers as may have the opportunity, and have never åvailed themselves of it, step into the gallery in the building of the Royal Institution, and stand opposite, and give themselves up to the influence of the threc pictures of the story of Judith, and they will fully agree with us. We hope to have another and ampler opportunity for doing justice to our Royal Scottish Academy, and its devoted and unquenchable members, and justice upon those who have, under the pretence of patronage and support, from some motives, to us utterly inconceivable, done everything that craft and power, and unwearied diligence could do, to damage the internal prosperity and the public influence and honour of this truly National Institution.