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this solitary observation he passes on to personal descriptions of first and second-rate actors, in which the commanding figure, raven locks, and sonorous voice of Mrs. Siddons,' the raven hue' of John Kemble's hair, the finely-chiselled Grecian countenance, dark glossy hair, the skin smo th as monumental marble,' of Miss O'Neil, are carefully specified; while the dark raven locks, fine figure, and expressive countenance,' of Miss Helen Faucit are not forgotten.

But the palmy days are over, and Siddons and Kemble are no more seen in their majestic dignity; and if they were, their surpassing excellence might be thrown away on a sensuous overstimulated age. This decay of the histrionic art' elicits the lamentations of the writer; and the words which convey them are again a curious specimen of unfair and inconclusive reasoning. This deterioration is caused by the gradual rise and 'ultimate ascendency of a middle class in society, the minds in 'which are not so cultivated as to enable them to enjoy intellectual or moral pleasures, while their senses are sufficiently 'excited to render them fully alive to the enjoyments of the "physical. On this point each man may think as he pleases, although it may perhaps be noted, that the most rapturous applause even from the most degraded audience is invariably elicited by the delineation of high and noble feeling, and the unselfish daring of self-sacrifice and devotion.


The change,' moreover, was accelerated, and perhaps prematurely brought on in this country, by the well-meant and sincere, but unfortunate, prejudices of a large and respectable portion of society, which withdrew altogether from our theatres, from a natural feeling of indignation at the immorality of some of its dramas, and the licence of many of its accessories. There can be no doubt it would be well if these abuses could be corrected; and it would also be well if corruption could be banished from literature, vice from the world. Unfortunately, the one is not more likely to happen than the other. . . and the unhappy result of the respectable classes withdrawing from the theatre has been too often to convert what might be at least occasionally the school of virtue into the academy of vice.-P. 507. Such an argument as this would not be utterly worthless, if the parallel between dramatic representations and general literature were such as he represents it to be. The chief way in which the latter is brought before us, is by the books which a man keeps in his house or in his library: and any one may possess ten thousand volumes without including a single work which should outrage decency, or be at war with all right moral feeling. Undoubtedly the presence of the respectable classes at the theatre may have some control over the selection of pieces to be performed,-it is a known fact that it had little or none over the licence of the accessories.' We may pass into and leave our libraries without encountering scenes of the grossest

temptation and most degrading coarseness at its threshold. No one, in seeking to derive wisdom from the thoughts of Pascal or the arguments of Butler, is required to drink in, before or after it, the gross unseemliness of Wicherley or Congreve.


It may be a grave question, or perhaps to many a matter not worth questioning, whether any man was ever really qualified for the office of a universal critic. Non omnia possumus omnes,' is a maxim which may possibly be taken as conclusive on this subject. To each science, to every branch of learning, in every department of art there is its own, peculiar labour; no royal road will open up an easier access to excellence in any one of them. In most of them, it is generally agreed, we must be tolerably well versed before we may presume to give any judgment at all. The keenest sagacity in discovering the merits or demerits of cattle, will not entitle a man to pronounce an opinion on the growth of cotton; the greatest experience in the application of machinery, as a substitute for manual labour, will not qualify a man to decide on a point of logic or metaphysics. Sir A. Alison appears, indeed, to have a profound disregard of all such conventional limitations of the critic's authority with regard to many of them, we might be willing to leave him to the judgment of the world, which will readily deprive him of the judicial garb wherewith he has been pleased to array himself. There is but one subject on which, unfortunately, a conventional licence suffers any one to give a dictatorial judgment; and that subject is one in which, perhaps more than all others, both study and experience are needed to qualify a man to give any opinion. It is quite true that the subject-matter of art in general is that which is presented to the senses, and that all alike are possessed of these senses; but there are, perhaps, no differences so great between man and man as the various amount of power, which from education, each sense possesses. The eye will not see, the ear will not hear, that which it has not been trained to see and hear: one man will look on the unmoved surface of some sleeping waters, and see nothing but a flat, smooth surface undisturbed by wind; another will therein discover a new world, a fairer image of the actual world of material earth on which he treads-will watch each trembling shadow as it leads him gently down to the clear depths of a most serene and peaceful home of quietness and repose-will dwell on each changeful hue which speaks to him of a splendour borrowed, while increased in brilliancy, from the fair flowers which clothe the margin of the slumbering lake. One man will hear in the most celestial strains of music nothing but mere sound; another will by the same be led on from earth to heaven, and to deem that the sounds which entrance his


material ear are echoes from a home which belongs to him in a better world-will catch the hidden and wondrous harmonies which impress their own unmistakable character on the volume of song which falls as mere physical reverberation on the ear of him who has in his soul no music. The world takes no cognizance of these distinctions, while it calls them frequently too subtle and fanciful; it rests, for the most part, merely on the fact that each man has an eye and ear, and concludes that each man is therefore a competent judge of everything which addresses itself to either, whether his opinion be based on long and careful study and experience, or whether it be the mere enunciation of a conclusion at which he has arrived without a moment's thoughtfulness. To this conclusion Sir A. Alison, in practice, most eagerly assents; this licence of judging on unstudied subjects he most fully claims. Our unaided reason would perhaps lead us to think that a man had acquainted himself, however slightly, with that which he undertakes to criticise; and so we might feel a delicacy in insinuating an opposite conclusion with regard to any writer. But in the present instance there is no option left us;-it would be marvellous, indeed, if any possessed a full and thorough acquaintance with every subject touched on in this chapter of which we are speaking. It is ten times more difficult to suppose that Sir A. Alison possesses this multifarious knowledge, when the result of his labours is so astonishingly strange: yet more, a man may disagree with another on many points of intellectual or moral research; he may think one man has attained in these respects to a higher standard than another; but he is not excusable if he attributes excellence to one who is entirely destitute of any claims to a reputation for it.

Still more is this the case in an age in which so much of time, and labour, and energy has been devoted to the promotion of art in every shape. Art has become an object of study-of the most serious, patient study-the object of a life's research to many whose powers would qualify them to attain eminence in almost any branch of human learning. Nor has the result produced by these efforts been small. We have had many books written-many works of art accomplished-of which we may well be proud, surrounded at the same time by still more numerous examples of labour wasted and energy misapplied. It becomes, therefore, matter of grave moment that both should be rated at their exact value, and that none should have accorded to them a praise which they do not deserve; and yet we say boldly, that in no other part of his book has Sir A. Alison so striven to throw dust in our eyes, so to invest mere verbose inanity with an air of philosophical grandeur, as in the paragraphs which he

has (we will not say, devoted, but) expended on the examination of the arts of architecture, painting, and sculpture. The author knew perfectly well, that he was writing wholly and solely ad captandum vulgus,' and the most unthinking portion of it, when he penned the following lines on the architectural improvements of London after the peace of 1815:—

'Regent-street, opened up through one of the densest parts of London, soon exhibited a splendid and varied scene of architectural decoration and mercantile opulence; Regent's Park showed long lines of pillared scenery surmounting its glassy lake and umbrageous foliage; and Waterloo, Southwark, and London Bridges bestrode the floods of the Thames with arches second to none in magnificence and durability.'

The Commissioners may have formed a somewhat different opinion on this last statement. But of the really great works of restoration of ecclesiastical buildings—and of churches newly designed since that period,-in short, of the whole revival of art in our days, not a single word is spoken; and, so far as the present volume is concerned, we should be far from dreaming that we had lived in the days of Scott and of Pugin.

If superficial knowledge be all that is needed to constitute a critic, certainly Sir A. Alison may claim the title; in many cases, he can lay claim to no other. Still, whatever advantages there may be, according to Mr. Macaulay, in this kind of learning, it may be doubted whether any one will, in this day, be suffered to issue imperious decrees of judgment on points wherein he is possessed of no experience. Such merely arbitrary criticisms might almost be dismissed without notice, were it not that many are likely to be led astray by the bare assumption of superiority; and the author, imperious and dictatorial elsewhere, speaks in a tone still more dogmatical of topics cn which public taste is, perhaps, least cultivated, and where a certain kind of conventional criticism is most likely to produce erroneous convictions. After all, however, that has been written on the subject of art, more especially on the art of painting, it is astonishing to find any writer giving publicity to such miserably feeble and vapid reasoning (if, indeed, it deserves the name) as the following:

'Turner,' he says, 'in landscape-painting has attained a reputation more likely to be durable' than Sir T. Lawrence in portraits; for in genius he is equal, in variety of conception superior, to Claude himself. No one can study the "Liber Studiorum" of the former master, with the "Liber Veritatis" of the latter, without perceiving that the palm of originality and variety of imagination must be awarded to the first. There is none of his pictures as perfect as one of Claude; none over which the glow of an Italian sunset is thrown with such magic over every object in the piece-the sky, the sea, the trees. But there is greater variety in his effects; his drawing from nature has extended over a much wider surface; his fancy is more discursive, his conceptions wilder and more dissimilar. He has aimed at and

succeeded in awakening emotions of a far more varied kind than his predecessor. Within his own limits, Claude is perfection; but those limits are narrow. Turner's embrace the whole earth and all ages of history. It is to the power of his conceptions, however, and the vigour of his imagination, that this unqualified praise applies. In delicacy of finishing, harmony of colouring, and minuteness of detail, combined with generality of effect, he is inferior to Claude; as, indeed, every subsequent painter has been, and perhaps ever will be.'-P. 495.

A passage which should equally deserve to draw upon the author all the contempt which Horace lavishes on his countrymen for a slavish worship of the old, merely as being old, could scarcely be produced throughout the wide range of English literature. They who can give a moment's hearing to such words as these, do indeed fill themselves with the east wind. It is only because so many-because the ordinary run of menare so ready to be deceived by such high sounding emptiness, that they can be considered to deserve mention at all. In order to account for his strange estimate of Hallam, we were driven to suppose he had not read his writings: we cannot draw, in this instance, a similar conclusion, and say that he has not seen Turner's or Claude's pictures. Unfortunately, it is easier to form a wrong judgment on these, even after having seen them an indefinite number of times, than to be wide of the mark in speaking of a book which one has never perused. We have had-we still have-very great men amongst our landscape painters, men whose works are in greater or less degree reproductions of the wonderful thoughts of God impressed on the natural world. There is, moreover, a far keener and higher appreciation of these works, and of nature herself, than ever there has been before: but it is difficult to conceive a more utter blindness than that which prevails on this subject with, perhaps, nine-tenths of those who consider themselves—and perhaps are well qualified to judge on many other points, whatever may be their deficiencies in this. We have ourselves passed with many from a survey, not only of Turner's pictures, but those of other painters, to the ancient 'master-pieces' of Claude, Salvator, and Poussin. Without any paltry desire to underrate the latter, because men frequently assign to them an absurdly extravagant value, it would be far nearer the truth to characterise the change as a transition from daylight to the regions of utter darkness,-from the rich exuberance of life to the dull monotony of one, or, at the utmost, three or four hackneyed ideas, or the exaggerated expression of a few truths at the expense of the utter sacrifice of countless others; and yet we have known educated people look on the faithful portraitures of recent artists with a patronising air of infinite superiority, and bow down in abject, unquestioning homage before the works,

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