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Art. XIII. The Planter's Kalendar ; or, The Nurseryman's and
Forrester's Guide, in the operations of the Nursery, the Forest, and the Grove. By the late Walter Nicol; edited and completed by Edward Sang, Nurseryman. 8vo. Pp. 600. Price 15s. Long.
man and Co, 1812. THE public attention has been recently called, in the most
impressive manner, to the alarming decrease of valuable timber in this country. The Report of the Commissioners appointed in 1792, to investigate the condition of the Crown forests, first disclosed this important fact; and it was most ably commented on by the late Lord Melville in his letter to Mr. Perceval, cf July 1810. It is, indeed, sufliciently obvious that whatever quantity of sound timber we may now be able to obtain from our foreign territories or allies, all such resources are extremely precarious ; and that our ultimate reliance must þe upon our own growth. We believe that the frequent appeals which have been made on this subject have not been made in vain. Many landed proprietors have planted large tracts of land, nearly useless for other purposes, and the writer of the work before us gives it as his full conviction
from a very minute examination of the quantity of growing tim. ber in England, and in Scotland in particular, made within the last fif, toen months, that, in the space of fifty years from this date, we shall possess an internal supply, equal to all our wants ; certainly in a much shorter period, for all purposes, excepting those of large shipbuilding
But when this is said, let it not be for a moment inferred, that we think the extent of planting may or ought therefore to be curtailed. l'ar from it. The astonishing increase of our trade, of our manufactures, and of our agriculture, and the incessant demands of that navy, to which, under Providence, these owe their prosperity, and we our liberty and security, powerfully forbid it. Far from relaxing, we would willingly see the resolution adopted, of importing no timber, excepting from our own colonies, so as to render the business of planting and cultivating timber at home as necessary and as permanent as that of agriculture ; of which, in truth, it certainly is a inost important branch. There is, and long will be, an ample sufficiency of waste land within the British Islands, for all the purposes of jlanting, exclusive of what may be most advantageously appropriated to the raising of grain, and the rearing of stock. pp. 6, 7.
Reviswers, it is said, are seldom freeholders; and it would be to no purpose, we fear, were we to boast of our extensive practice in improving and planting our own estates. What little skill, however, we possess in these matters, disposes us to think higlily of the present directory. The author is evidently
clear-headed man, and he has also in his favour, the acknow.
ledged superiority of his countrymen in every branch of horticultural business.
The title of the book sufficiently explains its contents. The business of each inonth is separately and distinctly stated ; the various kinds of trees and soils described, and two or three useful tables appended. The Editor has very unnecessarily allided to his author's scotticisms and deficiencies in style. Mr. N. is a clear, and by no means an incorrect writer ; and in a work like the present, any thing more would be quite out of place.
Art. XIV. Remarks on Antiquities, Arts and Letters, during an ex,
cursion in Italy, in the Years 1802 and 1803. By Joseph Forsyth,
Esq. 8vo. pp. 387. Price 12s. Cadell and Davies, 1813. IT is a fact too obvious almost to be worth putting in the terms
of a proposition, that classical literature has quite lost the rank it held so lately as half a century since among the things that constitute the intellectual improvement and pleasure of the civilized part of mankind. But it should be little less evi, dent, that it can never be restored to this rank. The magnificent and progressive accumulation of the works of modern genius,-the vast importance which physical science has acquira ed in our estimation, partly by means of the gratification which its discoveries have brought to our pride, and partly of the aids which it is found indefinitely capable of supplying to our most immediate interests,---but above all, the prodigious agitations of the moral world, -the wars, which, in their direct agency, or in their probable consequences, rival or even far surpass those which gave splendour to the classical records,--and the widening prospect of rapid, momentous, and interminable changes in the state of mankind - this is too powerful a combination of causes to perisit either the genius or the facts of the Greek and Roman literature to regain the predominance they formerly held, in triunph over all competition, in the taste and imagination of cultivated society.
In proportion to this decline of interest in what has rendered some tracts of the earth illustrious, those tracts themselves, with their relics of antiquity, will have a dininisheil power of exciting enthusiasın. Still, it is impossible to contemplate, even in description, what may be called the inomumental region of the most stupendous power ever exercised by one tribe of mankind over the innumerable multitudes of its other tribes, without a strange captivation of the mind. Insomuch that a book professing to illustrate what was the central scene of the Roman empire, seems to come with something a little beyond the ordinary tone of invitation, it seems endowed, in virtue of its subject, with a small measure of that authority of which a large portion of the world was once submissively in awe, and of which some languid remainder lingers in the very name of Rome. · It is proper to mention, however, that a very considerable proportion of the present volume is employed on modern Italy, as exhlbited in its literature, moral character, and works of art. It is given but partly in the form of travels : for though the series of descriptions is in the same order of succession as the course of the journey, the travelling narrative is reduced to the smallest possible quantity. And indeed the whole composition has a brevity and compression altogether without example among travellers and connoisseurs; a brevity which, we think, was much more decidedly a part of the literary duty of nine in ten of them than of this author.
It seems he is among our countrymen who were suddenly made captives about ten years since, in France, where he still continues. The inevitable ignorance, occasioned by this cause, of what may possibly have been published in England during this interval, is pleaded, very laconically however, as a claim on the reader's candour, in an advertisement which we transcribe, as the first specimen of that characteristic brevity which it would not offend him to hear that his readers ascribe rather to pride than modesty.
• I left England in November 1801, without any intention of sporting my pen on so beaten a field as Italy, and had reached Pisa before I began to commit to paper such remarks as are usual in trávelling. Materials of this kind readily accumulate. From these I have been recently prevailed upon to select, and to offer to the public, what relate to Antiquities, Arts, and Letters. I design my observations for those who have already examined the objects I review: but not without the anxiety which the lateness of their appearance is but too well calculated to excite. How far they may have lost their interest, or anticipated by publications in England during my long captivity, I have no means of knowing. My misfortune denies me all acquaintance with the works of others, and may perhaps claim some indulgence for the many objects of mine.'
We have been pleased in no common degree with this small work. It is a production of sterlivg good sense, and good taste. It displays throughout a mind variously cultivated, perfectly independent in its opinions, excellently adapted to seize those prominences of subjects and objects on which a right judgement of them peculiarly depends, and singularly qualified to enounce this judgement with the utmost clearness and the fewest words.
It is a great recommendation of the work, too, that the observations are made, for the most part, in the mere language of general intelligence, avoiding altogether the slang of artists, and as much as possible the technicality. It is somewhat inconsistent perhaps with this principle of plainness that a great number of Italian words are admitted ; so many as to be seriously inconvenient to the English reader. The excuse for this will be, what the advertisement mentions, that the work was meant for ' those who have' (on the spot, we presume)
already examined the objects;' an insufficient excuse, since, if it had been expected that no one would purchase the book in this country but those who have personally examined the curiosities of Italy, it would, assuredly, never have been published.
The praise of our author's sententious brevity should not go unaccompanied by some little exception to his composition on the score of a certain artificial pointedness into which it is sometimes contorted. Critics, we believe, hold it possible for a writer to be simple at the same time that he is brief and pithy: Mr. Forsyth writes like a man who but barely pardons himself for condescending to write at all, and is endeavouring to keep up his self-complacency on the occasion by a kind of comical singularity of manner. He has sometimes a sort of affected slovenliness, as if he could not stoop to the workshop business of polishing
Ás the book is not so much a narrative as a succession of unconnected notices, and as no peculiar theory of art seems intended to be maintained, we have little more to do, after thus generally describing its character, than to present a few extracts, taken here and there, without any particular regard to the stages of his progress.
He is always perfectly ready to acknowledge that his mind does not comprise all the elements that go to the making of artists and cognoscenti
. On the paintings in the royal gallery at Florence, he remarks,
they run strangely into series a series of Florentine portraits classed on the ceiling in compartments of the same form-a series of 850 illustrious foreigners running on the same level in frames of the same size-a series of 350 painters crowded into the same apartment -a series of the arts--a series of the elements, all exact to the same dimensions. Such uniformity betrays the furnishing taste of a tradesman. Method and multitude are ever remote from excellence, What a disparity of forms in a select cabinet! There every picture is a separate unit, and bears no relation to its neighbour. As to the merit of those pictures, I leave to the initiated all the metaphysics of that quality. I value painting only as it excites sentiment, nor do I ever presume to judge beyond the expression or story ; convinced by the absurdities which I have so often been condemned to hear, that the other parts of the art are mysterious to all but the artist. p. 44.
The just perception indicated by his remarks on colour in statuary may be taken as a fair specimen of the free and sound thinking which the reader will ind applied to a multitude of subjects of literature and art.
« On entering this grand repository,' (the same gallery) the founders meet you in the vestibule. Some of their busts are in .red porphyry; a substance, the art of carving which, had been long lost, but which, it is said, one of those Medici had the felicity to recover. But porphyry is, in my opinion, improper for statuary. A statue should be of one colour. "That colour, too, seems the best which the least suggests any idea of colour, and is the freest from any gloss or radiance that may tend to shed false lights, and confuse vision. Hence I should prefer white marble to black, black marble to bronze, bronze to gold, and any of them to a mottled surface like porphyry. p. 43.
• In several busts the flesh is of white marble, and the drapery of coloured; but neither Homer, nor Virgil, nor Phidias, por Canvu, nor the Venus which this gallery has lost, nor the Marsias which remains, no authority can defend a mixture 80 barbarous. Sculpture admits no diversity of materials; it knows no colour ; it knows nothing but shape. Its purpose is not to cheat the eye, but to present to the mind all the truth and beauty, and grace and sublimity of forms. Did the excelience of a statue depend on the illusion produced, or on the number of idiots who mistake it for life, the Medi cean Venus would then yield to every wax-work that travels from fair to fair.' p. 46.
Mr. Forsyth admires very liberally, and now and then even ardently, the sublime and beautiful works of ancient and modern art, but he never admires to enthusiasm ; nor is in the smallest degree fearful of suffering himself to perceive faults in the most illustrious of them. In surveying, for instance, with all due wonder and delight the Pantheon, he makes no scruple of charging it with considerable imperfection ; and we think the justness of his observations on the interior is indisputable, if we may venture to judge from the engravings of Piranesi.
• The cell and the portal of the Pantheon are two beauties un. lappy in their union. “ The portal shines inimitable on earth." Viewed alone it is faultless. If the pediment in following the pedi. ment above, should appear too high from the present vacancy of its tympanum, that tympanum was originally full of the richest sculpture. If the columns are not all mathematically equal; yet inequalities which nothing but measurement can detect, are not faults to the eye, and the eye is the sole judge here. But the portal is more than faultJess; it is positively the most sublime result that was erer produced by so little architecture,'