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full of simple pathos ; but it was mere by-play to the dramatic importance of the substitute action, and to the intense feeling with which it is witnessed by any spectator of penetrable stuff.
Is it not curious to observe in what an arbitrary way the rarest scintillations of genius condescend to transmit themselves? Sometimes they blaze forth at once through the profound of the mind, like a dazzling meteor, or a careering comet: sometimes their first appearance is like that of a small star half seen in a twilight-sky; and you must keep your eye riveted on it, and give it your whole attention, before you can hatch it out into distinct brightness. In one mood, or at a particular time, a thought comes to the gifted intellect, rushing, panting with eagerness to be received and embodied: its shape entire—its action complete. At another time it will lurk from your view ; reject all your amorous overtures; and either entirely elude your wooing grasp, or convey itself part by part, bit by bit, till Invention is disgusted with her own petty, piecemeal industry. Give up the chase-affect, or really feel indifference, and like a true woman, the coquette muse will anon throw herself into your arms when you least think of her. Without any apparent association, the long-sought idea will burst over the slumbering expanse of the mind, as erst did the sun flash over the deep sleep of old Chaos. Nay, chance itself often gives a clue after which genius had toiled in vain. Leonardo da Vinci attributes some of the best landscape compositions to the accidental discolouring and stains of paper on the walls of a room. Apelles had been labouring for months to express the foam issuing from the mouth of a proud warhorse, and could not please himself: at last, in a sudden fit of pettish vexation, he Aung his pencil, surcharged with colour, at the portrait of the animal's head: it struck about the mouth-and lo!-the thing was done.
Passing from single ideas to the arrangement of an entire work in poetry or painting, it is still more interesting to note the complicated process, the remote and subtle combinations, the twistings, the twinings, and the turnings, to which all men of genius, but eminent painters in particular, have recourse, to produce a whole and harmonious transcript of their first entire conception. The interest swells into a climax, in my mind, when we have an opportunity of ascertaining the particular habits and modes of individual men of talent in such an operation. Now, while Wilkie is before us, nothing can be easier than to surprise you, at least, with an account of his method of collecting materials for a picture.
Even the little misses who read this will recollect the box with the ring at the top, in which Glumdalclitch carried her darling Gulliver when she went out, or put him to sleep on her lap when she came home. Well, I do not exactly know whether or not Wilkie makes any loose sketch of his subject before the circumstance I am about to describe; but certain it is, that when he has got the first general impression of it in his brain, he then provides a little box, such as I have spoken of-furnishes the inside with chairs, tables, cupboards, a clock, doors, windows, stools, and all the other et ceteras necessary to the kind of apartment he wishes to express on his canvass ; places candlesticks on the tables; plates, dishes, cups, and spoons, in the cupboard; papers the walls, carpets the floor, and hangs his window-curtains, and in every respect makes his Lilliputian parlour or kitchen snug and
comfortable for the reception of his Lilliputian company. This being done, he then introduces the pigmy inhabitants themselves, clothed, as nearly as possible, in the costume he is anxious to preserve, and puts them sitting down, or standing up, or turned this way or that way, and otherwise grouped and disposed as he deems fit for his purpose. The light he wishes streams in from a particular point of his box; and furniture, and figures, all catch at once, and together, the whole effect of chiaroscuro which the artist may have previously designed, or which is thus suggested to him. Through a hole in the box, which we may technically call his point of sight, Wilkie then peers inquisitively upon the private family affairs of those harmless little people; and, having set them into action by his fancy, proceeds to paint and exbibit them to the world.
The figures are all exactly the size of those represented in the artist's pictures : so
are the tables, chairs, and other furniture. He scarcely ever deviates from the proportions before his eye; and owing to this, some odd oversights may be remarked in his most celebrated works. In the “ Rent Day" you may observe a cupboard to which no individual of the company could reach, and a clock, which none of them could attempt to wind up without the aid of a step-ladder. At the first glance one is strongly tempted to call this too trite, too tricky, too mechanical, for a man of genius. I will call it curious—most curious; and if required to deliver any other opinion, I shall be silent. Without doubt, such a device, in the hands of an indifferent painter, would appear almost contemptible, certainly laughable and ridiculous. But I feel I have no more right to criticize the means by which Wilkie chooses to work out his effect, than I should have to quarrel with the manufacturing of a fine day, or a beautiful flower, supposing me to know how either, or both, were manufactured, and pleased to be angry with the process. That this invention assists Wilkie is obvious. It must materially serve his arrangements of light and shade, and his grouping. His ideas of general colour are also regulated by it; and if his Lilliputian upholsterer had half an hour's converse with his Lilliputian architect and carpenter, perhaps one should never more meet any counteracting disadvantages in the occasional want of proportion between his still-life objects.
If you come for a moment out of the great room at Somerset-house, I will point out to you another picture, about which I know something more than every body who looks at it. There it is—the “ Little Red Riding Hood." Now that is a wonderful, quite a romance kind of portrait. Horace Walpole, in his Castle of Otranto, has treated us to a figure of an old warrior, which, when it liked, could walk out of the picture, leaving the back-ground and accompaniments behind, and beckon to its grandson to follow it. The Little Red Riding Hood cannot do this, and, indeed, never did this; but she has done things almost as extraordinary. She grew up from an infant, in that picture, to the present height and proportions. She was first a short, fat, chubby child, confined to a scrap of canvass. Anon she became an interesting girl, with her head running over the picture into another serap of canvass attached to the first for her accommodation. In a year or two more she grew half a foot taller, and the canvass grew with her; and so both have been going on till they arrived at the age and stature at which you now see them.
I could tell you much more of new pictures, but that I am attracted to Pall-Mall Exhibition-room by an old one of superior interest; that is, according to the view we are now taking of pictures in general. I mean the celebrated “Misers," painted by Quintin Matsys, usually called “ The Blacksmith of Antwerp.” Once upon a time he was in reality a blacksmith, and the history of himself and his picture is thus given. You perceive I now begin to abandon my claims to exclusive information.
He loved a beautiful girl of Antwerp, and was beloved by her. But peculiar circumstances interposed between him and the completion of his happiness. The father had sworn, or vowed, or resolved, that his daughter should wed no person but an artist. What was to be done ? Poor Quintin had never imitated any thing beyond the curve of a borse's hoof; and even thàt in a style, as far as regarded material at least, which might well be called hard. The most delicate touch of his hand had hitherto vibrated between the sledge and the anvil. But he loved. An obstacle was to be surmounted : and what obstacle will not love surmount? He commenced the study of painting: he persevered, and succeeded as a painter. He produced two pictures, and won his mistress. One of them, at least, is in the present Old-master Exhibition. I have mentioned its name—“The Misers.” Another work by Quintin Matsys is also hung up; but either it is falsely attributed to him, or he was not in love when he painted it. It cannot be one of his prize pieces.
But of " The Misers" there can be no doubt. The very picture is now before us -- an emanation of the tenderest and most romantic of passions through the prismatic medium of art-the first rich harvest of an originally sterile mind, which love had reclaimed, and genius cultivated. Over this very canvass the inspired lover has toiled and laboured, in the feverish earnestness of hope and fear, energy and ambition. Over this very canvass the calculating, connoisseur father has leaned ; with critic bend of brow, with critie spectacles on nose, and wrapped in an awful silence which was to be broken with a deathsentence to the hopes of the enamoured enthusiast, or with the one talismanic word which should give him life and happiness, fame and victory!
Let it not here be forgotten that Love had previously done more than this for the Arts. If the ostentatious Greeks are to be believed, Venus rocked the cradle of the Imitative Muse. Their story, or legend, or history of “ The Maid of Corinth," is too well known to require any repetition of it. But, true or false, it is a beautiful, an affecting anecdote. No spirit but the spirit of Love should have presided over the birth of an Art, whose tireless exertion is in the search of beauty, and the essence of whose ambition is also the essence of love itself.
What has become of that inert lump of clay, which, in our recollection of it, is immortal? which, modified by the hand of the happy girl, presented the first specimen of a new existence-of a new creation and identity ? Could we contemplate it as we do the Blacksmith's picture—could we touch it and pore over it, and touch it and investigate it again and again—what peculiar associations would hover around us-how delightful, how hallowed would be our consciousness!
THE MISER'S WILL *
Who in Threadneedle-street had grubb’d a plum,
As Romeo's Mantuan apothecary,
And copied his accounts with caution wary ;
Burthen’d with labour and but little pay.
Friend Discount sickened ; growing daily worse,
Of human life if it but cross their ends,
Sad havuck makes with bank and city friends.-
Till death call'd in and stalk'd around his bed,
Eyeless he stood, and grinn'd with aspect dread,
“O Moses, take waste-paper and a quill-
If you and I can't draw a simple will :
Thousands will sink in Chancery and law ;
Not hell itself, has such a ravenous maw.
And from his heart burst forth its last faint joy,
Of what in charity I will employ;
'Twas said and done; the obsequious lawyer came.
From my faint voice-weak is my shatter'd frame;
The obedient scribe began in settled form,
A flaw or subterfuge to change its meaning ;
Old Discount said there was a thing remaining
To add a hundred pounds as legacy
For his own use, and prove that every suit
He had conducted for him and each action,
Had given him, Discount, perfect satisfaction.
Tack'd to the testament with great celerity,
An increase to his overgrown prosperity ;
And just as Discount guess'd, the man of skill
And said to Moses t'other side his bed
His we may burn, but first a copy take
THE ITALIAN OPERA.
“ Il faut aller à ce palais magique,
Où les beaux vers, la danse, la musique,
De cent plaisirs font un plaisir unique." VOLTAIRE. A few weeks ago I was lounging through the pit of the Opera, less crowded than usual; and hearing my name pronounced in a gentle tone, I turned to where a friend, whom I could scarcely have cxpected to see there, was sitting in manifest tribulation. He had been dining out, and, somewhat gayer than usual, allowed himself to be inveigled to the Opera. Here he was for the first time in his life-knowing no one-ignorant of the language-not skilled in Italian music-his ideas of propriety somewhat disturbed by the liberal displays of the figurantes—every thing strange, new, and unintelligible: he was completely out of his element. I tried to convince him that the pirouettes of Noblet and Paul were divine; that he must like the music, as it was Rossini's; and that he was in the midst of the gay and the great, the wealthy and the titled of this famous metropolis. In vain ; his musical taste did not extend beyond “ Robin Adair,” or “ Eveleen's Bower;" and in the sublime ascents of Paul, or the elegant attitudes of Noblet, he found no meaning. What to him was the rich and splendid assembly that surrounded him? He was among them, but not of them. After doing violence to his feelings for a short time, I saw him quietly leave his seat, and with a soft tiptoe step quit the house. Yet was my friend a very sensible fellow; a high wrangler at the University, and a rising advocate at the bar. He never hears the Opera mentioned without fidgeting. He looks back upon his visit to it as one of the minor follies of his life.—Strange as it may appear, there is a very large portion of what is called decent society in London with whom the Opera is a terra incognita; and of those who frequent it, I suspect there are many who are at the bottom as little delighted with it as my " learned friend." They go there, not because they understand music or love the sort of dancing which is exhibited there; but because it is fashionable. Yet wherefore is it fashionable? that 's the question. Why, because the high will not associate with the low, and therefore