Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

combination. I shall not notice the subdivision of Sympathetic laughter, which is a mere infection ; or of that which is stimulated by the consciousness that we ought not to laugh, which gives a poignant zest to the ebullition, and reminds one of that profligate lover of pig, who wished he had been born a Jew, that he might have had the pleasure of eating pork and sinning at the same time.

Talking of incongruities puts me in mind of the steam-boat, and of a conversation between two parties, one conversing of their children, the other settling the ingredients of a wedding-dinner, whose joint colloquies, as I sat between them, fell upon my ear in the following detached sentences. “ Thank Heaven! my Sally is blessed with a calf's head and a pig's face."-" Well, if I should have another baby I shall have it immediately- -skinned and cut into thin slices.”_"I do love to see little Tommy well-dressed in the fish-kettle over a charcoal fire.”—“To behold the little dears dancing before one in the frying-pan."

“And to hear their innocent tongues- -bubble and squeak."-"My eldest girl is accomplished--with plenty of sauce."

-“I always see the young folks put to bed myself--and smothered in onions." "And if they have been very good children, I invariably order

-the heart to be stuffed and roasted, the gizzard to be peppered and deviled, and the sole to be fried.”

Broken metaphors are not less laughable than these ludicrous games of cross-purposes; and the risible public are much indebted to the Editor of a loyal journal, who lately informed them that the radicals, by throwing off the mask, had at last shown the cloven foot; congratulated his readers that the hydra-head of faction had received a good rap upon the knuckles ; and maintained that a certain reformer was only a hypocritical pretender to charity, who, whenever he saw a beggar, put his hand in his breeches pocket, like a crocodile, but was only actuated by ostentation. While we are upon this subject, let us not forget our obligations to the country curate, who desired his flock to admire the miraculous force which enabled Sampson to put a thousand Philistines to the sword with the jaw-bone of an ass ; nor let us pass over the worthy squire, who being asked by his cook in what way the sturgeon should be dressed, which he had received as a present, desired her to make it into à-la-mode beef; and upon another occasion, when interrogated whether he would have the mutton boiled or roasted, or how ? replied, “slow,-and let it be well done.”

If the classical reader ever improved himself when a school-boy by composing nonsense verses, it is possible that prose of the same description may produce a similar result, of which this essay may be considered an experiment. I know not a nobler or more naïf selfeulogy than that expressed by Scarron when on his death-bed. He exclaimed to his weeping domestics, “Ah! you will never cry half so much as I have made you laugh ;" and were l on the point of bidding adieu to the public as a scribbler, I should not desire a prouder epitaph than to be truly enabled to repeat the same phrase. In the mean time I do most seriously and sadly exhort my readers to be comical; admonishing them, that in these gloomy and puzzling times, when the chances are three to two against the landlord, when the five per cents. are fours, and things in general at sixes and sevens, a hearty and innocent laugh is the most effectual way to take care of number one.

H.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

MY HEAD'S SEVEN AGES. " Ar early fifteen," cre I mouru'd human wrongs, My locks, pinch'd' by nothing but Nature's warm tongs, In colour well match'd with the Colchican fleece, Unpunish'd by powder, ungarnish’d by grease, Half way down

mny

back, as then worn by the young,
In many a corkscrew bewitchingly hung:
Whoever in print young Napoleon has seen,
May form a good notion of me at fifteen.
But soon, like a Visigoth marching on Roine,
The barber rush'd in with his scissors and comb,
Poor Nature was presently push'd to the wall,
And shriek'd, like Belinda, to see my locks fall:
My hair scorch'd and frizz'd at the top became horrid,
Hard knocks of pomatum were dealt on my forehead,
I look'd like a linnet just caught in a cage,
So wide of it's first was my head's second age!
Ere long my vex'd hair, which, pomaded and sleek,
Hung straight as John Wesley's adown either cheek,
By combs metamorphosed, assumed a new shape,
No longer a pigtail swung black at my nape:
The queue, with its ligatures spiral in twists,
Gave place to a knocker as big as my fists :
Whoever the late Major Topham has seen,
May form a good notion of me at nineteen.
Now knew I the joys the three Sisters prepare
For those who depend on the dressers of hair :
The dandies, who now " seek that bubble repute"
In the cut of a coat or the bend of a boot,
Can feebly imagine my often-felt woes,
With

my watch in my hand and my mask on my nose :
When lo! the huge knocker retired from the head,
And back came the pigtail to reign in its stead.
O caput humanum ! dark dungeon of doubt,
Spite of Spurzheimn, a labyrinth, inside and out,
How fleeting is all

that dwells under a hat-
The late Duke of Bedford now brought in a plat!
Jack Martin and Peter abolish'd their queues,
I quickly changed mine for a well-powder'd noose:
My head, at that time, will at once re-appear
To those who have ever seen Palmer in Sneer.
No soover had I, spite of wisdom's rebuke,
Pinn'd the faith of my head on the plat of a duke,
When sudden his grace much astonish'd the town
With an unpowder'd pate, in its natural brown.
Away flew pomade : barbers shut up their shops :
Their harvest was ruin'd by too many crops :
While 1, with a nob ev'ry morning brush'd clean,

Da-capo'd the tresses of " early fifteen.”
1. E'er since, Fashion vainly has left me alone,

For Time works the changes neglected by Ton.
My locks, erst so intimate, distant are seen,
Their visits are few and the space far between :
Old Time, too, has made ine my forelock resign,
I never seized his, yet the dog has seized mine,
And seems to exclaim" Prithee pay me my wages :
Your head has arrived at the last of its ages!

[ocr errors][merged small]

THE LOUVRE IN 1822, During the present dearth of novelty in the Fine Arts, it may be not uninteresting to the English reader if I occupy his attention with a notice of the present state of what was once the grandest cmporium of Art the world ever knew; and which, even now, as a whole, affords a sum of matter for study and admiration that may be sought in vain elsewhere: to say nothing of every footstep we take in pacing these magnificent halls being holy ground : for here the Apollo has radiated forth its majestic beauty, and filled the place with an air of power that cannot pass away ;-here the Venus, still more dear to the memory of us merely a human mortals," because endowed with more of merely human beauty, stood shrinking from that loving admiration which she seemed conscious of deserving ;-here the Dying GLADIATOR has lain, with the breath of life hovering on his lips, yet never to leave themdying for ever, yet never to die;—here the Laocoon has writhed in immortal agonies; rendering suffering subservient to grandeur-making misery sublime. Here, too, on the right, about half-way down the grand gallery, hung the Pietro Martire--one among the very highest achievements of the art. Let not the reader suppose I am about to describe this wonderful picture. I should know better than to attempt that, even if I had seen it: I mention it only to lament over a folly, the effects of which I have as yet been unable to repair ; and which the sight of the spot where the picture does not hang, brings back the sense of more vividly than any thing else has done in the interval ; more than even the eloquent enthusiasm of — in thinking aloud about it, or the classical taste and discrimination of N in detailing its beauties. I passed by this picture at the time it was in the Louvre, merely glancing up at it to be sure it was there, and determining to, at

it the respect of a formal visit for itself alone, and not to blend the recollection of it with that of any others. I passed by the spot where I knew the treasure lay, deferring to what I considered a fitter opportunity the luxury of exploring its nature, counting up its amount, and carrying away what I could of it with me, laid up for future use in the storehouse of memory. But when I returned, it was gone, and its very place knew it not. It had, for me, vanished like a vision of the night ; and all I now know of it is that I have at once seen and not seen it. I should never cease to lament this folly, if I did not see before me at least the possibility of repairing its consequences. And, to say the truth, if I ever do see this picture, I had much rather see it where it is than where it was, both as a matter of feeling and of taste; for though I have as little respect as need be for the views and motives of those who professed to teach a great moral lesson" to Europe in removing the treasures of the Louvre from France, yet I do not the less believe that that lesson was a fit one, and required to be taught. Justice and wisdom are themselves, whencesoever they may proceed. Shakspeare puts his wisest sayings into the mouths of fools; and a judicious teacher, when he is compelled to punish a wicked boy, generally horses him (as the phrase is) on the back of a dunce. But let us not meddle with politics : when the question is of works like the one alluded to above, they are little better than an impertinence. Teachers of “great moral lessons,” and inventors of Holy Alliances, are the

least, pay

growth of every day and of every soil ; springing up and flourishing for awhile, only to scatter abroad their seeds, and produce their like, each in its kind, and then pass away and be forgotten ; but Titians and Raphaels, if they have not the same power of re-producing their like, bloom for ever,-filling the world with the odour of their sweetness, even when, from the perishable nature of the materials of which their works consist, they cease to be any thing but a name. The names of Apelles, of Zeuxis, of Parrhasius, although their works have passed away for ever, are as real a possession to our imagination as those of Phidias and Praxiteles; for Fame is too just to let the stability of her decrees depend on the nature of any thing but desert alone.

But I am wandering from my subject. Here-to allude to one more, and that the greatest in its kind, of the late possessions of this splendid treasure-house-here, on the left hand, near to the bottom of the long gallery, hung the divine TRANSFIGURATION —divine from its subject, divine from its conception, divine from its miraculous execution. When I think of this picture, I am half inclined to feel that justice might have been satisfied with depriving France of it alone. It was the glory of the place; and its absence would have left “ an aching void” that nothing else could fill or atone for. But a truce to this thinking of what has been! it is but too apt, in all cases, to make us forget, or unjustly appreciate, the good that is before us.

Turning at once to a consideration of the Louvre as it is, we need have little scruple in affirming it to be incomparably the noblest gallery of Art now existing in the world. Its stately halls are still graced by works unrivalled in their kind; and I must think that, as a collection, it is even more valuable than when it possessed the objects I have alluded to above. This

may sound paradoxical ; but it is not intended to be so.

The Apollo is, in fact, not an object fit to be placed in a gallery at all. It is a possession for a city, or a country--a sight to make a pilgrimage to see: and I doubt if it is in human nature to see it with proper effect, without some preparation of this kind. Certain it is, however, that its presence must throw into an undeserved shade and distance, objects worthy in themselves of all admiration, and certain of exciting it if seen under fit circumstances. Speaking for myself, I can safely assert that it gives me more pleasure, as well as instruction, to go through the Louvre now, than when it contained all its most vaunted treasures. A gallery, as well as an individual, may be too rich. Nay, I cannot but think that even Mr. Angerstein's sir magnificent Claude's in one room, are something too much.” It is not that they cloy upon the sense: they can only do that for those who have no sense properly susceptible of being affected by them; but the quantity of their beauty, not being able to act as one sum, is apt to distract the imagination, without steadily exciting it, and to disturb the fancy and feeling without satisfying them. A man might as well be wedded to six beautiful wives at once;-a practice happily and naturally confined to Turks and Barbarians.

On entering the Louvre by the principal door, we immediately (almost too immediately) find ourselves in a lofty vestibule, surrounded by some admirable colossal busts, &c. with a splendid Greek vase in the centre, of the finest workmanship, and breathing the very air and spirit of ripe antiquity. Nothing can be a finer preparation for what is to follow. Among the busts is one of wonderful beauty and perfection (9). It represents the vain but noble-looking Lucius Verus. There are no less than four busts of this emperor, all of nearly equal beauty; and perhaps for taste and elegance of manner, and elaborateness of execution, there is nothing of the kind surpassing them ; particularly the one in this vestibule, and the largest of those in the hall of the Centaur.

Passing through the arcade leading from this vestibule to the hall of the Roman emperors, I must notice a small statue, known by the name of the Sauroctone (19). There is no very great merit in the execution of this work; but it is exceedingly curious and interesting as an authentic antique copy of a work in bronze, by Phidias himself, which is mentioned by Pliny. It represents a young Apollo, who has just launched a dart at a lizard. It was from this action that the original statue took its name.

The hall of the Roman Emperors contains, as its name indicates, many excellent statues and busts of the emperors; but there is nothing calling for particular notice, except a colossal head in relief (40), executed with great spirit, yet in a very severe and grand manner. Passing on to the hall of the Seasons, we find a most charming Venus (46), uncommonly perfect as to preservation, full of grace and nature, and, upon the whole, not greatly inferior to any thing else of the kind I am acquainted with. I should cavil at calling this lovely representation of a mere human being a Venus, but that the beauty as well as the power of the Greek gods and goddesses consisted chiefly in their being little better, either in mind or body, than the people who worshipped them. In fact, the Greeks worshipped personifications of their own good qualities, without knowing it; which was perhaps the best method that could have been hit upon of preserving and improving those qualities. Here is also a'noble and most poetical Greek head (54)-probably of a wounded

He is casting his regards upwards; while pain is breathing beautifully from his lips, and sitting on his brow as on a throne. There is a spirit of life in these Greek busts which has never been given to marble since. Busts were afterwards, and indeed are even in our own time, executed with great taste, spirit, and effect; but they want that air of vitality which we meet with in these relics of antiquity alone.

Quitting this hall we enter the hall of Peace; the principal ornament of which is a noble statue of Demosthenes (92). He is in an attitude of deep meditation. The head is instinct with life and genius; and there is an air of simple nature cast over the whole figure, which renders it altogether a most interesting work. In the hall of the Romans, which joins to the above, there are several objects worthy of particular remark. The first is an exquisitely preserved bust of Geta (97), the brother and colleague, and at length the victim of Caracalla. It is curious on account of the great rarity of representations of this emperor, as Caracalla is supposed to have taken particular pains in having them destroyed after Geta's death. This bust is no less curious on account of the perfection of its preservaiion, and the extreme beauty of the workmanship. It is finished like a gem, and in this respect may rank with those I have mentioned of Lucius Verus. Here is also a very interesting statue of Julia (118), the wife of Septimus Severus, and mother of the above-named emperors. It has the rare per

« AnteriorContinuar »